Ideally, American Idol would embrace a kid like Josiah Leming. But instead, the Britpop-loving high school dropout, who boasted of living in his car while chasing his musical dreams, was (quite controversially) stricken from the 2008 season’s Top 24, in favor of immortal dullards like Jason Yeager and Robbie Carrico. Even Simon Cowell eventually admitted Leming’s ouster was a mistake and Angels Undercover, his first major-label EP, affirms it. Leming can craft solid, swooping adult pop, like the hummable “Arctic Outcry Wind” and the surprisingly mature title track. But he needs to rein in his indulgences: “This Cigar” piles too many unnecessary flourishes (a capella breakdowns, offbeat time signatures) atop its gliding melody, and “To Run” (his “Idol” audition song) never fulfills the promise of its beautiful beginning. Like any teenager asserting profundity, he tends to over-enunciate and over-emote. But at his best, Leming proves, albeit after the fact, a welcome counterpoint to Archuleta’s gasping and Cook’s grunting.
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// Notes from the Road
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