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Taylor Hicks 

Taylor Hicks (Arista)

The fifth season of American Idol produced the series' most confounding victor yet: Taylor Hicks, the baby-faced, gray-haired growler who was neither quick to fizzle (Ruben) nor triumph (Carrie). Instead, Hicks' chicken-bucket baritone shilled for Ford and inspired Weird Al parodies -- all before the guy issued his first LP.

For this self-titled package, the Alabama yowler recreates Idol's unprecedented pop savvy through both his debut single, "The Runaround," and the over-the-top songwriting of Rob Thomas and Bryan Adams. And though these chaps will likely help Hicks make a run up the adult-contemporary charts, the record's half-hearted, whitewashed genre-bending doesn't have the immediate appeal or focus of alums like Underwood or Clarkson: It's Michael McDonald's blue-eyed Motown one moment and barking rocker the next. When the show closes with the record's best, "The Right Place," Hicks finally slips into his comfort zone, though by then we've already changed the channel.

Speaking of CD Review

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