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Andrew is a staff writer at the “The Hudsucker”. He is a 28 year old lawyer living in Ottawa. Besides legal jargon, his brain capacity is taken up by reality show trivia, video game walk-throughs and room escape strategies. Andrew is also happily in a long-term, long-distance relationship. Follow him on Twitter as @sublymonal.

A Message About ‘A Messenger’

For some, there’s stigma attached to the ‘American Idol’ machine that has cranked out superstars like Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, Carrie Underwood, Chris Daughtry and Adam Lambert, to name a few, but I can’t see why. Before I delve into the real subject of this article, I’d like to defend the show’s credibility by simply saying this: what the show is, at it’s very core, is turning a normal, relatable person into a star and making their dreams come true and that’s why I watch it. I watch it to see people’s life change before your eyes. It’s inspiring, to say the least, and one of the people who has inspired me most over the past 11 (going on 12) seasons is the one who this article centers around: Colton Dixon.

Colton performing “Piano Man” during Billy Joel Week. Image Credit: American Idol/FOX

He auditioned during Season 10 and made it to the final round of eliminations before the Top 24, then returned during Season 11 and was pulled into the audition room during his younger sister, Schlyer’s, audition. The judge immediately put them both through to Hollywood and he subsequently landed himself in 7th, but not without controversy. His elimination came as a shock one week after the judge’s used their one save that season on Jessica Sanchez. There were a variety of theories as to why he went home, like that his tendency to wear his Christianity on his sleeve bit him in the behind, or that his Lady Gaga cover the night before was too polarizing.

Either way, Colton moved on and, following the Idol’s summer tour, was signed to a Christian music label called Sparrow Records (the label Christian Rock band Switchfoot was originally signed to). Slowly, Colton began releasing music that he said was really true to his sound. It was religious without sacrificing a good melody. I can honestly say, now, that that is an accurate description of it. To use another analogy: Colton’s religion is like adding wine to pasta sauce – most of the alcohol burns off and what your left with is pretty darn delicious, even if you don’t really like wine. Full disclosure on my part: I am faithful, but not strictly religious. I believe in God and believe that prayer is a tool that calms and focuses me, but given the fact that I’m also out about my homosexuality, I do find myself at odds with the dogma aspect of Christianity and Catholicism more specifically.

Anyway, let’s get to the goods. Here’s a track-by-track review of Colton’s album, ‘A Messenger’ which is out January 29th on iTunes US & Canada

Colton's album 'A Messenger' comes out on iTunes January 29th, 2013. Image Credit: Sparrow Records

Colton’s album ‘A Messenger’ comes out on iTunes January 29th, 2013. Image Credit: Sparrow Records

Colton’s album ‘A Messenger’ comes out on iTunes January 29th, 2013. Image Credit: Sparrow Records

1. Intro – Generally brief instrumental intros add little value to the CD. Most of us will skip them to get to the first “real song” on the CD. Colton’s decision to add an introduction makes sense though. It starts quiet and builds with the background noise of what sounds like a city. As it reaches its peak an strings-like instrumental sound (that I personally think closely resembles the “flashback noise” in Lost) takes over. I personally love how climactic it is and think it flows really well into the second song, so I’ve been playing it every time I listen to the record.

2. Noise – Noise begins with the loud beeping of a car alarm. When it first started, I was slightly confused. It sounded like my alarm clock had accidentally went off, but if you listen to the lyrics of the song it makes a lot of sense and, when played overtop of the piano chords, has a certain melodic quality to it. It certainly grabs you right off the bat and, as a result, makes a great start to the CD. It gives you an upfront example of what the rest of the album will hold. Like most of the CD, it’s catchy as anything and the lyrics are relatable outside of the realm of religion. The song actually had me tearing up a little the first time I heard it because it really spoke to me. Essentially, it’s about a world that’s too loud sometimes and about needing something to ground you and, like Colton, that’s what prayer does for me, but for you that could be anything or anyone.

3. I’ll Be The Light – In stark contrast to the last song, this song begins with the light tinkling of Colton’s piano. He’s clearly aware of how to structure a song so that it captures your attention and his lyrics are inspiring without being over the top or cheesy. This song does a good job of blending the pretty lower register of Colton’s voice with the booming chorus in the power-pop ballads that he loves. The dynamics of the song are what really get me because it shows Colton’s ability to create a song that can both pull you down to earth and pick you back up again.

4. You Are – This was the second of two songs Colton released before the album actually came out. I will confess that it didn’t hook me right away the way other songs on the album did, but it definitely grew on me. I think it’s because the lyrics are not immediately relatable in the same sense as the other songs. It takes a few listens to break them down, but the song does give me a bit of a Goo Goo Dolls vibe, which I love. It’s fairly clear who Colton’s influences are and he does a good job of channeling the best bits of them without copying them or sacrificing his own sound.

5. Never Gone – Colton became one of a select few Idol alum to get to perform an original song on the Idol’s summer tour and this was a brilliant choice for him. This is the second song on the album that has physically brought tears to my eyes. Seeing him perform it was like vindication for his early elimination. The lyrics are just so strong and powerful and whether you buy into his religious vibe or not, you’ll feel them. It’s the voice of a big brother or a friend or ex-lover, but it also exposes Colton as more than just “that guy who was on Idol”. It’s a really personal, human song and I give him credit for being able to write it and put it out to the world.

