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Caldwell shows potential to gain ‘Idol’ status

If you can’t remember “American Idol” contestant Kimberly Caldwell, don’t worry, you’re not socially defunct. She was a contestant during season two (the era of Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard), and while some “Idol” castaways made headlines for Oscar-winning roles (Jennifer Hudson), Caldwell played a mutant-murder victim in “Wrong Turn 2: Dead End.” So, it’s been a while.

Caldwell finally makes her musical debut on “Without Regret,” an album that showcases her strong voice but could use some help in the songwriting department.

Where the album struggles most is in its banal lyrics. Idols have traditionally handed off much of the songwriting to the “pros” for their debut albums, but this album should serve as an indication of how lackluster big-name songwriters can be. Single “Mess of You” overplays the same ol’ themes, and “Heart Like Mine” (a lose-lose situation written by former “Idol” judge Kara DioGuardi and Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger) is more clunky than poetic.

Fortunately, Caldwell has the talent to draw some water from the dried up songwriting well. Her voice is big, and it helps lend power to otherwise mundane tracks such as “Taking Back My Life.” Second single “Desperate Girls & Stupid Boys” stands out in terms of lyrics, and makes for a catchy introduction to the album.

Unfortunately, because of her commanding voice, the scribes write her into a corner, locking her into the role of a balladeer. At least eight of the 11 tracks on “Without Regret” are arguable ballads, and although Caldwell has the voice for them, it’d be nice if she could get more room to wiggle in style.

Not that Caldwell can simply blame her songwriters for this one. The three songs with her name on them aren’t exactly elegies either. But, with a voice like hers and some prose practice, the potential is good for a second try.

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