20 Jun 2004 // A review by Shade
Reviewed by Rebecca Barry for the NZ Herald.
In an ideal world, the profits from all those NZ Idol text messages would have paid for superstars to produce the winner's CDs. Hey, it's not entirely unbelievable - Ice T has been giving David Hasselhoff kudos to make a rap album; the Neptunes did McDonald's I'm Lovin' It ads.
Instead, BMG has been drumming its cash on the boardroom table, dreaming up songwriters who would suit Ben Lummis' soft, urban appeal - or Michael Murphy's rock vibe for that matter - then rushing out his album before New Zealanders forgot who they voted for.
The result, of course, is a slick, formulaic effort chocka with syrupy love songs and inspirational themes so broad they could be about his Idol win or his best friend's neighbour's new puppy.
And no, aside from Seal's Kiss from A Rose, this is not original turf he's covering, with most tracks aiming for a synthy, American R&B feel, with opening track I Love You, Love Me reading like a glossary of cliches: "Miracle from high above ... be with you to the end of time ... come rain or come shine" and so on.
Vocally, Lummis is fine, quavering with passion on the big, high notes, his mellow voice adding a distinctive velvety texture to the heartfelt slow-jams, with a particularly convincing performance on Never Say I Love You.
But it's hard not to get the impression he's going through the motions and would much rather be doing his own stuff. When he sings "One more time with feeling," it's hard not to reply, "Right back atcha buddy".
Thankfully the song he co-wrote is one of the album's stronger moments. In fact It's All Good is not half bad.
He's also at his best on the funkier tracks, packing more of a punch on the twitchy Searchin', getting a bit hot under the collar on Alright With Me and adding another interesting element on the reggae-fuelled Fool For Love.
Elsewhere, there's not a lot that truly pulls on the heartstrings, other than the insipid number one single, They Can't Take That Away.
The problem does not lie squarely on the shoulders of the pawn in this game, Lummis himself, who stares blankly out of the CD sleeve with a puppy-dog youth that defies his 24 years.
It's just a team effort that doesn't do him justice.