Country music loves an American Idol. From Carrie Underwood,
to Kellie Pickler, to Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina, these are just four of
the biggest names to come out of the American Idol school of fame and music.
Kree, the show’s newest runner-up, is going through that same hovering between
country music stardom and the annals of Bucky Covington/Danny Gokey period, but
she is being tipped for great things left, right and center.
She’s certainly got the pipes to go the distance. Similar
vocally to Carrie Underwood, ‘All Cried Out’ is a showcase for her singing
ability, and it’s immediately clear that she knows how to make her vocals positively
drip with emotion and sincerity. There’s no doubt that Kree is talented and a
hit with the country audience (of course it helps that she’s best buds with
country’s golden girl Kacey Musgraves).
‘All Cried Out’ as song is a little more questionable. It is
a song of two halves, beginning with mandolin, dobro and steel guitar, stripped
back and acoustic. Suddenly the chorus kicks in, and while the steel guitar
prevails, heavily-added-to electric guitar takes over and fills the mix with
this barrage of sound. Before you know it, the second verse has pop drums,
sweet strings and is completely polished, turning it into a completely standard
Idol pop ballad. This continues through the rest of the song, with the
occasional dobro lick thrown in to seem convincing. Lyrically it’s slightly
different from the typical Idol “yay I’ve done it” final song, preferring to
highlight more of the emotional exhaustion before the character’s life gets
turned around, but it’s still fairly conventional.
Now, I am not placing this judgement on Kree, as I know
everything is tightly controlled and horribly creatively banal at American
Idol, but it does seem like they’ve tried to please both camps. They wanted to
secure the pop market (and probably the votes) and stick to familiarity, while
they also noted Kree’s popularity in the country corner and wanted to make it
clear that that’s where she’d be headed post-Idol. But ‘All Cried Out’ comes
across as a cheesy, twinkly-eyed pop ballad with a split personality trying to
escape. It doesn’t feel token (well only a little), but more mismatched. It can’t
decide what it wants to be.
I always think it’s a shame that the first impression we get
of these Idol alum is something as contrived as the Idol machine, considering
the importance country music places on authenticity. I sincerely hope Kree is
matched with like-minded producers in putting her album and future singles
together, as trying to market her to a mass all-genre audience would likely
damn her to obscurity. While she is talented, the pop world is simply too
crowded, and she is far more suited to country.
‘All Cried Out’ is an okay start, but I hope to see more
dynamic things coming from Kree when it starts being about her as an artist. No
pressure, only the entire country world is watching.