David Archuleta

The Other Side of Down

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As the second-hardest-to-market American Idol runner-up, David Archuleta stumbled out of the gate in 2008, nobody quite knowing whether to embrace his youth or his granny appeal, so they wound up with a mediocrity that appealed to neither camp. The Other Side of Down, his 2010 sequel, firmly favors the former, borrowing heavily from Ryan Tedder’s chilly stainless-steel sheen, its glassy wall of synths, looped hooks, and rhythms reflecting radio-ready sounds of 2009-2010. It’s a style that doesn’t showcase the singer but Archuleta is already an old pro, fitting the contours of what he’s been given, which makes sense since he’s largely responsible for the songs here, bearing writing credits on ten of the 12 cuts. As a writer, Archuleta certainly is a follower, not an innovator, but he’s sharp enough to hire collaborators to coax comfortable commercial pop out of him -- something that is much more difficult than it appears, if his debut is to be trusted -- and beneath the gloss there are signs that the AmIdol finalist has been searching his soul, looking for what is “The Other Side of Down” as he’s trying to figure out “Who I Am,” knowing that “Things Are Gonna Get Better.” But don’t mistake this for a confessional, even on the level of Lindsay Lohan’s A Little More Personal (Raw) -- this is a middle-of-the-road pop album pure and simple, arriving perhaps two years too late but it nevertheless proves that Archuleta has the chops to fill the space between commercials on the airwaves.

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