American Juniors: Kids in America collects performances from the top ten finalists from the preteen version of American Idol, plus two songs that feature the singers as a vocal group. The single, "One Step Closer," is a lightweight but fun disco-influenced song that is arguably more fun than the singles that the American Idol winners and runners-up issued before their full albums came out. Their version of the new wave staple "Kids in America," meanwhile, misses all the subtexts of the original, but it's still reasonably entertaining. Unlike American Idol proper, in which there is only one official winner, American Juniors picks the top five singers to form a vocal quintet. The show's top five -- Tori Thompson, Taylor Thompson, Chauncey Matthews, Morgan Burke, and Lucy Hale -- occupy most of the first half of the album. Hale's "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" shows that she has a surprisingly rich and mature voice; at times she sounds like a pint-size Kelly Clarkson. Burke's "Build Me Up, Buttercup" shows off his sweetly soulful pipes, while Tori's "Let 'Er Rip" brings some country twang to the album. Her sister Taylor has a likeminded approach on "Proud Mary," but her voice is higher and brighter. Matthews' delicate "A Whole New World" emphasizes just how young he is, but also suggests that he could have a powerful voice once he matures. Just as the second season of American Idol marked a vast improvement in the quality of contestants over its debut, American Juniors: Kids in America reflects how consistently good the American Juniors finalists were; in fact, Katelyn Tarver's "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" and Chantel Kohl's "Open Arms" are so poised that they don't really sound like the work of kids. That's both a good and a bad thing -- along with Matthews, the only American Juniors that sound like real kids are Jordan McCoy, A.J. Melendez, and Danielle White. Still, a prepackaged sound is nothing new when it comes to the American Idol franchise, but for the most part American Juniors: Kids in America manages to sound polished instead of slick.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares