Picks and Pans Review: One Love

updated 05/10/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/10/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Kimberley Locke

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Kimberley Locke may have been sent home in the penultimate round of American Idol last season, but the Tennessee native still came out a winner, landing a contract with Nashville-based Curb Records. On her full-length debut, the 26-year-old singer shows that, voting results aside, she still belongs in the company of Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken. Taking a middle-of-the-road pop direction, much as inaugural Idol champ Kelly Clarkson did on last year's Thankful, Locke delivers a solid if unspectacular set of radio-friendly ballads and midtempo numbers. The hit first single "8th World Wonder" is the kind of catchy, carefree pop-rocker that you will find yourself singing along to in the car in spite of yourself. Elsewhere, the shiny, upbeat "I Could" evokes the country-pop of Faith Hill, while the candy-coated "Coulda Been" recalls Mariah Carey's 1996 hit "Always Be My Baby." The disc also includes two familiar covers, Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me" and a Patti LaBelle-inspired arrangement of "Somewhere over the Rainbow," both of which Locke performed during the American Idol competition. While there are hardly any bad songs in the bunch (one is "Without You," a maudlin duet with Aiken that was cowritten by Richard Marx), the album is short on originality. And Locke, though in strong voice throughout, shows surprisingly little of the soul and jazziness that she displayed in her finest moments on American Idol. She finally lets loose, however, on the CD's best cut, the emotionally charged slow jam "You've Changed," the only song that she had a hand in writing. This tune and the gospel-tinged "Now I Can Fly," which brings to mind '60s Aretha, suggest that Locke might want to think a little less like Clarkson and take a more R&B-centric approach on her next disc.


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