Clear as Day
In listening to American Idol winner Scotty McCreery’s debut album, it becomes all too clear that either McCreery is being carefully reared by the unabashedly commercial-minded execs of 19 Entertainment… or that he simply enjoys playing follow-the-leader. The former is most likely, but almost every track on Clear as Day sounds like an emulation of the style of one of country radio’s favorite hitmakers. We get to hear Scotty McCreery play Montgomery Gentry. We get to hear Scotty McCreery play Kenny Chesney. But there are precious few moments in which it sounds like Scotty McCreery is being Scotty McCreery.
“Water Tower Town” sounds like something lifted out of the Montgomery Gentry reject pile circa 2002. “Better Than That” carries a strong thematic resemblance to Kenny Chesney’s “Never Wanted Nothing More,” with nothing about it’s story structure feeling at all urgent or revelatory. On another note, it comes as no surprise that “Walk In the Country” was co-written by Urban, as the track clearly has Urban written all over it. (Think “Where the Blacktop Ends”) Such style-mimicking demonstrates the fact that, as a whole, Clear as Day falls into the common trap in which commercialism overshadows an album’s artistic merits.
Somewhat oddly, it’s the two singles released thus far that represent the album at its absolute worst. “I Love You This Big” scans as a grammatically-awkward piece of schmaltz with an uninspired production and a dull, auto-tuned vocal. “The Trouble with Girls” merely sounds like a cute little basket of cliches, as if the writers were more concerned with struggling to find words that rhyme than connecting with a listener on more than a surface level. At the same time, the dramatic orchestral swells in the bridge make the song sound like it’s taking itself way too seriously. It’s all too obvious that the songs’ sole purpose of existence is to serve as inoffensive distractions between radio commercials. They are so carefully calculated so as to make no negative impression that they end up making hardly any impression at all.
In most cases, lyrics rarely scratch below surface level. High school hallways serve as a common stage setting – Little surprise, given McCreery’s age of 18 – with many of the tracks playing like gender-flipped versions of Taylor Swift songs, minus the authenticity and distinct perspective. The title tracks recalls a few mundane details of an encounter with a romantic flame, only to settle for a clumsy grasp at the heart strings by killing the girl off in the end. The songs that work are those that emphasize the melodies and Scotty’s performances above the generally mediocre lyrical content. “Write My Number On My Hand” finds McCreery turning in what is possibly his most engaged performance of the set, with a wink-wink country boy charm that effectively sells the silly lyrics. But that’s not to say that all of the songs are lyrical duds. With “Dirty Dishes,” McCreery taps into the universally acceptable country radio theme of faith, and offers a take that is actually interesting. The song (written by Neil Thrasher, Michael Delaney, and Tony Martin) portrays the narrator’s mother saying “the strangest prayer ever said,” in which she thanks God for dirty dishes, noisy children, slamming doors, et cetera, and then highlighting the positive aspects of common domestic annoyances. Less effectively, however, “That Old King James” scans as an inferior “Three Wooden Crosses”-wannabe. It tracks the life journey of a King James Bible as it is passed down through different family members, but it lacks a clear message to serve as a form of listener payoff.
At its best, Clear as Day continues to offer glimpses of the substantial well of talent McCreery possesses. But at the same time, that talent sounds like it’s a long way from being fully realized. He’s not Josh Turner. He’s not George Strait. He’s not John Michael Montgomery. But when it comes to portraying who Scotty McCreery is as an artist, Clear paints a picture that is disappointingly murky.
I love this cd. all the songs are good.
Scotty McCREERY HAS A BEAUTIFUL VOICE.
He seems to idolize Josh Turner, he’s said he is a big influence on him, he sang several of his songs on Idol and so forth. So, if he truly idolizes Josh Turner, then he needs to release material that starts matching the quality of Josh Turner’s records. If he starts churning out singles that are the likes of Long Black Train, Your Man, Another Try and Would You Go With Me, then we’re onto something more than a commercialized singer. If that ever rolls around, then we’ll be onto an artist whose interested in his craft!
I only listened to about five of the songs on this terrible album before I gave up completely.
I think McCreery is a lot of the problem with it. On the songs I did hear, at no point did I ever feel that he connected emotionally, and there was no real sense that he was ever *interpreting* the songs, rather than just singing them. This is particularly evident on songs like ‘Water Tower Town’, which has the potential to be quite personal to McCreery, but has none of that in the performance.
Out of curiosity, I read about 5 or 6 other on-line reviews of this album. They were invariably very positive. Maybe they were taking it easy on an 18 year old who has potential and not holding the choice of songs against him. Maybe they really loved it. I doubt that I would have been able at 18 to make good decisions about what songs to record if I could sing.
