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The season two American Idol contestant releases her debut album on Vanguard Records this week.

Music Review: Kimberly Caldwell – Without Regret

A word that comes to mind upon hearing the name Kimberly Caldwell is drive. Caldwell was a contestant during season two of American Idol in 2003. Now, eight years later, she’s gearing up to release her debut album, Without Regret.

“I’ve been a performer my entire life,” Caldwell says in a press release, “and everything I’ve done has led up to this moment.”

Caldwell grew up in Katy, Texas where her love of country music and desire to perform led to her appearing on the original Star Search as a child. She won five times. When she was 12 years old, her family moved to Branson, Missouri after Caldwell landed a gig with a singing revue called “Country Tonite.” Three years later, when she was 15, Caldwell was ready to head back to Katy, and be a normal teenager.

American Idol had an audition stop in Texas during its second season. Caldwell auditioned and made it all the way through to the Top 7 in that season’s competition.

Kimberly Caldwell. Photo credit: KimberlyCaldwell.comCaldwell’s album, Without Regret, was produced by Marshall Altman, Tommy Henrikson, John-Mark Baxter Seltzer, and MachoPsycho. Overall it’s is a pretty good mix of music. The standout tracks include “Mess of You,” “Heart of Mine,” and Caldwell’s single, “Desperate Girls & Stupid Boys.”

“Mess of You” is right up Caldwell’s alley. Musically speaking, this is the type of song that I expected to hear from Caldwell post-Idol. It’s a good mix of rock and pop; plus the arrangement combined with the rasp in her voice is fantastic. With this song, Caldwell can’t be compared to anyone else.

I really love the lyrics from “Heart of Mine,” which is a really well-written song. Again, it has a rock vibe to it, which is what I think fits Caldwell’s voice a little better than straight-up pop. You really get a sense of the emotions she is singing about on this one. I can see it being a song that girls will turn to after a break-up as a way to vent and commiserate about their pain and frustration.

Caldwell’s current featured single is “Desperate Girls & Stupid Boys.” What the song has going for it is that it’s really catchy and gets in your head after listening to it a couple times. And even though I feel like Caldwell’s trying to sound a bit like Kelly Clarkson, she still gives a great vocal performance.

Lyrically speaking, it’s probably one of the best songs on the album. I feel like if the song had a more stripped-down arrangement, the lyrics would be able to make more of an impact with the song’s overall statement.  Plus, I think an acoustic arrangement would fit Caldwell’s voice a lot better. Musically, if you’re paying close attention, the song sounds similar to the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling.” One might say that this isn’t a bad thing, but when you’re trying to carve out your own identity and sound, you want to stand out from the crowd not blend in.

The one song I really don’t care for is “Hotter Without You.” It’s basically a take on the Jessie James song, “I Look So Good Without You.” The premise of both songs are the same, being that the female finds that she’s on the better end of a broken relationship when all is said and done. Caldwell’s version seems to be trying a bit too hard to convey this message. For me, it’s a throwaway track.

What really stands out to me on this album are the lyrics. Give or take a couple tracks, this is an extremely well-written album. Caldwell is really able to make that emotional connection with her lyrics, and that is what will keep the listeners returning for more.

 

Without Regret is available now. For more information on Kimberly Caldwell, check out her official website.

Definite Download: “Mess of You”

About Kirsten Coachman

Kirsten Coachman is a writer and editor from the San Francisco Bay Area. Visit her long-running music blog, Wait...WHAT, at waitwhatmusic.net. Follow Kirsten Coachman on Twitter: @KirsCoachman

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