Reality Rocks' Kris Allen Listening Session
Here's my take on what I heard...
"Before We Come Undone
" - Jointly written by Kris, Lindy Robbins (who's worked with various Idols, Lisa Loeb, Faith Hill, and tween queens like Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez, surprisingly), and Greg Kurstin (Lily Allen, the Bird & The Bee, the Flaming Lips, Kylie Minogue), the stuttering guitar intro of this uptempo powerpop-rocker brings to middle Jimmy Eat World's "The Middle" or maybe a kinder, gentler All-American Rejects. And it boasts a bright, sunshiny chorus that needs to be the theme to some new CW Network series right now.
"Can't Stay Away
" - OK, this one's my favorite. 19 execs, if you're reading this, pretty please make this Kris's second single. Another Kris co-write, this time with Mike Elizondo (a Dr. Dre protégé who's penned songs for Eminem, Busta Rhymes, Mary J. Blige, and 50 Cent, as well as alt-country chanteuse Shelby Lynne and singer-songstress Poe), this is Kris gettin' fresh 'n' funky. Yes, you read that right. Funky! This is blue-eyed soul, or should I say maroon-eyed soul, since there's a distinctive Maroon 5 feel to this track (think "Harder To Breathe"-era M5); Kris's voice even sounds a bit Adam Levine-like in parts. And yes, there's another big, bold chorus smack dab in the middle of this splashy production. This is a hit, people.
" - A midtempo ballad written by Pat Monahan of Train and Pat Gadd, this was probably my least favorite song I heard--interesting, since it was one of the few songs I heard that was NOT co-written by Kris. But I did appreciate a bit of balladry from Kris--he certainly has a special way with a slow song--and his breathy vocal was lovely. Fans of the Fray and Gavin DeGraw will love this.
"Written All Over My Face
" - This is another Script-affiliated song (the Irish pop-rock band the Script wrote Kris's first single, "Live Like We're Dying"), penned by two Scriptmates along with Andrew Frampton (Natasha Bedingfield, Kylie, Delta Goodrem) and Steve Kipner (who produced Olivia Newton-John's "Physical" and Christina Aguilera's "Genie In A Bottle"! Respect!). Another Maroon 5-ish rocker with an edgy guitar intro, fans of "Live Like We're Dying" will dig this upbeat number. I certainly did.
"Bring It Back
" - Going into the listening session, this was probably the song I was most excited to hear, as Kris co-wrote it in London with Eg White, a man who's worked with Adele, Duffy, James Morrison, and Sam Sparro. (Respect, again!) Unsurprisingly, it's a ballad, hearkening back to the understated Kris America fell in love with on Idol. However, it's more heartland-soft-rocking fare than Britpoppy; once again, the Fray come to mind. Kris delivers a plaintive and emotional vocal that is reminiscent of his breakthrough "Ain't No Sunshine" performance, and when he performs this in concert I expect female fans to weep openly and fans of both genders to do The Wave.
"Let The Rain
" - A co-write with Tobias Karlsson (an affiliate of the aforementioned Carolina Liar, and a Swede--those Swedes sure know how to make good pop!), this song's lyrics grapple with Kris's sometimes frustrating experience of working on his album and having to compromise with the powers-that-be at Jive Records and 19 Entertainment. This is ironic, since "Let The Rain" is actually one of the stronger songs I heard; it doesn't sound like there was any compromising going on here at all, in this case. The goosebumpy chorus soars and climbs higher than "No Boundaries" ever did, that's for sure. Good stuff with good third-single potential (after "Can't Stay Away," of course).
" - This is the one song I heard that was written solely by Kris, and he actually wrote it a year and a half ago, long before he got caught up in all this Idol madness. I'm pretty sure when he recorded it on GarageBand back in the day, he never fathomed a newer, shinier version would someday end up on a big major-label album alongside tracks penned and produced by some of today's top hitmakers. But "Red Guitar" fits in perfectly with the other songs, following the album's failsafe soft-verse/exploding-pop-chorus formula to a T. This proves that the new Kris songs really aren't a departure from the real Kris at all, and that he didn't have to change who is he or what he's about, or compromise all that much, in the end. Good for him!