American Idol's 12th victor deserves better than this much-delayed hodgepodge of styles and ideas. The voice that pushed Alicia Keys and U2 songs into unimagined octaves all season long – inspiring judge Nicki Minaj to say, "I want to skin you and wear you" – is on full display. But the songs reveal a serious identity crisis. An entire album of cosmopolitan Mark Ronson-esque pop soul like "Same Kinda Man" and the Shabba Ranks-interpolating "In the Middle" could have been revelatory. Instead, those highlights are jumbled between too many grooves that recall a vague, anonymous version of the decade between Jennifer Holliday and Mary J. Blige.
From The Archives Issue 1203: February 27, 2014