Gokey not too hokey

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Danny Gokey makes his post-Idol debut with "My Best Days."

Although he finished third in season eight of American Idol, Milwaukee native Danny Gokey definitely did not disappear from the national music scene. In fact, he did quite the opposite, signing on in Nashville, Tenn. to record a country album with RCA Records, a label of Sony Music Entertainment.

Now Gokey, a gospel-turned-country singer, has released his debut album, “My Best Days,” which came out last Tuesday. He will be promoting it while on tour with Sugarland beginning in April.

The 10-song record is a strong effort for the artist’s first release. It falls closer to the pop side of country rather than the traditional end of the genre, but it fits well there. The catchy country tunes are relatable for the listener, but many speak more specifically to Gokey’s life.

That aspect, coupled with Gokey’s energy and genuine emotion behind each lyric, makes the album very personal. Listeners come away from “My Best Days” with a sense of who Gokey is and what he is about — exactly what a debut album is supposed to do.

The recording leads off with the upbeat single, “My Best Days Are Ahead of Me.” It is full of positive lyrics and spirit in the vocals, and it will be stuck in your head as soon as you finish listening to it.

The lyrics are appropriate for this point in Gokey’s life as he makes the transition from American Idol into the country music scene. He sings, “Old enough to look back and laugh at my mistakes/young enough to look at the future and like what I see.” The song expresses Gokey’s excitement about the direction that his life is going in, which sets the tone for the rest of the album. Overall, it is a nice track to start off with.

“I Still Believe,” the third track, appeals to Gokey’s gospel roots and is a hopeful testimony to his faith. With lyrics like, “I never met a man that walked on water, but I still believe,” Gokey addresses criticisms of blind faith while affirming his own beliefs.

Unfortunately there are a few songs on the album that fall short of what Gokey’s talent is capable of producing. Track four, “Tiny Life,” is a slower effort about the things that really matter in life. It is clear in this song that he is a talented singer with a powerful voice, but unfortunately the topic is too generic to make a statement.

“Life On Ya,” the seventh track, tells a story of life like many country songs do. Gokey really gets into this one and it fits the genre well, but the chorus becomes so redundant that it is difficult to make it through the whole thing without skipping ahead. The next track, “Crazy Not To,” is catchy and fun, but the lyrics narrate an unoriginal story about falling in love with a girl.

Despite these few shortfalls, Gokey ends the album strong. The final track, “I Will Not Say Goodbye,” is a tribute to his wife Sophia, who passed away before his American Idol audition last year. It is powerful not only in expressing his grief, but also in conveying the notion of peace that he seems to have found with the situation.

Overall, Gokey has made a good start to his post-Idol music career. He has adapted nicely to the pop-country scene with an impressive voice and a great spirit behind what he is singing. Although some of the tracks lack originality, Gokey is unique as an artist, singing about feelings of sadness and loss while simultaneously expressing hope and a positive outlook on the future.

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