In general, I’ve always liked Daughtry as a band (I have all of their albums), but after their third album, Break the Spell, in 2011, I began to get a little bored with them. They had a very distinct sound that they more or less replicated for three consecutive albums without deviating appreciably from it. Their songs began to run together for me, even though they were good and enjoyable to listen to. So when I heard that Daughtry was releasing a new album in November called Baptized, I prepared myself to hear the same sound again.
But then the first single, “Waiting for Superman,” hit the airwaves, opening with synth and an electronic flair in the chorus, and I wondered if this was the signal that Daughtry would give us a taste of a new sound in their forthcoming album. The answer to that question is not completely clear. The first three tracks are definitely different from their normal offerings, with the aforementioned single as well as the title track, which has a definite country twang to it with a tambourine accompaniment. The third track, “Battleships,” is probably the highlight of the album, with an even stronger EDM influence than “Waiting for Superman.” The band does mix in some acoustic guitar to keep it grounded in the rock realm, and lead singer Chris Daughtry even stretches to hit a few high notes in the vocals. There’s a definite danceability to this track that’s pretty unique among Daughtry’s songs.
After “Battleships,” they settle into more of their traditional sound, but still mix it up in some ways, like making the piano the central focus in “Broken Arrows,” or a bouncy country/folk style in “Long Live Rock & Roll.” They also employ an airy, minimalist style in songs like “18 Years,” which closes the album well.
Lyrically, however, the album contains no surprises. Daughtry has always had straightforward, easy-to-read lyrics, and it’s no different here. The most subtle they get is in “Witness,” when the question “Can you witness?” keeps being asked, with the meaning only semi-clear (I’m thinking it has something to do with showing others the way through difficult times). “Long Live Rock & Roll” throws out all sorts of interesting names from rock history and even makes a reference to the 27 Club. Chris Daughtry has always had a good sense of and respect for rock history, so it’s good to see him pay tribute to artists that paved the way for his band. “Waiting for Superman” is also interesting, as it describes a woman whose significant other appears to have abandoned her repeatedly, but she makes grandiose excuses such as, “…he got stuck at the Five & Dime saving the day,” calling to mind many people I’ve met over the years. Chris’s vocal style is also fairly similar to past albums, with his high-energy vocal belting (though we do hear some falsetto at points).
In short, this album is a step in the right direction for Daughtry, and I think they should keep experimenting and see where it takes them. I’d like to see their next album showing them experimenting more within the rock genre. The band has largely been the Chris Daughtry Show since its founding in 2006 (though I suppose we should’ve expected that given the band name), and it would be nice to see them play more like a band. Let guitarist Josh Steely or drummer Robin Diaz have some killer solos, and while they’re at it, give bassist Josh Paul a starring role in a song or two. And do more to show off Chris’s wide vocal range while exploring new lyrical themes. The pop/EDM experiment was interesting and yielded mostly positive results, but I don’t think the band needs to move further in that direction. I’d recommend you borrow this album. While it’s not revolutionary enough to keep in your collection, it’s worth a listen. If you keep just three tracks off the album, make it these three:
“Waiting for Superman”
“Long Live Rock & Roll”