Posts Tagged ‘Kristy Lee Cook’

Discussion: American Idol, Crazy Eights

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

kellyclarkson1On Tuesday, January 13, 2008, the eighth season of American Idol commenced. As the highest-rated show on television, American Idol‘s produced an immeasurable impact on the entertainment industry, with film stars (Jennifer Hudson), pop superstars (Kelly Clarkson) and publicity magnets (Clay Aiken) all sprouting from the competition.

A number of Idol participants adopted country music as their main mode of career transportation.  In addition to Season Four champion Carrie Underwood, finalists Josh Gracin, Bucky Covington and Kellie Pickler have achieved varying levels of success on Music Row. Phil Stacey, Kristy Lee Cook and Bo Bice continue to polish their craft in the hopes that they’ll find favor with country listeners as well.

The best Idol contestant to date is Kelly Clarkson. Her blend of balls-to-the-wall rockers and fall-to-your-knees ballads were a magic potion to angry tween girls (and fans of pure pop bliss), and her ensuing success legitimized Idol as a cultural institution.  Then, the floodgates opened. Kudos came from all corners of the musical universe with 2005′s “Since U Been Gone,” a sing-in-your-hairbrush salvo that Clarkson fires off with the strength of a gale force wind. Hip and happening, fueled by a melody that was half Strokes, half Swedish pop genius, “Since U Been Gone” gained a rare thing for mainstream radio songs: credibility. A change in her musical muse (Clarkson delved into deeper, darker tones on 2007′s My December) was met with turbulence; in June 2007, she shared her public “feuds” with famed record exec Clive Davis, she dumped her management team and she canceled a stadium tour.

kellyclarkson21Recent developments advance the notion that she’s ready to conquer the Top 40 parade again. Hailed as the return of pop’s prodigal daughter, Clarkson’s new album All I Ever Wanted (slated to ship on St. Patrick’s Day) is being positioned as a bounce back into the shinier rhythms of Clarkson’s earlier work. The bright, beaming colors of the album art (not to mention her goody-two-shoes, glammed-out pose) and the light, breezy feel of its first single, “My Life Would Suck Without You” signal a renewed energy.  Lyrics like “Maybe I was stupid for telling you goodbye/Maybe I was wrong for tryin’ to pick a fight” hint coyly at the contretemps behind the black curtain. A masterstroke of marketing or an earnest ditty of devotion?  No matter. The quasi-comeback kid kicks the tail out of a tale of resistant rapture.

There’s your Kelly Clarkson update. Now, who is your favorite Idol contestant, country or otherwise?

P.S. Who, in my view, is the best country Idol contestant so far?  Well, Carrie Underwood, of course.

Kristy Lee Cook, Why Wait

Tuesday, September 16th, 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.

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Kristy Lee Cook, “Fifteen Minutes of Shame”

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

I’m going to come right out and say it at the beginning: I like the single.  Yes, Kristy Lee Cook was an instant punchline this season on American Idol, but she really impressed me when she sang Martina McBride’s “Anyway” on inspirational night.  There’s a certain style of country song that she could easily build a good career around, and she’s found one of them in “Fifteen Minutes of Shame.”

Here we have a boyfriend who has failed to meet expectations, but not to the point where he needs his car keyed or a dose of gunpowder and lead.    “Before He Cheats” and “Gunpowder & Lead” both work because they’re matched so well to the personalities and vocal styles of Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert, respectively.  “Fifteen Minutes” works perfectly for Kristy Lee Cook, who operates on a more modest scale, as does the lyric that promises revenge through a song on the radio.

It’s the kind of song that Lorrie Morgan could’ve made a big hit back in her heyday, and quite frankly, we could use another understated vocalist like that.   I look forward to hearing more from her soon.

Grade: B+

Listen: Fifteen Minutes of Shame

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