Kris Allen song snippets: Let's rank 'em from best to not-so-best!

Kris-Allen-photo_lIn some ways, there’s no experience less satisfying than listening to song-snippet leaks from albums you’ve been anticipating for mini-eternities. (What? After an hour of smelling a chocolate cake baking in an oven, you’d be happy with a crumb?) But as someone who happened to be in a three-day corporate meeting last week when Italian Amazon leaked 30-second samples of the 13 songs from Kris Allen’s self-titled debut, I can attest that, in fact, I’d rather have had an all-too-brief musical tease than absolutely no music at all. And while our Music Mix blog has already run an item on the American Idol season 8 champ’s tracks, I figured that as EW’s resident Idoloonie, I had an obligation to weigh in on ‘em, too. (Don’t fret, Adam Lambert fans, I’ve got his 19 snippets on my to-do list, too! But that’s a lot o’ music to digest and dish!)

As for the man who wears a Henley like no other, I’m only going to dish the nine tracks I haven’t discussed publicly before. I’ve already betrayed a Fatal Attraction-level obsession with Kris’ debut single “Live Like We’re Dying” on two separate occasions, so I’ll refrain from boiling the bunny with a third go-’round, and last week, I dissected “Before We Come Undone,” “Can’t Stay Away,” and “Written All Over My Face” (loved all three of ‘em!) after Kris premiered them at a Miami Dolphins tailgate party. Now, while it’s not easy (and probably not fair) to judge songs on the basis of 30-second snapshots, I’m nonetheless going to tackle Kris’ snippets in descending order from least- to most-fave. Here we go!

“Heartless”: Not exactly sure what producer Salaam Remi was thinking, but the whole joy of Kris’ seminal Idol rendition was its simplicity, the way it deconstructed Kanye’s R&B jam and distilled its gorgeous melody, stuttery rhythms, and haunting lyrics into a sum that was even greater than its parts. Here, it sounds like Kris’ voice gets lost in the overly busy mix. WTF? (Why the face?)

“Alright With Me”: This jangly little ditty — co-written with the Fray’s Joe King — bops along pleasantly enough, but there’s a slightly vacant vibe to the melody and arrangement that make me worry it might sit well with the American Idol swaybots. (Sorry, after “All She Wants to Do Is Dance,” I should never again use that word in conjunction with our Pocket Idol.) Plus, lyrically — “I say to look, but you turn away/ I say we put our best foot forward” — this isn’t really speaking to me, either. If every second counts on the clock that’s ticking, I don’t think this is gonna be the Kris Allen track I play on repeat loop. Just sayin’.

“Lifetime”: It’s next to impossible for me to weigh in on this puppy, mostly because the half-minute sample doesn’t allow any windup going into the chorus, and therefore potentially robs it of maximum impact. But unlike “Before We Come Undone” (for example) this melody hasn’t instantaneously gotten stuck in my brain, or wormed its way into everyday conversation.* I sense possible album filler, but hope I’m proven wrong when I hear the whole enchilada.

“Let It Rain”: Now we’re gettin’ somewhere. A straight-up-the-middle pop track with a title that didn’t necessarily get my pulse pounding, but I have to say the piano line that arrives toward the end of the chorus is quite lovely, and leads into a slightly breathier version of Kris’ vocals than we’re used to hearing. As Frida declared in her post-ABBA smash, “I know there’s something going on.” And I am most curious to hear what exactly that something is.

“Red Guitar”: Also known as The One Kris Allen Wrote Before Idol. I suspect (or perhaps hope) Kris is speaking metaphorically when he declares his life was changed by the face of a red guitar, but then again, as a man whose equally adept strumming the strings as he is behind the keyboard, I won’t begrudge him a literal recitation of his passions, either. I mean, if I was a songwriter, you know I’d be jamming every other number about horse racing, my DVR, and the men’s clothing department at Target. Also: The melody here is super-pretty.

“Is It Over”: There’s a bluesy, later-Aerosmith vibe going on, and I mean that in a good way. It’s exciting to see that the most low-key of this season’s Idols isn’t afraid to stretch his musical boundaries, and from what I can tell, it’s gonna pay dividends on this track. Then again, long-standing Kris aficionados already knew our boy wasn’t afraid to color outside the lines, or throw the damn coloring book out the window altogether. (Sorry, methinks that metaphor went haywire, as metaphors often do when staring into the eye of the Idol.) Anyhoo, I’m diggin’ this half-minute sample like an old soul record.

“The Truth”: “Honesty is honestly the hardest thing for me right now,” Kris declares on a ballad (co-written by Train’s Pat Monahan) that sounds bigger and more ambitious than anything we heard during his season 8 run. And guess what? The champ’s muscular voice is more than up to the challenge. This one has the potential to be the best heartbreak ditty Grey’s Anatomy hasn’t used during a surgical/romantic struggle montage. J. Apostrophe. Effiing. Dore.

