CD Review of Katharine McPhee by Katharine McPhee

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Katharine McPhee
starstarhalf starno starno star Label: RCA/19
Released: 2007
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The “American Idol” machine keeps on moving along, and Season Five has delivered the greatest number of finalists worthy of making music their day jobs. On the heels of solid debuts from champ Taylor Hicks and fellow finalist Chris Daughtry a month prior, runner-up Katharine McPhee is now ready with her own self-titled debut for RCA, the label that most of the “Idol” alumni call home. Blurring the facts that McPhee can sing her ass off and is extremely easy on the eyes, though, is the fact that the songs on this record are so mediocre, she comes across as just another cookie-cutter member of a crowded, overplayed pop/R&B field.

There are flashes of that powerful voice, as on tracks like the uplifting “Home” and the piano ballad “Ordinary World.” But mostly, this is the result of a troupe of songwriter/producers, hired to make radio hits, throwing Katharine’s voice into a blender and spitting out a bland, thin milkshake of music. McPhee sounds like a watered-down Mariah Carey or Beyoncé, and the liberal use of lyrics-obscuring beat loops and shotgun vocals make this a very forgettable release. Witness “Open Toes,” and “Do What You Do,” which throw equal parts of those same ingredients into said blender. There are, however, a few bright spots, like the haunting, melodic “Over It” and the Whitney-ish “Better off Alone.”

Let’s face it. “American Idol” is a good way for record executives to let our nation determine who it wants to be famous. But unlike Hicks and Daughtry, McPhee’s charisma does not exactly translate on tape. There seems to be a general lack of feeling on her debut, something that tends to happen when something is more or less forced. The artist in this case might feel good about showing her fans a side of her they may not have expected, but she doesn’t break any new ground at all, and she sure as hell doesn’t show what she is capable of vocally.

~Mike Farley