Kristy Lee Cook, Why Wait

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September 16, 2008

Kristy Lee Cook
Why Wait

This review must be prefaced with a somewhat humorous anecdote: A week or so ago, the writers of Country Universe convened online to discuss upcoming content for the website, and to divvy up upcoming albums and singles for review. At that time, I selected for review Why Wait, Kristy Lee Cook’s debut album for Arista Nashville. Soon after making that selection, however, I jokingly added: “But I’m going to pass it on to someone else if it contains any Lee Greenwood songs.” Lo and behold, what do you know, the final song on Why Wait is Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.” [Enter guffaw here.]

For those of you who don’t watch American Idol, or who simply missed this past season, Cook was a top 12 finalist. Almost immediately, the judges designated her as the season’s “Country Girl” (although there was never anything particularly country about her). Given Carrie Underwood’s success in the genre, and the potential fan base, this was a blessing in disguise for Cook, who otherwise lacked a distinctive voice and charismatic personality.

Cook nearly squandered the opportunity. She landed in the bottom two the first couple of weeks, and was poised to go home during week three. But then—in a truly inspired, brilliant and blatantly opportunistic move—she covered Lee Greenwood’s über-patriotic anthem “God Bless the USA.” The country fans rallied. Not only was she not in the bottom two that week, she managed to stick around for another three weeks, and land herself a new record deal (an early one went nowhere) in the process. There hadn’t been such a blatant ploy for the affection of country fans since Underwood released “Jesus, Take the Wheel” as her first single. But like “Jesus, Take the Wheel,” it worked.

After listening to Why Wait in its entirety, it’s clear that Cook (and her producer Brett James who co-wrote “Jesus Take the Wheel”) took more than a few cues from Underwood’s successful career. Her first single, “15 Minutes of Shame,” touches on the same revenge theme as Underwood’s third massive single “Before He Cheats.” She also has her own version of Underwood’s second single “Don’t Forget to Remember Me.” “Homesick” is about a young girl leaving home for the first time with big dreams and a heavy heart. It even has the same “leaving home” and “first apartment” scenes. Indeed, nearly every song on the album sounds like either a re-run of or a toss-off from an Underwood, Martina McBride or Faith Hill album.

Therein lies Cook’s biggest problem. She does not have the vocal prowess of any of these women. Instead of playing to whatever strengths she may have and trying to distinguish herself from Nashville’s vocal divas (as Kellie Pickler did rather successfully on her first post-Idol album), Cook attempts to compete with them, and fails miserably. She brings no depth or richness to her vocals, leaving her interpretations hopelessly flat; and her attempts to hit notes well beyond her comfort zone make listening somewhat uncomfortable. Cook’s shortcomings are most notable on “Not Tonight” (a song co-written by Underwood herself). The song, about a love that’s all wrong, but can’t be left behind just yet, has all the hallmarks of a track that mainstream country radio would eat up. However, the song feels like too much of an effort to be enjoyable.

Cook also suffers from “Jessica Simpson syndrome” (unsurprising given that she shares a producer with Simpson). A few of her songs start out promisingly with a simple vocal and guitar—and then, wham! The wailing kicks in and the song is ruined. This offense reaches its peak on the title track “Why Wait.” The song, which is about not tip-toeing around a potential once-in-a-lifetime love, starts out well with a slight bluegrass feel, and then turns into a wailing romp a lá Underwood’s “Flat on the Floor.”

Cook’s vocals are most believable on “Like My Mother Does,” a sweet, yet unoriginal twist on Martina McBride’s “In My Daughter’s Eyes,” in which Cook assumes the daughter’s point of view. “I Think Too Much” is also enjoyable. Although lightweight, the hook is catchy and the song, about a girl who over-thinks every aspect of her relationship, is entertaining and more original than anything else on the album.

The remaining songs are bland country-pop (leaning pop) outings that re-tread familiar themes and do nothing to help Cook establish a distinctive voice. “Plant the Seed” is another in the long line of country’s pseudo-inspirational anthems; “Baby Believe,” about getting back a lost love, somehow went missing from Faith Hill’s “Cry” album; and “Hoping to Find” finds Cook dreaming of the fairytale love story I’m assuming Taylor Swift is waiting for with “stars shooting in the night,” “fireworks in your head” and a “shower of meteorites.”

