Leave This Town
Chris Daughtry finished fourth on the fifth season of American Idol. But his self-titled debut (released in 2006) more than vindicated what many considered a premature exit from the popular reality singing competition. Six hit singles propelled album sales past the 5 million mark—a feat rarely accomplished these days. Daughtry’s post-grunge growl—call it Nickelback lite—paired with healthy doses of positivity obviously connected with a broad audience. It’s no surprise, then, that the band hasn’t messed much with that winning formula the second time around.
Two themes come through loud and clear on Leave This Town. One, relationships are hard. Two, they're worth it. Of the album's 12 tracks, six sing the praises of romance, while four focus on ways relationships run aground. Even among the hopeful tracks, though, sentimentality generally bows to the gritty reality that love can be hard work. On "Every Time You Turn Around," for example, a man promises his lady that he'll keep "workin' hard to make a world that we can live in"—even though she doesn't always have faith in him. "Life After You" narrates the tale of a man who realizes breaking off a relationship was the biggest mistake of his life. "Ghost of Me" involves yet another flawed guy trying to convince a woman that her nightmares about his past mistakes won't haunt their future ("Sometimes there's no meaning in the visions when you're sleepin'/Don't wake up and believe them").
Elsewhere, "Learn My Lesson" focuses on a rejected suitor's determination to try again, and "Supernatural" is the word the band uses to describe a man's pull toward a new love. Easily the most poignant, awww-inducing track here is "Open Up Your Eyes," which chronicles a woman's journey from grief to hope after her husband's death. It also imagines their reunion in heaven. One song recalls where a man came from ("September"), while another looks toward a man's future as he leaves the past (and past mistakes) behind ("Tennessee Line").
Of the tracks that focus on love lost, one deals with a couple mired in deception ("You Don't Belong"). Another ("No Surprise") essentially says good riddance to a hobbled relationship ("It's no surprise I won't be here tomorrow," Daughtry sings, "I can't believe I stayed till today"). "Call Your Name" ponders how to tell the truth about hard things without further fracturing an already fragile relationship.
"No Surprise" deals with a breakup between two people who were apparently living together, though marriage is never explicitly mentioned ("The whispering before we sleep/Just one more thing that you can't keep"). "Life After You" compares a man's decision to end a relationship to having taken drugs ("I must've been high to say you and I weren't meant to be"). We hear one use each of "d--n" and "h---." Two uses of the phrase "God knows" could be construed as taking His name in vain.
Angst and struggle are in plentiful supply here. Fortunately, so are perseverance, hard work and second chances. Minor missteps are few. That means this is a pretty solid disc that wields a generally optimistic take on the power of love and faithfulness over the long haul.