Siobhan Magnus was among the most interesting finalists on season nine of American Idol. Her dramatic renditions of classics such as “House of the Rising Sun” and “Paint It, Black” made her a dark horse contender, though in the end she finished in sixth place. Moonbaby is her debut album. It’s a moody set of eleven rock tunes, all but one of which were co-written by Magnus. Though it’s generally lacking in strong hooks and memorable melodies, Magnus’ impressive vocal range is on full display.
The musical backing is blandly competent throughout. The lyrics sometimes strain for introspection, especially during “Pure Inspiration.” Magnus looks back on her high school years, thanking her tormentors for pushing her to succeed. “When I tried to be myself/They shouted, “It’s not Halloween”/But they were just projecting/Their fears all over me,” Magnus insists over an awkward, stammering arrangement. Her songs work better when they don’t try so hard, such as the atmospheric tracks “Always Thinking” and “Little Blue Pill.”
Ultimately the best thing about Moonbaby are Magnus’ powerful vocals, considerably more controlled than what she displayed during Idol and its subsequent tour. Her penchant for high-pitched, shrill shrieking has been reigned in. If you’re interested in sampling her work but are hesitant to pull the trigger on the full album, try “Escape Goat,” easily the album’s strongest original. The other go-to track is her understated take on Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U,” which is so good I wish she had chosen a few more covers to replace some of the less memorable originals.