Chris Daughtry has maintained a chart-topping career for almost two decades, achieving Gold and Platinum status across multiple songs and albums. Though it could be argued that the singer’s most impressive achievement was breaking free of the curse of American Idol in the mid-2000s. Since then Daughtry has established himself as a singer and songwriter on his own merit. With a string of hits and memorable anthems already behind him, ‘Dearly Beloved’, his upcoming sixth studio album, promises to add even more to the collection, hitting mainly the right notes. And a few maybe that sound overly familiar and comfortable.
‘Don’t bore us, get to the chorus’ is a questionable nugget of wisdom that can often prove fruitful, and which Chris Daughtry has frequently practiced throughout his career. Yet on ‘Dearly Beloved’, Daughtry offers space for intros to build slowly, brooding over the arch of the narrative. Songs such as “Lioness” and “Heavy is the Crown” feel comfortable in their pace, unrushed and with no sense of urgency, eventually erupting with guitars and drums. Even so, when the chorus does hit, it does so around the one-minute mark on both these tracks, and others, including the far less passive, far less interesting “World on Fire.” After a few spins, it begins to sound stale and formulaic.
That said, ‘Dearly Beloved’ also features a handful of tracks that could and should come to be regarded as some of Daughtry’s best. “Cry for Help” is a massive ballad that fills your whole consciousness. Performed with an abundance of heart, elegance, and a wonderful lightness in Daughtry’s vocal delivery, this song could squeeze tears from the iciest souls. Then comes “Somebody”, its musical and lyrical counterpart. If “Cry for Help” reaches out, “Somebody” offers a hand back, creating a lyrical call and response that asks the listener to give tomorrow a chance.
With ‘Dearly Beloved,’ Daughtry has again delivered a couple of hits, some great ballads, and an anthem or two for the road. That said, outside of one or two truly exceptional outliers, the record falls short overall. The production sounds overly calculated, right down to the second, and its subject matter and social commentary, eighteen months into a global pandemic which other artists have already written about, does little to compel. Some might say ‘Dearly Beloved’ offers a semblance of sanity. Musically and lyrically, it plays it safe at almost every turn. Thankfully, only almost. And it is those memorable moments that ask questions of the safer ones.