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Love songs from an 'Idol'

November 10, 2008
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David Archuleta

David Archuleta (Jive Records)

ESSENTIAL "To Be With You"

There's a place in the world for uncomplicated - some might even say uninspired - musical statements, and that place is "American Idol." It's where conformity to the easily digested ideals of big-money notes and big-hearted sentiments rules, and where singers gifted with steady pitch, good looks, and endearing personalities are launched, however briefly, into the national spotlight.

David Archuleta, 2008's second-place winner and one of the show's youngest stars, releases his debut album tomorrow, and it comes as no surprise that the singer's self-titled collection is built on the wholesome naivete that won over millions of "AI" fans. Overflowing with connect-the-dots choruses and platitudes, these piano-based songs communicate in the broad-brush vocabulary of smitten youth - striking just the right tone for a 17-year-old boy with a tender heart, a warm voice, and an understandably slender stable of interpretive skills.

"Crush," the first single and lead track, sets a template from which Archuleta rarely strays: pensive, midtempo love songs that explore - again, age-appropriately - the wide-eyed angst of affection rather than grownup-grade heartache or joy.

Happily, in a genre where the urge is to err on the side of overwrought, someone smart decided to stick with tasteful, understated production. Archuleta's delivery is likewise low-key and attractive, if predictably generic. We do get a glimpse of previously unheard heft and depth, respectively, on vaguely edgy "Desperate" and the winsome ballad "To Be With You." But it's never more than a short step back to the safe, unscintillating center where Archuleta belongs. (Out tomorrow)

JOAN ANDERMAN

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