Spin Cycle

Oh, the plight of the runner up.

It was fine for Clay Aiken. Wasn’t terrible for Kat McPhee and David Archuletta. And Adam Lambert took second place and ran with it (though, he really lost because he was gay; shhhh, don’t tell anyone). But outside of those four, the American Idol runner-up hasn’t done much on the pop scene. Just ask Bo Bice (and before you say, “Who?” he lost to Carrie Underwood).

What was different about those four from the rest of the seven previous runner-ups who have released solo albums that have bombed? Aiken, McPhee, Archie, and Lambert could all lay claim to winning the show. They were strong contestants who would’ve won the show if they were on different seasons.

Someone else who fits that pedigree is Jessica Sanchez. Sanchez was the favorite throughout most of season 11, but eventually lost to the milquetoasty Phillip Phillips (so boring that his first and last name are nearly the same). And while Phillips has become a good artist right out of the gate thanks to two monster singles and really great marketing, most people didn’t have him pegged as the winner until the end. It was Sanchez’s show to lose.

Jessica Sanchez album coverAfter winning the show, Phillips sang the National Anthem of the first game of the World Series, had his songs played throughout the Christmas season via commercials, and even had his song featured as the go-home song for Idol this year. But what about Sanchez? It’s been over a year since her second place finish and her music was only ready in late April compared to Phillips’ which came out in November of last year.

Me, You & The Music both excels and fails by being the rookie album of a 17-year old. The themes are what you’d expect; dreamy ideas of love and heartbreak. Lyrics that sound like they were texted rather than written. Even the similes used for love and heartbreak such as being there for her guy, holding onto him like “Crazy Glue” and someone’s love being as fake as “Plastic Roses” are created for young teenage girls to relate to. As a 37-year old dude, her songs aren’t written for me.

But I understand keeping her young. It’s what was done with Jordin Sparks’ first album. She’s singing to young teenagers who were watching Disney Channel and Nickelodeon not too long ago. Looking at it from that view point, you can make a case that Sanchez’s debut is solid and works. But looked at from any other view point, the album is a bit of a miss.

Her vocals are strong, but sound a bit forced. She sounds like she desperately wants to show that she has Jennifer Hudson and Kelly Clarkson-like pipes. And while she’s not that far away, she’s not quite there yet. When she lightens up and doesn’t oversing, her music can be fun, such as the first single “Tonight” with Ne-Yo and slickly produced by Stargate. Jazmine Sullivan and Toby Gad (who produces much of the album) wrote “Drive By”, which is another song that’s in the same lane. The video game beats by The Underdogs of “Right To Fall” and “You’ve Got The Love” hurt more than help, but are both fast and could keep her in the clubs, if there were clubs for teenagers.

Of course because of her strong voice, the album does feature several ballads, but none really stand out. “In Your Hands” ages her badly in a lite rock/less talk kind of way and the aforementioned “Crazy Glue” is solid with silly lyrics. “No One Compares” is an interesting duet with Prince Royce that starts slow, but quickly turns into its own dance remix, sort of like what Ne-Yo’s done with his music of late. I was surprised to see that it was Gad again who produced it rather than Stargate.

Being that I follow American Idol closely, I was surprised when Me, You & The Music was released without me really knowing. I knew it was coming out, but there wasn’t a big push to let everyone know by 19 – Interscope. And that’s probably why it will ultimately do bad business in the US like most of the other American Idol runner-up albums.

The main difference with Sanchez is that she’s going to be huge in the Philippines. Even if she doesn’t sell well in the US, she’ll have her fans in the Philippines to fall back on.

Grade: C+ for most and a B for young teenage girls

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