Faded celebrities turn to Dancing with the Stars with the intent of reviving their careers, so it's only appropriate that Julianne Hough, one of the show's professional dancers, attempts to reverse engineer that logic by using Dancing to launch a career as a singer. Logic learned from American Idol dictates that any pretty wholesome girl or guy with all-American good looks is automatically a country singer, and so Utah native Hough is packaged as a spunky, irrepressibly chipper country-pop thrush, the kind of country that's designed with the air-conditioned suburbs in mind. It's the kind of country that fits Hough, who delivers every line with a plastered-on perma-grin that fails to crack even when she's singing songs of heartbreak. Of course, it's easy to smile when you're never the recipient of heartbreak yourself, as there's only one song on her eponymous CD where she's in a bit of pain, but once again that ceaseless cheer turns "Hide Your Matches" into a swaying slow dance, containing nary a trace of the menace promised in the lyrics. Fortunately, Hough's producer David Malloy keeps the bubbly blonde far away from anything requiring her to show a bit of backbone, casting her as the love-struck girl next door or the faithful confidant who offers sensible advice to her wayward best friend (almost the entire second half of the album -- "Hello," "Help Me, Help You," "Love Yourself" -- falls into this category). It's all unbearably sweet, which suits Hough's personality, but listening to it in one sitting is like devouring too much neon-colored cotton candy at a carnival: just a little makes you sick, too much will swear you off of it forever.
Julianne Hough Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine