by: David Archuleta

Once the reigning king of American Idol, David Archuleta now finds himself on independent labels with LDS connections only a mere four years after leaving the show. It may seem a fall from grace for a singer who once savored pop culture omnipresence, but Archuleta always seemed destined for such modest pastures. At his core, Archuleta is impossibly polite and utterly lacking in sex appeal, things that ultimately hinder a singer's ascension up the pop charts, but he does have skill and a vanilla charisma, two gifts on display on 2012's Begin. A collection of covers of songs that either are or could be inspirational staples on American Idol or The X Factor or The Voice -- Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful," R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts," Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors," Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" -- punctuated by one forgettable new original, a duet with Libbie Linton (described on her press bio as "a mid-mannered, soft-spoken type who likes math and limeade," thereby lending an element of danger to David) and a version of U2's "Pride (In the Name of Love)" where a gently rippling synth replaces the Edge's surging guitars. Throughout it all, Archuleta performs with a professional aplomb exuding sincerity, yet manages to skirt any deep emotion. It is an album not meant to surprise, it is meant to comfort, meant to please those already pledging allegiance to Archuleta's sugary is an album that is meant to be released on a small label which knows precisely how to deliver to a preordained audience of the devoted. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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