THE (MUSIC) YEARBOOK: 2007
By Sean Calhoun
Here it is, folks – the final installment of The Music Yearbook. I started middle school in 2007, and it was one of the first years where I actually started to pay attention to pop music. “American Idol” was still at the height of its powers, and there was one especially successful album from an alumnus released in 2007…
Daughtry – Daughtry
There’s no denying Chris Daughtry’s talent – he was a top-five finisher on American Idol’s fifth season, and has become the third-most successful Idol alumnus ever by record sales, behind only Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. Daughtry was one of the most successful debut rock albums of the 2000s and has been certified quadruple platinum at the time of me writing this review.
I also feel like I should admit that I loved this album when it first came out. One of my mom’s friends had it on CD and let me borrow it, and my sister and I listened to many of the songs dozens of times.
This is kind of embarrassing to think about in retrospect, because Daughtry is not a very good album.
It’s actually not that hard to figure out why the album was so successful – it thrives off of being almost impossibly generic. Daughtry trots out passable imitations of Staind, Nickelback, and just about every other commercially popular but critically maligned mainstream rock band of the last fifteen years. These tracks stuck as radio hits because they were inoffensively bland, easily replayable and lost in the shuffle of dozens of other tracks that sounded almost exactly the same.
There’s a lot of faux emotion here, especially on tracks like “Home” and “What About Now,” as Daughtry contemplates topics covered by plenty of musicians before him – loneliness, wanderlust, unrequited love, not-quite-requited-enough love, and so on. (Really, how many times has “Be careful what you wish for” been a lyric in a rock song now?) They’re the types of tracks that are perfectly suited for vaguely Christian family films and inspirational sports montages (the two places that I would like to believe accounted for most of this album’s sales).
In terms of the music itself, there’s not much to say about the instrumentation. It sounds like everything else to come out of the genre – decently performed and serviceable, yes, but with any possibly edges of uniqueness sanded off. Power chords and 4/4 time signatures abound, and there’s nothing creative here in terms of song structure or melodic experimentation.
There’s really not a lot that’s particularly noteworthy about Daughtry, which made writing this review a somewhat more difficult task than I expected. It’s a boring, safe album that sounds just like six or seven other albums coming around at about the same time. Perhaps it’s telling that this album, now a decade old, is still the most successful thing Chris Daughtry’s ever been a part of.
Score, Adjusted for 2017 Ratings Inflation: 3.8/10
Seeing as this is the final Music Yearbook entry, I really wanted to end the series on a positive note after a streak of mediocre-to-decent albums. I found the perfect sendoff in a terrific album from one of the most significant pop-punk bands of the decade…
Infinity On High – Fall Out Boy
Fall Out Boy was on top of the world in 2007. Their previous album, From Under the Cork Tree, had catapulted them towards mainstream stardom on the strength of singles like “Dance, Dance” and “Sugar, We’re Going Down”, and the hope was that the follow-up could keep the momentum going.
And, by golly, it did more than that. Infinity On High was, to that point, the creative and commercial peak of Fall Out Boy’s career, pushing them even further into the public eye and cementing them as one of the defining bands of their genre.
The opening track, “Thriller,” sets the tone for the album as a whole. It serves as something akin to a rapper’s boast track (and, in fact, Jay-Z provides narration), introducing the band as a confident and flashy force to be reckoned with. From that point on, the album rushes headlong into some of the best pop punk of the entire decade.
Besides being one of the most ridiculously titled songs of all time, “I’m Like a Lawyer with the Way I’m Always Trying to Get You Off (Me & You)” is a fantastic single with a lot of really good instrumental work. “The Take Over, The Breaks Over” is a criminally underrated gem, as is “Golden.” “This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race” and “Thnks fr th Mmrs,” the two smash hits from the album, deserved every bit of the attention they received – especially the latter, one of the tightest, sharpest tracks in the band’s entire discography. There is not a single weak track on the album, as Patrick Stump and company take the listener on an immensely enjoyable, musically crisp ride through the entirety of the album’s forty-eight-minute runtime.
Yes, large swaths of the album are heavily pretentious and egotistical, but that’s part of what makes Infinity On High (and pre-hiatus Fall Out Boy as a whole) so unique – they traded in the typical pop-punk trappings of angst and inadequacy for a supremely self-confident bombast, both musically and lyrically, that set them apart from the rest of the scene. Rarely has any band sounded so completely sure of themselves as Fall Out Boy do on this record.
An attitude like this could spell disaster for some bands, but this album comes from a group with the musical and theatrical chops to back up their confidence. Patrick Stump repeatedly outdoes himself vocally, and the rest of the band (with bassist Pete Wentz as perhaps its most crucial anchor) follows suit, turning in career performances on track after track.
Infinity On High is one of my favorite albums of all time, and it’s certainly the best album in Fall Out Boy’s discography (with Folie á Deux coming in a contentious second place). Beyond that, I would rank it among the best pop-punk albums ever. The only drawback is how much worse it makes the totality of the band’s post-hiatus output look.
Score, Adjusted for 2017 Ratings Inflation: 10/10
I’d like to thank all of you for sticking with me throughout the Music Yearbook project. It means a lot to me, and I’m so thankful to 605 Magazine for the opportunity to write on a subject that I love so dearly. Hopefully, you’ll be reading my stuff in a lot of other cool places in the future!
Thanks for reading!