Though it’s totally coincidental, Kris Allen has picked the perfect time to release his second album, “Thank You Camellia.”
A lot has changed at radio since the “American Idol” season 8 winner released his debut in 2009. Back then, his soft- rock, The Fray-type gentle pop ramblings were out of favor with what was happening at Top 40 (although he managed to have a very nice-sized AC hit with “Live Like We’re Dying.”) This time, we are in a full-blown pop revival, so it should help him, especially on the album’s opening tune, the peppy “Better With You, “ which sounds like it could be straight off of One Direction’s current album, “Up All Night.” "Thank You Camellia" comes out today.
Allen’s music is non-challenging and perfectly pleasant and, depending upon what you want from your music, that’s either just fine or the worst indictment anyone could write. But regardless of how you feel, there’s no denying that he is one artist who does not seem to be trying to be anything other than who he is: A straight-down-the-middle pop singer, who has a love and knack for a simple melody. There's a loping sincerity to everything he touches and an extreme likeability.
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Lyrically, he’s not reaching too far here: he has his good days in love and his bad days and most of the songs here are about the good days. And, like most of us, he hopes for a better world and to achieve his better self, such as on first single, the galloping “The Vision of Love.” (Watch our interviews with Allen here and here).
Allen never shakes up his formula too much here, although he throws in a nice Jason Mraz flourish with the whistle-driven, finger-popping “You Are My Weakness,” which is ripe for Memorial Day picnics and drives up the coast and should definitely be a single. Same with the snap, crackle and pop of the Sugar Ray-like “Rooftops.”
Allen’s music doesn’t have the teeth to really bite into a bad time: even songs with titles like “Out Alive” and “Monster” have about as much menace as a Smurf. “Loves Me Not” has a nice groove and feel, but Meiko’s voice on the duet and Allen’s aren’t a good fit together. He needs someone who comes closer to his smoothness.
Allen is at his best when he’s stripped down and appealingly easy going, such as on the sweetly chugging acoustic track, “Teach Me How Love Goes” or album closer “You’ve Got A Way,” which features Allen singing in a slightly gruff voice. Neither songs are likely singles, but they give a glimpse into Allen’s troubadour side that seems ripe for development.