Before he became a TV star as Glee’s lovable but indecisive Mr. Schuester, Matthew Morrison was a Broadway star. His self-titled debut album -- the first official one from the Glee cast -- tries to make him into a bona fide pop star as well, but it doesn’t always play to his strengths. On these songs, Morrison's voice is so pretty and pure that it verges on faceless, especially since listeners can’t see him, unlike his performances on TV and the stage. The album trades in feel-good pop that’s sexy but not too sexy, such as the album-opening “Summer Rain,” and passionate but not overwhelmingly so, like “Still Got Tonight.” “Hey”'s affable strum falls somewhere in between Jack Johnson and Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, whose version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is the template for Morrison’s version of it with Gwyneth Paltrow. This song is a highlight, not just because it’s the lone crossover from Morrison's Glee material, but because its melody gives his voice more to do than most of the by-the-numbers contemporary pop here. Indeed, it’s somewhat unfortunate that the best moments -- from a songwriting perspective, anyway -- are duets, like Morrison's collaborations with Sting on “Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot” and the somewhat bloated medley of “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters"/"Rocket Man” with Elton John; it gives the impression that he can’t carry a song without someone else. This isn’t true, of course, but Matthew Morrison's success depends largely on where his collaborators take him. Morrison helped write several songs here, including “Don’t Stop Dancing,” a grown-up boy band song co-written by JC Chasez that feels like the album’s most blatant bid for a younger audience, and the torchy closer “It’s Over,” which he wrote with Broadway lyricist/composer Marc Shaiman (whose music Morrison sang in Hairspray) and is one of the truest expressions of his talent. Ultimately, Matthew Morrison is more scattered and less fresh-feeling than the fare he sings week in and week out on Glee. Though it has plenty of appealing moments, it just doesn’t capitalize on Morrison's vocal and star power.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares
feat: Gwyneth Paltrow
feat: Elton John