'Idol' runner-up Archuleta tops charts with debut album
Even as an avid fan of "Idol," I can count on my fingers and toes the number of times Cowell has given positive feedback during his six-year reign on the show. David Archuleta, whose self-titled debut album "David Archuleta" (2008) was released on Nov. 11th, evoked rare praise from Cowell during "Idol's" seventh season: "You have so many things going for you," Cowell said. "You're young, you're good looking, you're likable, and you've got a great voice. That's not a bad place to be, is it?"
Archuleta wowed Cowell and his fellow judges Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson with his rendition of Bryan Adams' "Heaven" during "Idol's" Hollywood Week auditions, when the show's 24 contestants were chosen from the winners of regional audition rounds.
Although he was not the overall winner, throughout the season Archuleta's pure and rich voice made him a favorite for millions of viewers. The audience fell in love with the 17-year-old's humility, which never faltered even when Abdul gushed that his performance of John Lennon's "Imagine" was the best version she had ever heard.
Viewers gave him 44 percent of the record-setting 97.5 million votes on finale night, May 22, making him runner-up to winner David Cook, who won by a margin of 12 million votes.
Within 24 hours of the season finale that drew 37.1 million viewers, Archuleta signed with Jive Records -- the label of Chris Brown and Justin Timberlake.
Archuleta's first single, "Crush," premiered on New York City's Z100 in August and soon became an explosive hit.
Impossibly innocent and insanely addictive, "Crush" jumped to No.1 in iTunes purchases and landed at No. 2 on Billboard's Hot 100, the highest debut of 2008.
The single's instantaneous success proved that Archuleta's second-place finish did not diminish post-season support from his millions of fans.
Archuleta's album received similar acclaim. "David Archuleta" reached No. 2 on iTunes less than 10 hours after its release at midnight on Nov. 11, with help from throngs of fans who either pre-ordered the album or rushed to purchase the 12 songs as soon as they became available.
While there is no doubt that Archuleta's radio-friendly songs target his primary fan base of young girls, the album is smart despite its juvenile appeal.
Archuleta's soulful vocal talent pushes him into the 'adult-contemporary' genre, and his earnest lyrics set to sweeping arrangements foster an emotional connection between him and the listener.
The chart-topping single "Crush" is the best produced of the lot. Sung with the natural melancholy of Archuleta's tenor voice, "Crush" is the ideal pop tune, with a catchy and relatable chorus: "Am I crazy or falling in love? Is it really just another crush?"
Fans of "Crush" will love "A Little Too Not Over You," whose longing lyrics and smooth transitions make it the second strongest single on the album.
"Your Eyes Don't Lie," is another highlight, with uncharacteristically assertive lines -- "You're still in love with me, you were never really out of love with me" -- and an up-tempo chorus.
"Touch My Hand" and "Barriers" are just as catchy but their strict adherence to the traditional pop album formula brings them down.
The tracks with minimal instrumental accompaniment seem to best showcase Archuleta's impressive, octave-hopping musicality.
"You Can," four minutes of passionate lyrics set to the mellow strumming of acoustic guitar, reminds the listener of why audiences favored Archuleta in the first place. The same goes for the two swelling piano ballads: "Angels," a cover of Robbie Williams' 1997 single, and "To Be With You."
On other tracks, like "Desperate," Archuleta demonstrates that he may yet cultivate a wider fan base. This powerful song features darker, brooding lyrics written by Bon Jovi hit songwriter Desmond Child -- "Even sleep can't hide you from all those tears and all the pain." -- which broaden the emotional scope of the album.
Further diversifying Archuleta's sound is "Don't Let Go," co-written by Archuleta and JC Chasez. The song features guitar riffs reminiscent of Coldplay and takes a refreshing step away from the new star's sometimes saccharine love songs.
Several critics have noted that the debut album falls short of the singer's vocal maturity. While this is admittedly true, Archuleta still has plenty of time to decide when he wants to move beyond teenage themes to more grown-up material. After all, he is not yet 18.
Despite his young age, Archuleta's precocity, genuine personality and meticulous work ethic make me confident that Archuleta has a strong career ahead of him.
People say that fame and popularity are especially fleeting in Hollywood, but for David Archuleta this may just be the beginning.
"David Archuleta" was released on Nov. 11th and is available now in stores and on iTunes.