Commercial Success Hasn’t Come Easy For Kris Allen

NARM Artist of the Year Awards at the Music Biz 2012 Awards Dinner - Arrivals Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Century City, CA, USA 05/10/2012 © Andrew Evans / PR Photos

Unfortunately for former American Idol victor Kris Allen, not all commercial success fueled by the once juggernaut of singing reality competitions is created equal. Allen pulled off the upset when he beat ‘assumed’ American Idol frontrunner, Adam Lambert. As many who disputed the results of the show thought, Lambert would outperform all of Allen’s albums, including scoring a no. 1 album with Trespassing. As for Kris Allen, he’d miss the top 10 of the Billboard 200 altogether: Kris Allen (no. 11), Thank You Camellia (no. 26) and Horizons (no. 80). 

So why did Kris Allen fail to become a viable, commercial artist? Why, judging by Allen’s spotty track record as of yet does Allen’s fourth album Letting You In feel like a surefire bomb as opposed to an album that can potentially be the breakthrough that Allen has never had? Basically, Kris Allen’s career has been questioned since his ‘questionable’ win. So rather than keep asking questions, here are some answers. 

Basically, the reason why it was surprising that Allen beat Lambert wasn’t because of vocal skill so much as it was musical persona. Adam Lambert felt much more dynamic artistically while Kris Allen came off as more of the traditionalist with conservative values who couldn’t shake “middle of the road.” While there’s nothing wrong with being “middle of the road” or “conservative,” even a cool cover of Kanye West’s “Heartless” didn’t make Kris Allen seem like a truly intriguing, engaging artist.

Once American Idol alums leave the show, they have to take the publicity that the show gives them and translate it into a lucrative career. Seasons previously, achieving success directly tied with the exposure on the show came off much easier. Kelly Clarkson certainly wasn’t hurting for sales and neither was Carrie Underwood, clearly the biggest successes from the show. Even so, winners like Ruben Studdard, Fantasia, and David Cook all experienced success as well, even if it was early on in their careers. This “slice of the pie” bestowed upon winners prior was not bestowed upon the Arkansas heartthrob who had the looks, a respectable voice, but lacked the “oomph.” 

As aforementioned, none of Allen’s albums have latched, period. His best shot was his self-titled debut, which spawned a legitimate top-20 hit in “Live Like We’re Dying.” Still, “Live Like We’re Dying” wasn’t enough to propel the album to hit status itself. Album two, Thank You Camellia performed worse and lacked any notable hit. “Vision of Love” was the highlight, but it didn’t perform nearly as soundly as “Live Like We’re Dying.” As for album three, the independently released Horizons, it was an “epic fail.”

Basically, Allen is a perfect example of how winning a show doesn’t necessarily translate into success. It could be argued, fairly or unfairly, that Kris Allen benefited from the packaging – good looking, not risqué/wholesome, and possessing a capable, though not necessarily the most magnificent set of pipes. The problem with that is that it didn’t translate into creating an artist that will stand the test of time, hence a lack of interest in Allen beyond the show. 

Could Allen’s fourth album break through? Anything could happen, but the reasonable, realistic answer, not to mention history, would say NO. It seems that at this point that Allen has exhausted his ’15 minutes of fame’ and may have to settle for being an unheralded indie artist. “Middle of the Road” just does a few favors to elevate an artist, as there are plenty of artists who are considered “middle of the road” or boring. In order for Allen to become a success, he’d have to completely shake things up and even then, only a select few artists ultimately break through.

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