Just before he went on a two-year mission, Morman singer David Archuleta knocked out his new “Begin” — a collection of songs that are spiritual in nature, though not generally religious.
It’s a nice gesture, though it’s still a cover album. And at 21, Archuleta isn’t quite the veteran at life who can muster the emotional depth dictated by some of these songs.
But the “American Idol” runner-up from 2008 makes a noble go of it. “Begin” is tasteful, dignified and understated, and Archuleta pulls off some surprises with his silky, sweet vocals.
He casts an aural glow of sincerity on Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful,” a graciously not-overdone version that resonates when he sings, “You are beautiful, no matter what they say.” He also delivers a deft take on Keane’s “Somewhere Only We Know,” a smart, mid-tempo song choice that steers “Begin” away from a ballad badlands of monotony.
Naturally he’s confident and convincing on “Broken,” his solid original contribution to the collection, but Archuleta is almost shockingly effective on his rendition of U2’s “Pride (In the Name of Love),” which is glossier than the band’s version, but a suitable blend of earnestness and humility.
By contrast, the polished veneer gets in the way of his take on R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” (which works best in the softer, simpler parts), and Archuleta and guest vocalist Libby Linton are in over their heads trying to tackle the Peter Gabriel/Kate Bush classic “Don’t Give Up.”
Still other tracks — a tender cover of Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel,” a relaxed version of Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors,” a respectful take on Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” — come off a bit flat, and listeners will likely compare him unfavorably to the original artists.
However, Archuleta compensates for his lack of soul with a beautiful voice and a lot of heart.
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of five)
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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