First album showcases Lewis’ skills

  • By Derrik J. Lang Associated Press
  • Tuesday, December 4, 2007 6:40pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

Blake Lewis, “Audio Day Dream” (Arista Records)

Much of bubbly Blake Lewis’ screen time on “American Idol” was spent struggling to fit the roundedness of his motley mix-tape aesthetic into square songs from mature artists. With the harsh reality of that reality TV competition behind him, this “Idol” second-place finisher is now liberated to enchant with his own “Audio Day Dream.”

And he does. Mostly.

The radio-friendly fantasy begins with some hip-hop stained songs that, at least musically, are as curiously pleasing as the blond boy wonder’s streaky dye job. The album’s lyrics, which seem like they’re all directed at one woman (or several women, perhaps), are primitive yet passable for inoffensive pop.

Thanks to producers Jonathan “J.R.” Rotem and Ryan “Alias” Tedder, everything on “Audio Day Dream” is completely original. That’s right. You won’t find Lewis’ bizarre rendition of “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” here, although he does successfully shoehorn baseline inspiration from Irving Berlin’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz” into the mega-charged “Gots to Get Her.”

Lewis makes the best use of his skills — signature scatting on the break-up letter “How Many Words,” infectious falsetto on the synthy “Surrender” and a penchant for oscillating arrangements on “What’cha Got 2 Lose,” co-written by Rotem and Lewis’ “Idol” B.F.F. Chris Richardson.

Surprisingly, the beatboxing that made Lewis stand out from the “Idol” crowd is simply splashed throughout the 14 songs and is only predominantly featured on one track, the unremarkable “Bshorty Grabs Mic!”

Three snoozy ballads plague the second half of “Audio Day Dream,” a wake-up call that the vocally limited Lewis is no Justin Timberlake. Maybe the Blakester should’ve pulled a Britney and just conjured a full-fledged dance record instead?

Weak downtempo songs aside, “Audio Day Dream” is the most exhilarating effort from an “Idol” runner-up yet.

Check out this track: Besides the joyfully aloof first single “Break Anotha,” Lewis uses his best assets on “Hate 2 Love Her,” a catchy tune sure to appease the tweens, grandmas and everyone in-between who backed him on “Idol.”

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