In the end, this album leaves the listener with lingering questions: Who is Kristy Lee Cook? Is she more than a marketing ploy riding the coattails of Idol? With Why Wait she has only emphasized who she is not. She’s not Carrie Underwood. She’s not Martina McBride. She’s not Faith Hill. In order to compete in Nashville, which is flush with blonde singers at the moment, Cook is going to need to show us more. With this effort, she doesn’t do nearly enough to create, much less solidify, her niche.

Click to hear Kristy Lee Cook, Why Wait.

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  1. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar says:

    Great review, and I love that you threw in that story. :) I have to say, this album’s artwork cracks me up. The color palette is really cool, but then you actually look at the image and…

  2. Lynn DouglasNo Gravatar says:

    Ah yes, I left out the story about selling her horse… ;)

  3. JulesNo Gravatar says:

    Yes, the glue factory was oh so grateful.

  4. JesusChristNo Gravatar says:

    I think you are a lousy reviewer. Even I, who didn’t like her, give this album 3 and half out of 5 stars.

    The songs are pretty good and current. They will be forgetten in next 6 years but these songs can pretty much entertain all folks who love country. If you hate Kristy Lee Cook then don’t do a review.

    PS: I didn’t read what you wrote. I don’t have to.

  5. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar says:

    Fair enough – I haven’t heard the entire album (and I did not see her on American Idol) but the few cuts I have heard suggest an undistinguished vocalist riding the wave of the American Idol publicity machine

  6. Chris D.No Gravatar says:

    Why is her horse in the cover swimming? And how did she get it back? xD

    Nice review, this is exactly what I thought would happen with her album. I liked her on idol, but she’s just not distinctive here.

  7. vpNo Gravatar says:

    yeah i agree from what i have heard it is all not that great, but to me the majority of your review seems to have double shot gun affect to it. the review gets out while some what (as per usual) making cheap shots at not only CU, but FH, JS which is warrented, and TS possibly warrented. i think you could have left you comparissons a little more clean, to get you point across of the potential failure of the album.

  8. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    Ouch! Yeah, I was definitely caught off guard when you reported to us that a Lee Greenwood song was, in fact, on her album, since I didn’t know the AI backstory.:)

    I haven’t listened to the album, so I can’t fairly say much about your assessments. However, you sure make a strong case.

  9. vpNo Gravatar says:

    My personal opinion on the record is it sucks. There is the possibility of some good material there, and the possibility of good vocals if she would or her label would have taken the time to do the proper training. It’s not like she has no voice, it just needs some direction i think.
    The problem with country music is its fan based has almost doubled in the last 3 years and the industry wants to take advantage of that, and alot of it is sad to say crossover which i don’t mind, but everyone doesn’t have to do it then it gets old. So i figure they thought they would use AI to their advatage befor last season is forgotten about, and i think people assume coutry platform is easier way to get attention ie JS switching, cause she sure couldn’t make it in pop. this is just my opinion.

  10. Lynn DouglasNo Gravatar says:

    The biggest thing I took away from the album was how completely unoriginal it was. The songs, the production, the voice. The album was clearly intended to attract the current radio audience, but I think it insults them instead, and does Kristy no favors. I’m not saying that she doesn’t have the potential to make a great album, but she needs to figure out who she is before she tries to sell it to the public. No cheap shots intended in making my points.

    Also, for the record, I don’t have a problem with patriotic songs. It’s the way this one has been used…

  11. I bought it on Itunes yesterday and I gotta say I’m dissapointed. I didn’t have high expectations or anything but I did think that it’d be a little better than it is. It doesn’t showcase any of her strengths all it does is confirm that she’s forgettable. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that she got dropped by this time next year.

  12. Trie says:

    I m suprised to hear you say there is nothing country about her?? The fact that she rides horses bareback through rivers, competes in barrel racing, hunts, and has literally grown up as a
    “country girl” shows your lack of knowledge on what it means to be country. What other artists do you know (Faith Hill, Martina McBride, etc) is this country. She is country. I loved her album and her vocals sound great.

  13. Blake BoldtNo Gravatar says:

    Originality is high on my priority list, but I’d be a fool to expect it all the time. The real problem here is the distinctiveness that Lynn mentions. For all the minor criticisms thrown on Taylor Swift, she does have a brand as a teenage singer-songwriter. Likewise, Trisha Yearwood is the everywoman powerhouse. They have very dissimilar roles. Cook seems to not be rising above the pack of pretty 20-somethings with a decent voice. That’s where this project will sink.

