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February 2, 2007

McPhee stays golden after Idol

Finishing runner-up to Mr. Belvedere (a.k.a. Taylor Hicks) on American Idol had to be a serious blow; however, Katharine McPhee is proving with her debut album that she’s “so over it.” Former idles Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken, and the rest of the Scooby gang have garnered little claim to fame besides their dismal fan bases. With AI’s recent string of couch potatoes, Katharine’s apprehensive yet compelling vocal prowess is a relief from the hangover of previous contestants.

Boasting ass-stomping knee-high heels, an all-too-short skirt, and a head full of luscious locks, McPhee’s album cover summarizes her successes and shortcomings, and it attributes them all to her youth. Her vocal curiosity and dexterity allowed McPhee to gain national accreditation; however, those are the same things that hinder her debut album from being anything more than a nice try.

Take, for example, “Home.” The song prompts as much drama as an hour of The O.C. Even with its glorious strings, monumental build, and the dominant blaring of Katharine’s voice, once the chorus hits, it is almost impossible to take the song seriously while listening to lyrics like “Does anybody know what it’s like/ To feel larger than life.” I didn’t know the Backstreet Boys were back…again.

Lead single “Over It” exudes the same immaturity with its synthesized rhythms that latch onto McPhee’s every word, and her usage of the words “I’m so over it” demonstrate more cluelessness than Alicia Silverstone.

Yet, in both songs, the one constant is the intensity in McPhee’s vocals. Though Diddy may have looked crazy denying so many talented women during his auditions while filming Making the Band, he was looking for the same dedication and emotion with which Katharine supports her songs. Who could sing an entire song about open-toed shoes and make it sound like a serious matter besides this aspiring Mariah Carey?

Heavy bass, funk rhythms, and musical promiscuity—that sounds like Timbaland to me. On the contrary: Prot_g_ Nate “Danja” Hills is the one making all that noise behind half of the tracks on McPhee’s debut. His untailored musical mind, coupled with Katharine’s fresh personality, fashion some of the albums best moments.

With horn sample clearing the way for the vocal workings of McPhee, this “Love Story” is anything but typical. Possible single “Open Toes” force-feeds ridiculous R2-D2 and a catchy backbeat down our throats, especially at the finale of the song where Danja rightly features his superior percussive abilities. Lesser tracks such as “Each Other” and “Neglected” inspire no more than a yawn after 10 seconds of play but still radiate because of McPhee’s need to sing every word and pronounce every phrase as if it were her last. However, in “Dangerous,” this Truth ad seems to be too absurd for Katharine to pretend care about.

I could describe the failure in the Underdog’s production “Do What You Do” or the crap Babyface produced with “Everywhere I Go,” but I will end on a good note (as McPhee does) by reflecting on the most awe-inspiring song on her debut CD, Ordinary World. While listening to this song, I couldn’t help but think of a young Mariah Carey, tenderly yet demandingly proclaiming the words “can you lead me through this ordinary world?” The longing and desire present in every second of this song allows McPhee to finally shine and be the American Idol she truly is. Though she may be young and make mistakes, the potential McPhee has is astounding, and with Ordinary World, she confirms that she is anything but ordinary.