“I Need To Know”: Loving the rawness of Kris’ vocal on this one. It’s as if the stress and strain of every second of the Idol experience — the show, the tour, the insanely paced recording process — has taken its toll on our guy and on his voice in the most poetic way possible. All we get here lyrically are five repetitions of the song title (preceded by the line “Can you hear what I’m sayin’”) and yet so much more is conveyed. That’s no small task. To paraphrase Kiki Dee, I sense this one’s gonna go breakin’ my heart.

“Bring It Back”: Here we have a collaboration between Kris and London-based tunesmith Eg White (“Chasing Pavements”), and the melody is preposterously gorgeous. I particularly like the way Kris’ voice rises, then crumbles, on the unexpected denouement to the chorus (“what fate’s been telling me”). At once retro and totally current, it could be the perfect accompaniment for a fetching movie star as he/she races to the airport in the pouring rain, seeking one last chance at romantic redemption. Also: Could be a major radio smash. Make it happen, 19 peeps!

There’s my take on the Kris Allen song-snippet leaks, now what do you think? Are you in agreement with my ranking from best to worst? If not, how would you order the nine new tracks? Which one has the best shot at being a hit? Which one are you destined to play on repeat? Which one doesn’t belong here? Holla back in the comments section below!

* If one is having toast prepared by his spouse on a Saturday morning, for example, he might urge said spouse to “make it before, make it before, the show…comes back from the break…”).

UPDATE: 19 Recordings asked us to remove the YouTube clips from this post.

Photo Credit: Eric Ogden

Comments (259 total) Add your comment
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  • Veronica

    THIS ALBUM IS GOING TO BE AMAZING! CAN’T WAIT!

  • sparkles

    Incredibly boring songs that are nothing special and are forgettable. It doesn’t make me wanna buy his album.

    • Whitney

      I don’t recommend you judge an entire album so harshly based on 30 second previews.

      If you’re not inspired to buy them from this, fine. But you can hardly judge how interesting or special they are from 30 seconds. At least wait until you hear a few full songs. And the three not mentioned that were done live a few weeks ago are already widely hailed as future hits.

      • reinharv

        Wanna bet “sparkles” is a Glambert fan? No that would be like take candy from a baby & not fair. Glambert fans just love to knock down anything to do with Kris.

    • Cookie D’Oh!

      Then don’t buy it, Sparkle Cow.

      • Cookie D’Oh

        Wow. I know Sparkles is a pain, but don’t you know that if you don’t respond, sparkles just looks stupid. When you respond it makes the fandom looks like a bunch of Worsters. We’re not. Just sayin’ :)

      • Oops

        I was “talking to Cookie D’Oh

    • BrightLight

      Well then, look who showed up bright and early? The haters. Do you guys just wait for these articles? I’m getting sick and tired of you people. You don’t like the music, don’t bother coming on here. How hard is it to SCROLL? Wouldn’t it be better if you actually went and listened/commented on stuff you LIKED instead of bringing down an artist you probably have made up your mind about a long time before these clips?

      • Zach

        it’s a message board, and the same can be said for the superfans who will support even mediocrity. let everyone have their say.

      • Jess

        Zach, that’s right… so when people want to make fun of the haterz for being so negative, they should have their say ;)

      • reinharv

        This is what haters do. They google Kris Allen & leave nasty comments. Archuleta fans did the same thing to David Cook. They were to first to comment on his iTunes reviews & wherever I went blogs, news, etc., they were there. Glambert fans are now out full force. I love David Cook, I voted for Kris this season. It’s like these people think there is only one performer in the world so let’s knock down everyone else.

    • Javi

      Then don’t buy it…

    • MK204

      Hey I understand what you mean. I heard some 30 second snippets from Lambert and good lord…can you say outdated???

      So even though I don’t agree with you, I do understand why hearing 30 second snippets might bore you.

      • Kev

        MK204 there is nothing outdated about Lambert you moron. Don’t be jealous. One thing you can’t say about Lambert is that he’s boring. Now Kris……..yawnnnnn.

      • Ben

        Kev, name-calling isn’t going to change someone’s opinion. And hating Kris isn’t going to make Adam successful, so what are you doing here again?

    • majal1

      Sparkles!!!! for someone who pen themselves sparkles, you certainly sparkles in BLACK, just a big hater for someone who would like to make it to the industry. You dont like the CD, who is forcing you to buy it?

      • Avenging Angel

        well, well, Majal1 the cyber bully, go away you big hypocrite, you put down all Adam fans and Adam then chatise others if they say bad things about Kris, YOU are the biggest cyberbully going hon.

      • Erin

        Avenging Angel, there’s really no need for you to come here just to pick a fight with someone…

    • LOL

      “sparkles” as in ‘Sparkle Cow’…LOL

      That is a name given by VFTW for Glambert fans.

      funnnny.

    • sparkles

      Wow it’s funny how so many people took offense to my opinion. lulz

      I’m a Cookie fan btw. :)

    • wm

      sparkles, why don’t you move on already? You post the same negative crap on every article about Kris. Time to let it go and move on child. By the way, how old are you? Childish jack ass!

