At 16, the magenta-haired Allison Iraheta was the youngest contestant on “American Idol,” but she quickly proved more than capable of holding her own among singers much older than she. The confidence and bravado, the now-17 year old displayed on the reality show is amplified on “Just Like You,” her major label debut out Dec. 1.

Iraheta’s strength is her ability to plant her feet and belt out a tune, so it’s no surprise that most of the songs here are tailored to her big voice. Even the mid-tempo selections allow her flex her pipes. She comes across like a junior Pink or Kelly Clarkson on many of the tunes, including pop punky first single “Friday I’ll Be Over U”; her voice has the same huskiness.  (Speaking of, Pink co-wrote the mid-tempo somewhat bland “No One Else” here; Pink also co-wrote Adam Lambert’s new single, “Whataya Want from Me.”)
 
Iraheta has found her sweet spot: powerhouse pop/rock melodies that allow her go from a whisper to a scream as warranted. For someone so young, she already has a knack for finding the right phrasing and emotional level for each song. Her performance of Janis Joplin’s “Cry Baby” on “AI” and her outsized vocals have lead to comparisons to Pearl, whom she adores, but that’s way, way too heavy a mantle to hang on anyone. However, it’s going to be a pleasure watching how her delivery and song choices develop as she gets a little more life experience under her belt.
 
Among the solid pop/rock songs here there are a few mixed messages: on girl-empowerment tune “Don’t Waste the Pretty,” she sings in a more restrained tone to great effect about not spending a minute on someone who’s not worth it. It could be her “Beautiful.” But then she turns around on the spiky “Beat Me Up,” singing about a guy who, if not physically abusive, runs her through the emotional ringer and she stays around nonetheless.   Not a good message to send to anyone, especially impressionable young girls. It’s a shame it’s such a damn catchy tune.
 
Other songs worth noting are “Trouble Is,” a gorgeous ballad that melodically is a little like Robbie Williams’ “Angels.”  The emotionally raw “Scars” showcases her vulnerability.
 
There are a few clunkers here, like “Robot Love,” which declares “technology sucks,” and is a rant against her beau’s fascination with his gadgets. Melodically, it’s a cross between Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll Part II” and, we’re sure this wasn’t intentional; Chili’s baby back ribs jingle. “D is for Danger” is a cute idea taken too far.
 
Iraheta’s the third season eight finalist to release an album, following winner Kris Allen on Nov. 17 and runner-up  Lambert on Nov. 23. Third-place finisher Danny Gokey has signed with 19/RCA Nashville and is expected to release is major label debut next March. Of the three releases so far, Lambert's disc is by far the most self-assured, confident set, followed by Iraheta and then Allen.