If you’re in college or high school, the name Chris Daughtry might not be familiar to you. Here’s a quick rundown for zoomers who have only fragmented memories of the aughts: Daughtry’s musical beginnings were with the bands Cadence and Absent Element, but his rise to fame came from being a contestant on American Idol in 2006 where he finished in fourth place. Despite not winning the season, Clive Davis still gave him a deal after his cover of “Wanted Dead Or Alive” shot up the charts a month after his Idol elimination. He formed the band Daughtry and set about recording a debut album over the next few months, which upon release became the fastest-selling rock debut in SoundScan history. His follow-up records Leave This Town and Break the Spell brought platinum and gold sales respectively, but neither record nor subsequent records after could match his debut despite the poppier direction he eventually took.
Nevertheless, Chris Daughtry can hardly be called a has-been. He’s still kept a decent amount of relevance over the years, largely because raw talent such as his can’t be discounted. Thus brings us to Daughtry’s new album Dearly Beloved, the follow-up to 2018’s Cage to Rattle. A couple things are clear from the beginning, one being that Daughtry hasn’t lost a shred of his vocal ability as the soaring opener “Desperation” clearly evidences, and also that he and his band seem to be taking a turn back to rock after two poppier albums that were lukewarmly received. “World On Fire” fits right in with contemporary rock stylings but still sounds clearly like Daughtry, as does the massive “Heavy Is The Crown”. “Changes Are Coming” is equally huge and anthemic, while the title track is a bit more restrained and swings toward Daughtry’s mellower, more commercial inclinations. “Cry For Help” ventures further down the pop path, building up gradually to a reasonable balance of energizing and hooky by the final chorus.
Now it’s time to rock again, and “Asylum” is nothing less than a swift flick of the knob from 5 to 11. Besides being sonically colossal and vocally stellar, the track is once again perfectly current, demonstrating that Daughtry is very attentive and has no difficulty staying up to date. “Evil” continues along this line, trafficking in Kaleo-esque room-filling soulfulness while “The Victim” takes some soul and pulls out all the stops rock-wise. “Somebody” is another comfortably poppy number with an amped-up chorus, conversely “Call You Mine” stays on chill mode aside from its majestic, ready-for-radio chorus melodies. From there we get the slow boil of “Lioness”, rising up from humble ethereal beginnings to an all-encompassing wall of guitar and vocals and back down again, and finally “Break Into My Heart”, a solemn piano number that with the usual wall of sound stripped away gives listeners one more opportunity to be reminded why Chris Daughtry has the recognition he does.
Now, Chris Daughtry giving a strong performance vocally is great but not earth-shattering news either; Daughtry’s re-embracing of rock on this record is definitely a noteworthy development though. There’s just the right mix of pop sensibilities and ground-shaking rockers, neither one overpowering the other and complimenting each other nicely to reassert Daughtry’s air-tight brand of hard-hitting yet commercially viable rock. If this is the sonic standard to meet or surpass for next time, the follow-up to this record is going to be one to look amply forward to. If one thing’s clear here (for lack of a better summarizing quip), it’s not over for Daughtry and won’t be for a long time.