On the 2009 season of American Idol, Danny Gokey wowed the judges and viewers with his strong vocal talent and soulful performances. After a third place finish on the show, Danny Gokey signed with RCA Records Nashville and now has released his debut album My Best Days. Will his debut album help catapult him to become one of country’s biggest stars?
The album kicks off with the debut single, “My Best Days Are Ahead of Me,” which is a fairly average pop country song that talks about how no matter how old you are you will always have better days ahead. The single sets the tone for the album as far as production goes. Overall the album is more Rascal Flatts country and than say, Easton Corbin country with its pop production which sometimes is unflattering to Gokey’s vocals. That’s the case with “Get Away” which is a bit of a rocker that finds Gokey dealing with a fast melody, much like Rascal Flatt’s “Me and My Gang,” which doesn’t allow Gokey to show off his vocals. In fact, his vocals are a bit all over the place from the nasally lower tone to the borderline screaming of the higher notes.
While on Idol, Danny was quick to make known how much of a religious person he is and it’s clearly shown on the album. Song themes range from having belief in the unseen (as in “I Still Believe”) to making the best of the life you’re given (as on “Tiny Life”). The strongest of these ‘religious’ songs is the ballad “It’s Only.” Written by Charles Kelley, Dave Haywood (both of Lady Antebellum), and Tom Douglas, the song is about giving, mainly love, to those who are less fortunate than you. It sends the message that love can raise your spirits when you are down and that you can never give enough. Gokey’s vocals are fairly strong while he shows off the gospel style he’s comfortable singing. In fact, it’s the first song where he sounds comfortable singing the song (the five previous songs felt forced).
In fact, that’s the main problem I have with the album is the lack of connection on the majority of the songs. The biggest example is the cover of Gary Allan’s “Like It’s a Bad Thing” which talks about a person who does things out of the norm and isn’t like everybody else. It’s a perfect song for Allan because he does stuff that isn’t normal with his music and he’s not afraid to take risks. Gokey, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to fit that description which makes his version of the song less believable.
However, when Gokey gets the emotional connection to the song it can be great, which is like the album’s ending song “I Will Not Say Goodbye.” The song is by far the best on an album filled with mediocre songs. Gokey finds himself narrating about how hard it is to let someone go that you’ve lost. He sings about how his lost loved one will always haunt him but he’s willing to live with it if it means he doesn’t have to say goodbye. Danny’s emotional connection with the song is no doubt a result of losing his wife in 2008, something that was chronicled on Idol. That connection is what allows his vocal performance to soar thus making it more believable. Though the production is a bit overdone at the end of the song, it doesn’t take anything away from Danny’s performance. If the album was filled with more songs like this, I think it’d be one heck of a debut album.
For a debut, this album isn’t half bad, but that’s not saying much. Most of the songs contain overdone messages and the vocal performances aren’t too strong and lack the soul that Danny showed on American Idol. The Mark Bright production is, as usual, over-the-top on most of the songs and barely sits on the country side of the genre spectrum. If Danny wants a long lasting career in country music, he’ll need better material that shows off his natural vocal talent and maybe think about changing producers.
Album Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars