Chris Daughtry, arguably one of the greatest products of American Idol, (alongside Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood), has made his career one of permanent reinvention. Following his fourth-place Idol elimination in 2006, he turned down becoming the lead singer for Fuel, a decision that paid dividends later on. Instead, he formed his own band, Daughtry, and his first album was the fastest selling debut rock album in history.
In his second album, Leave This Town, Daughtry refined his band’s grunge-pop sound to a perfect balance of jam and radio-friendliness. With the single “Tennessee Line,” he showcased potent country chops, a direction many speculated Daughtry to go down in the future. His third album, Break The Spell, had great moments, especially in the album’s namesake track and the criminally-underplayed “Crazy.” His fourth studio album, Baptized, is to come out sometime in November, and our first glimpse of what lies in store is the single “Waiting For Superman,” released October 3.
I’m sorry to say I’m not optimistic about this upcoming release, because “Waiting For Superman” is overly radio-engineered and furthermore, entirely unoriginal.
Now don’t get me wrong, I would consider myself an authority on the music of Chris Daughtry. I own his three albums, his B-Sides EP, his collaborations with Timbaland, Sevendust, and Carlos Santana, and all of the bonus tracks that you need to preorder to acquire. But I haven’t bought “Waiting For Superman,” and here’s why.
First of all—the title. Not only does it share the title of a documentary about the plight of public school students in America, there are plenty of better songs featuring Superman in the title, and this song wasn't even a tie-in for last summer’s film, Man of Steel. Is this supposed to be a free download that comes with a DVD purchase of the aforementioned blockbuster? I don’t know. If you want to listen to songs with Superman references, I recommend 3 Doors Down’s well-known “Kryptonite,” or better yet, Our Lady Peace’s “Superman’s Dead,” a soaring grunge anthem that sounds like it is the love-child collaboration of Fuel and Tonic.
Worse, the song’s content, particularly the melody, sounds ripped off from other artists. Blatantly ripped off. The main refrain, “ah-ah-ah-ah-arms-yeah” feels like it was directly sampled from Far East Movement and Tyler Vedder’s “Rocketeer” refrain, “Fly—i—i—iiiiii-yeah…”
It’s not good for a rock artist to jump on the hip-hop/pop bandwagon. It would be better if he ventured deeper into the gray area of country and rock, a line in which 3 Doors Down and Theory of a Deadman enjoy success.
The techno beat of “Waiting For Superman” puts the nail in the coffin for me. In the 1990s, Bush, (the British version of Nirvana) experimented with techno, creating a bizarre fusion of grunge and techno which killed the band’s momentum. Bush tried to come back to grunge form with their 2001 album, Golden State, but by then, it was too late—sales were disappointing, the band broke up. Daughtry’s embrace of pop-techno in this single makes him seem as generic as Rob Thomas’ pop descent from the originality of Matchbox Twenty into the monotony of music that Spotify likes to call “the music that mom and dad like to listen to.”
Daughtry’s single “Waiting For Superman” is disappointing, but it’s probably going to be on the radio for a while. I’ll hold out hope for the album—I’ll stream it, at least, but as for purchasing it? At the moment, I’m not convinced.