Music Reviews 2011 – Daughtry – Break the Spell
Much to the chagrin of the coastal elites, American Idol Alum Chris Daughtry and his bandmates, collectively known as Daughtry, have delivered another album. Break the Spell, Chris’s 3rd post-Idol record and the second with the current band lineup, was released November 21st. Break the Spell continues in the vein of it’s predecessor Daughtry records–offering home-spun, heartland friendly, sing-along music. And if I had to give it, my three-word review would be “I love it.” This record affirms what Idol fans recognized years ago, Daughtry rocks!
Break the Spell isn’t without critics though. Jon Dolan, a music reviewer at Rolling Stone, pronounced it “more cheeseball rock ballads about really meaning it, man.” His write-up makes me worry for his mental health (not really). Life must really suck…when your beat requires you to write reviews about groups you can’t stand. Given his negative reviews about Evanescence’s new record, Nickelback’s new record, and now Daughtry, I figured I must find out a little about who this guy is. So after spending a lawyer’s hour looking for some biographical info on him (there’s ten minutes I can’t have back), it turns out, Jon Dolan is just a guy who writes the articles that serve as juxtaposition to my own. And he savvily keeps himself otherwise off the internet. Hmmm. Maybe I could learn a few things from him?
I did find a Dolan article which was positive–he thanked R.E.M. for being a “gateway” band–one that took him down a path toward Embarrassment Records (which somehow seemed aptly named though otherwise unfamiliar to me). Ok, so he likes alternative music. He doesn’t like straightforward, unambiguous, “from the heart” music. To him, that is clearly “cheeseball.” I can only surmise….that one person’s cheeseball is another’s sustenance.
Daughtry’s Break the Spell is very definitely in the sustenance category for me. It continues in the vein of Leave This Town (the band’s last record)….in which we began to see the “worn-in” (in a good sense) Daughtry. This is the evolved, thought-through Daughtry–distinguishable from the immediately post-Idol, frantically delivered first record Daughtry. Daughtry writes songs about life. His life just happens to revolve around his family and his music. And yeah, Jon, I think he really does “mean it.”
Songs about a baby that didn’t make it (e.g. Gone Too Soon) certainly aren’t “cheeseball” by any standard of measure. That kind of subject matter is deeply personal and not easily faked. Nothing about this record makes me think Daughtry is faking anything. Chris Daughtry labored in obscurity far too long to take his current role lightly. He is serious and focused….and he is smart enough to recognize that the country-loving heartland is his fan-base. Its us Okies, Iowans and Carolinians (Caccalaccans) that will be buying his records for years to come….while the coastal elitists are saying “WTF? Who are these idiots buying Daughtry records?”
Among the standouts on this record, Outta My Head, the title track, and the first two singles, Renegade and Crawling Back to You (and several others) are all sing-along worthy. The title track takes me to a place of memorable, visceral earnest. Daughtry sells a story of angst and inexplicable attachment in a bad but unquittable relationship…..building to a crescendo reminiscent of his first single It’s Not Over back in 2006. As he sings “the way you pull me in, the way you chew me up, the way you spit me out….I keep coming back, I can’t get enough, I can’t go without” with an ever growing conviction, culminating in a last stanza wail that could never ever be construed as faking it.
This record also pays homage to Daughtry’s roots. Losing My Mind delivers the first Daughtry falsetto I can remember hearing….and it reminds me instantly of Ed Kowalczyk and Live (the Band originally from Pennsylvania whom the Idol-Contestant Daughtry cited as a major influence). Some may remember that Daughtry’s Idol run culminated with him singing alongside Kowalczyk on the Idol Finale that season. The well-done falsetto was cool when Live did it on Turn My Head (on 1997’s Secret Samadhi), and it’s cool hearing Daughtry do it here. Good falsetto can’t be faked….and it isn’t easy. Very nice Chris~!
The i-Tunes “Deluxe Version” of Break the Spell includes four bonus tracks. Daughtrys’ bonus tracks and seeming throwaways are anything but that (as the Leave This Town – B-Sides release proved). Who’s They and Everything But Me are among my favorite songs on the new album. Who’s They is a song which seems to pre-address the elitists criticism. Daughtry sings “They say we need to be a certain way to fit the mold, or so they say…. who’s they? How can we pretend to care and bend because we’re told we’re not okay…. who’s they?”
To that question, I say, whomever they collectively are, they certainly include the critics at Rolling Stone. And I say this as someone who has had a continuing subscription to Rolling Stone for over a decade. I subscribe to keep up on what music is coming out when….and I almost always go straight to the music reviews. Jon Dolan’s Daughtry review made me think two things. Why do I pay money to read what some elitist, non-fan has to say about bands I like? And, why do I still subscribe to Rolling Stone?
Undoubtedly, because I still value knowing who is in the studio right now and when new records are going to come out. And I do enjoy a Matt Taibbi induced laugh once in a while….though I don’t necessarily buy into his football analysis. Perhaps Rolling Stone should consider some new blood in their reviewer pool? Maybe adding a heartland-based reviewer–somebody who could explain what it is that people like about Daughtry….instead of making poor Jon Dolan grind out another teeth-gritting, lambasting review.
For Chris and the Daughtry boys, I’d say, who cares what some Rolling Stone elitist has to say? You’ve got a gift….and a loyal following who wants to hear what you’ll do next. Keep the faith….and keep bringing it, baby~! Rock on Chris…and the Daughtry boys~!
Support the Musicians you like. JDPF