    2 stars is about right. Nothing remarkable.

  14. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    Doing “country” activities does not automatically equate to making good country music.

  15. JMRNo Gravatar says:

    I bought this CD last night, and could hardly stop listening to it. I thought the CD was fantastic. She has a VERY distinguished voice, and I believe she will be a very successful artist. I am excited to watch her grow in the industry.

  16. Lynn DouglasNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks JMR for giving your opinion without slamming mine. I respect that.

  17. DanielNo Gravatar says:

    Don’t ever write another review you moron. I hope you get fired. Why do people try to destroy someone before they get started. I listened to the album (with a friend who has 2 platinum albums to his resume) and obviously knows music more than you do. He loved the songs, says she has a great voice, and is every bit as good as these other artist out there. I loved the album, and if I didn’t I still would not try to slam her. I wish her all the luck.

  18. Comments by posters using multiple names are being deleted.

  19. Matt BNo Gravatar says:

    Daniel,

    She wasn’t trying to ‘destroy’ Kristy Lee Cook. She was just pointing out what was or wasn’t good about the album to her. She then shared it with other people. Simple as that. no need to get personal about it.

  20. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    Daniel,

    In order to continue to post on this blog, you may not call our writers or other commenters names.

  21. kimi jo *canchaser* says:

    i loved the review and i loved you on idol im a barrel racer two and i love that u got ur horse back

  22. TomNo Gravatar says:

    i have a great deal of admiration for those young people that make it to the finals of these talent shows. that’s no small fry by any means.

    the result is, we have the pleasure of an album release by the most talented and the best blond(e) ones.

    kirsty lee cook belongs to the group of the best blonde ones. fortunately, she’s a decent singer.
    unfortunately, she’s not more (from a strictly musical point of view). the record is listenable and forgettable at the same time. there’s a strong copy – paste feel about it.

    nevertheless, it’s a start for her that she seemingly deserves. and – who knows, on her next album she might click a few times on bold, rather than just copy and paste.

  23. winwin22No Gravatar says:

    i totally disagree with your review… Its full of bias and mean things… I thought that Kristy Lee’s album was great! Very light and simple songs… And maybe she’s not that “Darling of the crowd” but it doesn’t matters, what matters is that she sings with her best and touches others lives (like mine)
    CONTINUE SINGING KRISTY… Don’t mind your detractors… (they are great on crticizing others, but in reality they can’t even sing!)

  24. InformedNo Gravatar says:

    Your review is based on a bias and brainwashing from American Idol. It is too bad that you believed all the comments of a reality show. Kristy did make a good choice in songs, seeing how it had to be her birth year, and since Kristy has sang God bless the USA from the time that she was 17 or younger, it was not so calculated as you think. Just like the other idols she chose a song that she thought would be a good choice and she could sing well. Past tense, because she has sung that song a long time. Reviewing based on bias is bad practice. Kristy has a 4 octive range, just because her voice is low you cannot tell that she is hitting notes all the other divas out their hit, except maybe not in every song. She has great vocal talent, however, sometimes on american idol was struggling with the flu and bronchitis. Your review shows that you watched AI, was influenced by a reality show and the judges comment. You probably rush out and buy every new product the commercials push because you are easily influenced by TV. Which is controlled media. Too bad you as a reviewer are blinded to the truth based on Simons comments. If he wanted her to win. His comments would of been stellar. He did not want nor did AI another country artist, especially female. Therefore, because she was so tallented they had to make it seem like she did not have talent. When exactly the opposit was true. Why do you think she was one of the only ones signed this season so far. She has been told by many top industry people early on in her career that her talent could rival anyone. I tend to agree. If you weren’t so blinded by your ignorant biased you may be able to see how talented she is. You made a decision, and that is final. Regardless of the truth. Do not review in the future, as far as I am concerned you mimic many teenage clicks and are too immature to review anything.

  25. TomNo Gravatar says:

    …another messenger got shot.

  26. [...] Country Universe gives Kristy Lee 2 stars out of 5 [...]

  27. [...] Country Universe gives Kristy Lee 2 stars out of 5 [...]

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