Pop Rock, 2005
Is the title of this CD – The Real Thing – meant to be ironic? An initial listen to Bo Bice’s The Real Thing will only make all those people already sneering at this so-called rocker who was also the first runner-up American Idol 4 feel validated. What made Bo Bice most enjoyable to watch and root for in that season was how he embodied the old-school rock sounds of Def Leppard and the Allman Brothers in a show all about Whitney Houston pretensions. His debut CD however attempts to obliterate all that made Mr Bice so popular in that show by turning him into a slick and artificial-sounding person. In short, he’s turned into Constantine Maroulis. And I’m not just talking about the crap CD cover art, mind you.
Where do I start? How about the title track which was done so much better by Hanson during the Mmmbop days? Here, dear Mr Bice sounds like he has no individual sound that he can call his own. He’s Nick Carter, Bon Jovi, and Bryan Adams rolled into one here. The two tracks Lie… It’s Alright and You’re Everything are the closest to bringing out the best in Mr Bice: the former is a hard-rock Nickelback-meets-Bon Jovi track that shows how contemporary he can be while the latter is something old-school that Warrant and Styx would be proud to call their own. The ballad Valley of Angels is easy on the ears as well.
Vocally, Bo Bice is in top form – his twang and his appealing way of making even the cheesiest love songs come off as tender and heartfelt are never more apparent than on Valley of Angels.
If I haven’t seen Mr Bice on American Idol 4 and watched him breathe life to tired over-performed songs like Sweet Home Alabama, Drift Away, and Stand By Me while powerfully introducing songs like The Whipping Post and Vehicle to a new generation of audience, I may find The Real Thing a pleasant if very generic pop-rock effort. Perhaps this CD is catchy and pleasant, but the overwhelming wrongness I feel at Bo Bice trying to sound like Bon Jovi or Bryan Adams prevents me from listening to this CD without a wide open-mouthed expression of disbelief from start to finish. Dare I hope that he pulls a Will Young and come out with a second CD that is more to what he wants to sing and perform?
Compared to Carrie Underwood’s far more superior debut, this will prove once and for all that winning is the only way to go in American Idol. All those people who keep saying that winning is the worst thing that can happen to so-and-so because it will stifle the creative visions and what-not can really shut up now and place their fingers on the dial. Let Bo Bice be the lesson and let’s hope that he can find a way to extricate himself out of this mess that is The Real Thing without becoming even more of a laughingstock.