Fourth album from the band fronted by the guy who came fourth in the fifth series of American Idol sees a new direction, one that was first explored on its predecessor ‘Break The Spell’. Essentially this is a Chris Daughtry solo album and the new direction might well pick up some newer fans but oh boy is this going to alienate some old ones. Gone is the wall of guitars and the angst ridden lyrics so characteristic of the first two and an half albums replaced instead by mandolin synth beats and a happy disposition. It’s all a little contrived. Daughtry himself produces this time around with a little help from Sam Hollander (Train), Martin Johnson (Boys Like Girls) and Claude Kelly(Britney Spears) unsurprisingly the album as a whole the album sounds like Boys Like Girls circa ‘Crazy World’ meets ‘California 67’ era Train with a slathering of Britney pop back beat. Hanging onto the coat tails of Train’s hit ‘Drive By’ or ‘Bruises’ is evident on the folk tinged single ‘Long Live Rock and Roll’ where the singer sings “Long live big guitars and music for the soul” when clearly the guitars have been thrown in a nearby skip. The inane pop sickliness of the title track or the syrupy ‘Waiting For Superman’, resplendent with squelching synth, should come with a tube of fluoride toothpaste to prevent decay from all the sugariness. The only redeeming feature of ‘Baptized’ is Daughtry’s fantastic voice and yet even he can’t make a purse out of a sows ear on the trivial pop meanderings of the Goo Goo Doll’s tinged ‘Battleships’ or the pleading ‘High Above The Ground’. ‘I’ll Fight Could' had the potential to be a decent enough melodic rocker if it was given the full on guitar treatment and yet an acoustic lap steel version feels thin and watered down. ‘Witness’ sinks into RnB territory and ‘Cinderella’ once again has plenty of Train references not least due to the Mandolin.
With falling album sales across his four releases culminating in the last one which barely reached half a million units it’s fair to say that Daughtry felt that they had to change the formula. The fact that the last album ‘Break the Spell’ did poorly purely as a result of deathly dull songs and a softer approach doesn’t seem to have been factored into the equation. As a result ‘Baptized’ smacks of panic-the release date even being brought forward perhaps as a result of label pressure-and seeks to capitalize on the mainstream success of bands within the pop genre. Losing some older fans to gain new ones is always a risky strategy and unless ‘Long Live Rock and Roll’ emulates the success of Train’s ‘Drive By’ it seems unlikely that the change in direction will halt the band’s decline. If you like mainstream pop music from a band that once put out some of the best modern rock in the last 10 years then that’s fine but if however you see this as a huge sell out and a ploy simply to halt the decline in album sales then this is probably not for you. Oh how the mighty have fallen.