How does the debut album from a solo Rock artist reach #2 on the album chart in the first week of its release? Killer lead single that drives the public's appetite for more? Yeah, the best a hot song will take an album the first week out is the Top 20. Try again. Maybe it happens when the lead singer from a supergroup like the Rolling Stones, Pearl Jam or U2 releases a solo album. OK, Eddie Vedder with a #1 single might have a shot at the Top 10 but that's about it.
So if the traditional methods won't do the trick, how does it happen?
The original idea for American Idol (based on a British TV show called Idol) was to have a singing competition with the winner having a shot at a pop career - an "iffy" proposition at best. If you could actually manufacture a pop star it would happen far more often than it does. Much to everyone's surprise, a fair number of Idol winners had pop careers. Even select runners-up did well. Over time, singers with Rock leanings made it into the finals.
In '05, Bo Bice did serious damage before finally getting tossed. The following year, Chris Daughtry faced a similar fate. But unlike Bice, Daughtry kept bearing down harder each week, building a solid fan base. The point was not to win the competition, a virtual impossibility, but to impress. The inevitable happened in May of '06. Daughtry was voted off the show but he immediately got a job offer… and a good one. Fuel guitarist Carl Bell and bassist Jeff Abercrombie suggested Daughtry fill their band's vacant singer position (formerly occupied by Brett Scallions). Bell and Abercrombie made their proposal on the syndicated entertainment-news program Extra. Amazingly, Daughtry rejected their overture. A lot of people thought he was crazy. Fuel was a major band. Did the North Carolina native think he could do better? Sure, he was one of the Idol finalists, but he didn't come close to winning the thing (Taylor Hicks did, for all you trivia buffs).
Signed by RCA, Chris fronted the five piece band named Daughtry (yeah, clever name). Their November, '06, effort became the biggest Rock debut, selling over 300,000 copies, since SoundScan began tracking sales fifteen years earlier. The album landed at #2 (behind Jay-Z's "Kingdom Come"). The following week sales dropped by one-half but were still impressive. For a guy who was hoping to be discovered while fronting a bar band, he'd done all right.
"Daughtry" eventually sold over 4 million copies and earned a slug of Grammy nominations - Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal (Daughtry lost to Maroon 5), Best Rock Album (won by the Foo Fighters), Best Rock Song (Bruce Springsteen took that one) and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal (awarded to White Stripes).
Despite getting shut out, it was impressive to garner that many nominations with a debut effort. To top it off, the album's Deluxe version was released with bonus tracks - acoustic versions of songs from the album - and a cover of Foreigner's classic "Feels Like The First Time."
Working with a variety of musicians ranging from Chad Kroeger (Nickelback) to 80's popster Richard Marx, Daughtry issued their sophomore effort "Leave This Town."
Prior to the release of the '09 album, Chris returned to American Idol for an appearance on the Results Show during Rock Week. Then the group embarked on a sold out club tour.
With the singles "No Surprise," "Life After You" and September," "Leave This Town" debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 selling 269,000 copies in its first week. The album was also #1 on the Digital Albums Chart and the Rock Chart. Meanwhile, drummer Joey Barnes packed it in and was replaced by Robin Diaz.
Daughtry's third album, "Break The Spell," landed in late '11. From the album, "Renegade" was announced as the official theme song for the pay-per-view pro wrestling event, WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs.
Chris Daughtry's tenure as a Rock star got a blast from the past in '12. Three former members of Absent Element, the band which featured Daughtry, filed suit in Guilford County Superior Court seeking royalties for "Home" and three other songs. The suit accused Daughtry of "constructive fraud, breaches of fiduciary duty, unfair trade practices and other deceptive and wrongful conduct."
"The songs listed in this lawsuit were written solely by me and no one else," replied Daughtry. Former band members countered that they were entitled to a share of the royalties because they, along with Daughtry, had agreed to split revenues equally.
There was a lot of money on the line since Daughtry was the third most successful American Idol contestant - behind Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson. The case moved from the U.S. District Court to Federal Court, then back to District Court.
Meanwhile, "Break The Spell" went to #8 on the Billboard Top 200 with 129,000 copies sold during its debut week. The set went on to move over 400,000 copies in the U.S. Impressive, but still a significant drop from previous efforts.
After a six year run, bassist Josh Paul announced his departure in '12. "The time has come for me to bow out and let the band continue on without me. This has been a very difficult decision, as these are not only my band mates, but my brothers," wrote Paul in a statement. But he returned to the fold a short time later.
The band's fourth album, "Baptized," dropped the following year. Daughtry co-wrote every track with either one of his band-mates or a heavy hitter collaborator - Marti Frederiksen (writer of Aerosmith's "Jaded" and Buckcherry's "Sorry"), Busbee ("Our Kind of Love" for Lady Antebellum), and Brett James (composer of Carrie Underwood's hit "Jesus, Take The Wheel").
"We came up with some pretty interesting tunes that sound nothing like anything we've done before," stated Daughtry.
2009 Leave This Town
2011 Break The Spell
"Daughtry" opens sounding exactly like what you'd expect had Chris won American Idol - highly polished pop-oriented power ballads. They're effective and Daughtry has the chops to put them over. "It's Not Over" and the appealing "Over You" are a cut above. Once passed the first four songs, the album charts a slightly different course. There's a bit more of an edge. "Crashed" has Creed touches as Daughtry sings about things going up in flames and being like a "runaway train." Slash's presence is felt on "Feels Like Home Tonight." Here Daughtry rises to the challenge letting his vocals soar. He's not about to be overshadowed on his own record. Good for him.
Daughtry certainly has talent and the album amply demonstrates how and why he made it as far as he did given American Idol's anti-Rock bias. But there is nothing exceptional about this album. Everything is professionally executed - the band sounds tight and it's well produced and mixed. Aside from his falsetto (which is pretty good) on "Breakdown" it's what's expected. Maybe that's just being unfair. After all, Daughtry is really a better-than-average bar band singer who, when provided the opportunity, gave it all he had. The same ethic is applied here.
"Leave This Town" continues Daughtry's pursuit of the middle-ground. The mid-tempo songs are melodic and catchy but still have enough grit to keep from becoming pop fodder. Commercially, as the first album proved, it's a great place to be.
The uptempo material ("What I Meant To Say" and "Supernatural") is good but hardly killer. Daughtry and crew work the pop side more effectively with "You Don't Belong" and "No Surprise." Daughtry also runs a couple songs as if it were Country Week on Idol. He does a good job on "Tennessee Line" and "Learn My Lesson" but if you gave the latter to Tim McGraw you'd have a sure fire Country hit.
Three albums in and it's still hard to shake Chris Daughtry's American Idol origins. With "Break The Spell" it's easy to visualize former Idol judge Simon Cowell's qualified enthusiasm for the Country-Rock power ballad "Crawling Back To You" or the anathematic "We're Not Gonna Fail" and his total befuddlement at the Hard Rock "Renegade."
"Break The Spell," is another "built to sell" set as Daughtry oscillates between ballads and more uptempo material cutting the Country tinged lyrics with a Rock guitar.
"Baptized" is basically more of the same, an album full of potential singles but absent even one great track.