That said, I haven’t cared for either single and I listened to a preview of the album on i-tunes (90 seconds of each song). Nothing I heard made me want to give it a second listen so I won’t be buying this album. It’s possible that a song or two may grow on me at some future date and I may buy those individual tracks.
The review may be a bit harsh but I can’t see giving the album more than 3 stars. McCreery doesn’t seem to be any more talented than Blaine Larsen but will probably have more success because of his American Idol background. I thought Larsen had some very good songs but now is without a record label.
I completely disagree with the review of this album! The CD is wonderful and it totally expresses Scotty as a unique, young and fresh country star on the rise. He is able to sing the lyrics and convey the story beautifully in the ballad Clear As Day. He brings a truthfulness to the track Back on the Ground and you can tell the emotion in his voice. The upbeat songs like Water Tower Town and You Make that Look Good are amazing and come from a voice that the listeners can relate to. He touches people with his voice which is his own. Maybe it is just the reviewer that wants to make the comparison to other male artists – if you fully listen to the CD you can tell he does not sound like Josh, or Jason or Kenny. I would give this album 4 1/2 stars and I will say you can expect to see Scotty McCreery on the country music scene for a long time to come.
Just saying but at 15 LeAnn Rimes debuted with One Way Ticket and Blue.
It’s been a while since I’ve chimed in on this website but I do have to point out that Walkin In The COuntry was not only written by Urban, he recorded it with the Ranch AND released it. This album has it’s flaws yes, but I do believe that The Trouble With Girls was a smart release from the album because to me it’s the one song in the whole project that sounds like McCreary’s own personal style that he presented so much on idol.
Wow. Harsh. I think in today’s world…people are expecting 2 second miracles…most of the best artists have taken a while to settle into their styles. They had time to make mistakes and grow into themselves without people ready to jump on down their throats and eat them like vultures. Give the guy a break, he’s 17. It’s his first go at being an artist.
Given his age, his experience…I feel like his first album was really good. Could any of you have done much better at that age? Scotty has proved to learn and grow incredibly quickly for the amount of time he’s been doing this. I have no doubt he will continue to get better.
No need to be so critical and mean spirited…you’re supposed to be the mature adults here. You should be ashamed of yourselves for speaking like that about kids.
I really can’t buy into the idea that we should ‘go easy on,’ or somehow expect less of an artist that is young, or only on his first album. I have to be honest when I review material, which means I can’t give Scotty McCreery a free pass, and I can’t pretend that this is a good album when I really don’t believe it is. I believe the music should be judged on the basis of what it is, not on what it could be, or on why it is the way it is.
I don’t think anybody here is being immature, or being “mean” to Scotty in any way. He’s just being evaluated by the same standards as any other artist. It wouldn’t be fair to judge Scotty by different standards because of his age or inexperience. Whether it’s his first album or his fifteenth, it’s taken at face value.
While I do try to keep my criticisms as classy as possibile, ultimately the purpose of my reviews is to provide a thorough, detailed, and honest critique of a work – not necessarily to be ‘nice’ to the artist.
I also think its wrong to give Scotty (or anyone) a more lenient review because of age. When I read a good review, it might actually influence my decision to buy. I’m not interested in buying sub-par music and I would be upset if I bought music based in part on a glowing review and found out later that the reviewer said nice things not because he or she liked the music but because he or she was “being nice” to a young act (or an old act no longer played on radio).
Also, being “nice” to Scotty because he is young sounds a bit patronizing, as well. Which isn’t so nice, after all.
Thats my opinion and my name is Sweetcheeks.
Wow. Honestly he has an amazing voice and you don’t have to go easy on him. He got this album to number one and that’s because more people like it than dislike it. It’s just your opinion and not everyone has to think the same way. So leave him alone! He’s cute and has an amazing voice and personality!
Did I ever say that everybody has to think the same way as me? I kind of think it would be boring if everybody did. I’m not quite sure where you got that thought…
Hunter Hayes was only 19 when he put out his first album, and he has a definite style of his own and really strong lyrics. (Yes, I recognize the vocal similarities between him and Gary LeVox, but he still comes across as very much his own person.) And as someone said elsewhere, so did LeAnn Rimes when she was just 15. So yes, I think teen singers are — and should be — capable of high standards when it comes to song choices. Scotty has a really good voice, but what I’ve heard of his songs so far leaves me cold. I hope he improves in that area and becomes a better artist.
I tend to be wary of anything associated with American Idol because that show tends to produce a lot of junk.
Having only heard the singles, I can’t say that Scotty breaks the trend at all. He’s just a guy with a nice voice until he proves himself to be an artist. He’s got the machine behind him and he WON Idol, so given all that, you’d think he’d have better songs. But even if he did have better songs, I don’t know that he’s got the maturity to pull many of them off.