After last night's awe-inspiring, Archuletan triumph on the first half of this year's American Idol season finale, we started to think — what kind of albums will David Cook and David Archuleta make, once one is crowned the winner and the other (Cook, presumably) is swiftly returned to thankless obscurity? So, we climbed inside our time machine and traveled to 2009. We found America's last still-open record store (a Sam Goody in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, in case you were wondering), and bought a copy of each. Vulture's exclusive reviews, after the jump!
Can You Smell the Rock?
On American Idol, David Cook impressed viewers and judges alike with his unparalleled ability to turn cheerful pop songs from the eighties into hopeless, sludgy grunge ballads, informed by the Seattle sound of the early nineties — a skill he indulges, for better or worse, on his new album, Can You Smell the Rock?.
Cook's snarling, nu-metal version of Ray Parker Jr.'s "Ghostbusters" is predictably incendiary, as is his plaintive, mournful cover of USA For Africa's "We Are the World." Still, we can't help but feel that something about "Don't Worry, Be Happy" gets lost when it's interpolated with Alice in Chains' "Rain When I Die." A mixed bag.
By now you've surely heard the story about David Archuleta turning 18 and firing his manager-father, Jeff, midway through the recording sessions for his first album — but even if you hadn't, you'd probably be able to gather as much by listening this spirited debut, one half of which is tastefully arranged, Groban-esque classical pop, and the other, hard-edged, nihilistic coke rap.
Idol Threat opens with a glorious, angelic version of "How Great Thou Art," enhanced by strings, horns, timpani, synthesizers, a church organ, and harp (all virtuosically played by Archuleta, according to the album's liner notes). Next up, though, is his Mannie Fresh–produced club single, "M.O.N.E.Y. (I Get It)" — already a mix-tape favorite — in which he spits about his humble beginnings as a street-hustling gangbanger growing up in Murray, Utah. It's truly a shame that American Idol's seventh season was never able to feature the music of Young Jeezy, if only because it would've given Archuleta the opportunity to showcase his slow, guttural flow and little-heard raspy baritone. His rhymes are also quite impressive, though, sadly, they're all much too filthy to print here.
The album closes with the heartrending piano ballad "Manhattan Yellow Pages," a track that makes good on Randy Jackson's repeated assurances that Archueta would sound terrific singing the phone book. Céline Dion and Andrea Bocelli join him for the verse about "home gutter repair," but Archuleta capably out-sings them both, naturally. Is there anything he can't do? The answer, clearly, is no.