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Album Review

Love hurts. On the other hand, love is also a many-splendored thing.

Those twin messages intertwine on Daughtry's third effort, Break the Spell, with frontman and American Idol alum Chris Daughtry belting out rocky anthem after heartfelt ballad about why love is so good … but why it sometimes makes us feel so bad.

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Chris Daughtry and his wife, Deanna, recently welcomed twins into their lives. But if "Gone Too Soon" reflects real life, it seems likely they've also mourned a miscarriage at some point. Daughtry pours out his heart here as he sings about what could have been in the life of a child who was never born: "Who would you be?/What would you look like?/When you looked at me for the very first time/Today could've been the next day of the rest of your life." He also confesses, "Not a day goes by that I don't think of you/I'm always asking why this crazy world had to lose/Such a ray of light we never knew/Gone too soon." It's a tear-inducing ballad that powerfully testifies to the value and dignity of unborn life.

"We're Not Gonna Fall" acknowledges that long-term faithfulness in a relationship is hard, but promises, "We're not gonna fall now/ … Never gonna break down." About the love of this life, Daughtry sings, "It's the hope in your eyes that I cling to/And I hope to God it never leaves you." Likewise, "Rescue Me" maintains its grip on optimism amid hard times ("We may lose and we may win/But like the sun, we will rise again") even as the singer voices a request (perhaps a prayer?) for deliverance from unnamed struggles ("Rescue me in the middle of the ocean/ … Rescue me, and I'll never be the same"). In addition to that song, three other tracks celebrate the goodness of love ("Start of Something Good," "Louder Than Ever" and "Losing My Mind").

On several of the five post-breakup songs on the album, Daughtry tries to take responsibility (with the benefit of hindsight) for mistakes made. "Crazy" says of a woman who eventually left her broken and apparently selfish man, "You're not crazy for leaving/Just crazy for staying so long/ … For all the pain I caused." And "Crawling Back to You" deals with the need for forgiveness ("If you could find a way to forgive everything, I know you would/And I would take it all back, if only I knew that I could") even though a relationship is past the point of salvaging. A man on "Spaceship" acknowledges that he owns the blame for a broken romance ("Why you're gone is nobody's fault but mine").

Objectionable Content

On "Renegade," Daughtry asks, "Don't you want to feel like a rebel?/Renegade on the run." More problematic than rebellious feelings, however, is some dangerous behavior that comes along for the ride: "One hundred miles an hour with the top rolled down/Racin' the wind, breakin' out of this town."

After a tough breakup, a man sits on the hood of his car pondering where it all went wrong on "Spaceship." And one line hints that he might be drinking to try to dull the pain: "Call me a fool/For daydreamin' in the dark and throwin' bottles at the moon." Even though a man knows he's addicted to an unhealthy relationship on "Break the Spell," he still admits, "I keep coming back/I can't get enough/I can't go on without you/ … You're the only one who gets me high."

Summary Advisory

Chris Daughtry recently told American Idol host Ryan Seacrest, "Most of the material on the [new] record is way more upbeat, way more positive lyrically than the last two records." But after reviewing all three, I have to respectfully disagree. At least a little bit. Break the Spell actually seems to be in pretty similar territory to 2009's Leave This Town.

Which isn't necessarily a bad thing at all.

Two years ago, I said of that album, " 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." And if I hadn't written that then, I'd be writing it now.

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November 21, 2011

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Adam R. Holz

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