  • Vada

    Slezak, I just love you. That is all.
    Oh yeah. I love your take on Kris’ songs.

  • Whitney

    the story behind Red Guitar- Kris bought his wife Katy a red guitar [that she can't play]. With that in mind, I think the red guitar in the song is a metaphor for Katy/their marriage. Which makes the song even better. =)

    My personal favorite new clip is Let It Rain, and I’m not crazy about Is It Over, but really… I’m out of my mind excited for the whole thing. =) haha

    • Disco Archie

      That is really a beautiful story. I will remember that when I listen to it.

  • Mark

    Really liked most everything here (with the single exception of Lifetime). Good stuff!

  • michelle

    slezak
    great minds think alike..Im on board with you!!! I agree with about everything you said. I cant wait to her your recap of Adams songs , I cant tell if you are gonna love em or hate em..I personally love them all (actually obsessed). He and Kris are so different and I love them both!! BRING IT ON SLEZAK …..

  • Melanie

    tl;dr Slezak. I’m kidding. Bring is Back is my favorite at well. We missed you, skip all meetings from now on

  • Jared

    I like it. The raw emotions he projects is awesome.

  • Nancy

    Pretty “not interesting, stimulating, or significant; pallid; insipid:” i.e. innocuous. To be expected from the innocuous Mr. Allen! He’s cute though.

    • Mark

      Pfft. “Pretty”, for some of us, can also be quite stimulating and thought provoking. I mean, are any of these tracks high on shock value? No. Insignificant? Not to my ear.

      • Starr

        I agree, Mark. I think that people who generally like mellow music will like Kris, but I believe there are people with eclectic music tastes who can appreciate this album. I tend to gravitate to mellow music, but I also love funk, ska, reggae music, so I think this music appeals to a lot of people. I don’t know why people expect something stimulating out of Kris. I don’t think we ever got the impression he was going to try to sex you up with his record (although I gotta say, his vocals are sexy enough on these snippets for me) hahaha

    • Jess

      Hi Nancy! Nice to see that you still feel compelled to come to every Kris-related article that Slezak writes and leave a patronizing comment or two…or five. :)

      • Kev

        She is allowed……is this a Kris Allen fan site? NO! Anyone can come here and comment……if you don’t like it well then who the freak cares?

      • Ben

        Hey Kev, did Jess say that Nancy wasn’t allowed??? No… And if you don’t “care”, then why are you responding to her?? Logical FAIL!

  • SCat

    I find it all pretty bland. Radio friendly but nothing new here. Doubt I’ll have any of it on repeat but who knows!

    • Starr

      Glad you’re keeping an open mind! :)

    • Jess

      SCat, were you by any chance looking for Kris to do an electro-dance pop album? :)

      • Diane

        haha…if so, then they need to go back to AL’s articles and comment THERE.

      • Kev

        Diane your bitterness is showing and it is not attractive.

      • Ben

        And I guess your bitterness is attractive, Kev??

        FAIL!

  • Michelle

    Thanks for the reviews Slezak. It does seem a little silly to review snippets, but good to hear your thoughts :) My faves are still the three we got full length versions of at the Miami thing, but of what’s left I’m most looking forward to I Need To Know (for the same reason as you, the raw vocal hinting at more awesomeness to come)…we actually disagree *gasp* on Alright With Me, I think it sounds like a perfect little fun pop ditty :)

  • Janet

    I JUST LOVE ‘EM ALL.

    I can’t wait for November 17th!

  • T

    I’m much more into Alright With Me than Slezak is, and I’m can’t really get into The Truth, but otherwise, I am so impressed with so many of these snippets that I can’t pick a fav or rank order by preference. I can say that the past few days I’ve woken up with Before We Come Undone, Is It Over, and Alright With Me and Let It Rain running through my head, so that’s a good sign I’m going to love the album. Also, I am increasingly convinced that Let It Rain would be a great elimination song for Idol this year. Could be a hit for Kris with that kind of exposure.

    • Sandy

      I agree about Alright With Me. That one really stands out to me too. If it’s as cool and catchy as the clip makes it sound, it could even make a good single somewhere down the line.

  • BewareOfBears

    I agree with your first picks for best two, though I would have reversed them. “Bring It Back” has a very Maroon 5 sound to it, but that’s not a bad thing. “I Need To Know” has the closest to the stripped down organic Kris that was so great on the show, and what there is, is very pretty.

    I disagree most on “The Truth,” which was my second least favorite after “Lifetime.”

    Also hope it’s the bad quality of the snippets, because a lot of these do sound a lot alike.

    Glad to have you back Slezak. You were missed.

  • CherryBlossom

    Slezak… you hit the nail on the head for me!! That is pretty much how I would rank them. My fave songs that weren’t sung in Miami are Bring it Back and The Truth. And everyone I know seems to like “Alright With Me” but to be honest it’s just a’ight with me (dawg). Pun intended.

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