CD Review of Audio Day Dream by Blake Lewis
Recommended if you like
Justin Timberlake, BT, Jamiroquai
Label
Arista
Blake Lewis:
Audio Day Dream

Reviewed by David Medsker

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I
t is the opinion of the Bullz-Eye staff that “American Idol” officially jumped the shark on May 16, 2007. At the end of that episode, Jordin Sparks, Blake Lewis and Melinda Doolittle stood silently, waiting for Ryan Seacrest to reveal each singer’s fate, but their body language said it all: Doolittle knew she was a goner. She was easily the best singer of the three, of course, but as much as Simon Cowell likes to pretend that this is a singing competition, it is not just a singing competition. It is a competition to find the most marketable singer (read: young and cute), and like it or not, that gave the nubile Sparks and the beatboxing goofball Lewis a considerable advantage over Doolittle. Finding the next Sharon Jones, it appears, is not an option.

It would also appear that karma was a big fan of Mindy Doo, based on the events that transpired since her ouster. “AI” season five winner Taylor Hicks lost his recording contract, as did runner-up Katharine McPhee, and the premiere episode for the show’s seventh season suffered its worst ratings in four years. The debut album from season six winner Sparks peaked at #10 on the Billboard charts, yielding two Top 20 singles and scratching and clawing its way to gold status.

That leaves the Keane-singing tween heartthrob Lewis, whose album also peaked at #10 but has not spawned a single that reached any higher than #110 on the pop charts. It’s easy to make fun of Lewis and his JT-cribbing, motor mouth tendencies – and fun, too – but is this the fate that Audio Day Dream, Lewis’s full-length debut, deserves? Well yeah, probably, but it’s also better than you think.

Let’s make something abundantly clear about Audio Day Dream: it’s starter pop, the kind of record that people with limited exposure to pop music – ahem, little girls – will gravitate towards, but the experience will ultimately drive the listener to seek out bigger and better things. As starter pop goes, though, it’s not completely terrible. The ballads fare slightly better; “How Many Words” has the album’s best chorus, and “End of the World” has a certain ‘80s soundtrack charm to it (think “Take My Breath Away”). Tracks like “Gots to Get Her” – which has the hilarious subtitle “(Inspired by ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz’)” – will fit right into the set list at the next junior high dance, and somehow Lewis managed to rope in Lupe Fiasco to drop a rhyme on “Know My Name.” The definitive collaboration here is the BT-produced “She’s Makin’ Me Lose It,” which unleashes all of Lewis’ A.D.D. tendencies (get the pun of that album title now?) and threatens to rip a hole in the fabric of time and space with its busyness.

The most surprising part of Audio Day Dream is the fact that, as immaculately produced and overly programmed as this album is (the Will Harris expression “produced within an inch of its life” comes to mind), there are moments that appear to have actual musicians playing actual instruments. Are those real drums on “Surrender”? Guitars on “Hate 2 Love Her,” the kind that Slash would play? The machines will surely make them pay for their trespasses once Skynet becomes self-aware, but their independent thought is admirable.

Records like Audio Day Dream are tough to critique. Let’s face it: the vast majority of those who are lucky enough to do this for a living are every bit the Yo La Tengo-worshiping stereotypes that the Onion brilliantly satirized a few years ago, which means the vast majority of the reviews written about an album like this will be under duress. The truth about Audio Day Dream is that it isn’t as good as a fan says it is, and it isn’t as bad as a critic says it is. Again, it’s a starter record; even Yo La Tengo fans had to start somewhere, right?

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