6Love Has Come For Me – This song starts with a bit of Owl City-esque synth vibe, but the heavy guitar quickly kicks in and locks you into the song with a good hook. What shocked me most about this song is that Colton’s voice, at times, sounds like Brian Molko (the lead singer of British band, Placebo) and, at other times, channels fellow Idol alums David Cook and Chris Daughtry. This might by why this song grows on me every time I listen to it and is one of the ones that gets stuck in my head even amongst the crop of strong songs that made this album. It’s also another song that’s really relatable and fully capable of a “non-religious” interpretation, if necessary.

7. Scars – The title of this song might be a little cliché for a power-pop record, but it’s the first time Colton slows it down a little on the record. There is, however, still a build up to an explosion of sound where it seems like Colton can’t seem to contain his passion for music and his message and that’s, in part, what I love about him. This song shows that he isn’t afraid to give you all of him and let you take it or leave it. Again Colton shows that vulnerability thatI love  that makes him human and it feels almost like he’s reminding his fans that he’s not perfect and that’s okay, what’s important is that we learn from the decisions and mistakes of the past.

8. Rise ­– My favourite aspect of this song is just how Colton’s voice sounds on it. It’s one of the slower songs on the record and it’s mostly just a chance to really hear him sing. It seems like one of those songs that I will find myself singing or humming at a later time and slowly come to really love, as I do with a lot of mid-tempo songs on albums. I find that it’s easy to love the catchy ones as soon as you hear them, but it’s the slower ones that tend to stick with you.

9. Where My Heart Goes – Another one of my favourite songs on the record and, I’ll admit, it’s simply because it’s so catchy. It also makes for a good romantic song and seems like the kind of song you’d put on a mixtape addressed to someone you’re trying to win over or simply reminding that you love them. Colton has a knack for telling a story through his music and this song is just one of the examples of that. It feels like Colton is speaking right to the person he needs to every time he sings and that’s a hard thing to do.

10. This Is Who I Am – If you’ve listened to David Cook’s album ‘This Loud Morning’ (which, if you haven’t, seriously go get it… it’s an amazing concept album that is worth every second), you’ll see what I mean when I compared the two of them with this song. It has the same constant progression as one of Cook’s songs. It was written, in part, by Dave Bassett, who’s also written with fellow alums like Daughtry and Allison Iraheta, which makes perfect sense. This song fits Colton’s vibe though and is definitely a good anthem for him because it’s basically saying “take me or leave me, but I’m not going to change.”

11. In And Out Of Time – This song is a little deeper than the others, and perhaps a little darker and heavier. It definitely forces you to think a little to digest the lyrics, but that’s what makes it stand out. What amazes me is how Colton maintains the same sound for all his songs without making them repetitive or difficult to tell apart. It seems like he goes into each song with a clear idea in mind and executes it well and this song is definitely an example of that. It feels like a reflection on his time since he was on Idol and how rapidly things change and, in a way, it almost feels too personal to listen to but that’s what really makes it worth hearing.

12. Let Them See You – Like most artists, Colton chooses to formally end the album with a slower song and it’s a good one. It’s a beautiful, raw, honest song that I think speaks to Colton’s philosophy of not being anything other than yourself. Colton himself has said in interviews that what got him kicked off the show was not being true to himself and this song is almost his way of compensating for that by saying he’ll make sure not to stray too far from who his fans know him to be.

13. Wake Up (iTunes Bonus Track) – I feel like this song is more than just a “bonus”. I feel like it’s almost necessary to really end the album on the right note. You can definitely feel the consistencies with the Intro and Noise and I love that. It’s a strong, empowering song that draws you back in and reminds you how good the album was as a whole, so if you can get your hands on this song, I highly recommend it.

I can imagine that it’s tough to do – to make an album with songs that stand alone but also blend together in a way that it isn’t off-putting to listen to them back-to-back but I think Colton did himself proud with his first album on a major label. I truly do hope that people don’t pass judgment because he wears his religion on his sleeve. I think, whether you agree with him or not, it’s a honourable part of who he is and he definitely has good intentions for his music. I feel like I really relate to him and his story. As a brother and a son, and a dreamer and a lost sheep who sometimes needs a bit of guidance, I think those aspects of him are why his music and this album really spoke to me on the first listen through and will continue to in every listen thereafter.

Colton Dixon’s album ‘A Messenger’ comes out on iTunes (Canada & US) January 29th, 2013 for $9.99. Colton will also be holding a show on stageit.com that day and touring with Third Day in the coming year.

 

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. American Idol XV: Hollywood Week, Part 1 | The Hudsucker - January 29, 2016

    […] remixes and different versions of songs from his first two albums “A Messenger” (which I reviewed) and “Anchor“, as well as a few new tracks. Based on the success of its cast and the […]

  2. End of an Era: Bidding Farewell to American Idol | The Hudsucker - April 7, 2016

    […] Album Review: A Messenger […]

  3. Album Review: Colton Dixon Reveals His “Identity” on New Album | The Hudsucker - April 17, 2017

    […] previously reviewed Dixon’s post-American Idol debut album, A Messenger, back in 2013 when it was released and I […]

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