POP/ROCK: Dia Frampton, "Red" (Universal Republic)
It's rare for singing-competition shows such as "American Idol" to turn contestants into actual idols.
Vocalists aren't making the shift from TV-show stars to real-world stars for several reasons -- the fame is too fleeting, the field is too crowded, it's a tough business even for those with an advantage and, worst of all, no one seems to know how to package these people. Frampton's "Red" gets it right.
Frampton was first runner-up on NBC's "The Voice." The 24-year-old waif from Utah has experience fronting a band with her sister, and she has a fine-tuned persona -- quirky, sweet and charismatic with a lilting voice and a knack for unusual phrasing.
Unlike releases from other singing-show competitors, "Red" doesn't force Frampton into a generic hodgepodge of mainstream-targeted styles. Instead, it's mostly tailored to her offbeat voice and unusual perspectives.
Frampton merges into the thrusting rhythms and echoing energy of the inviting "Don't Kick the Chair" to deliver an upbeat, antisuicide message. "Isabella" is an up-tempo, semi-acoustic folk/country ditty that sounds fluffy, but it's a support song for an abused neighbor. Elsewhere, the singer bemoans her attraction to conflicted people on "The Broken Ones," endears herself in the rollicking electro- dance of "Billy the Kid" and sounds charming and downcast on "Daniel."
Although Frampton is consistently presented as an adorable sort, it sounds genuine enough that when she sings on closer "Trapeze," "If I could tell you one thing, I'd tell you I'm not leaving," you hope she means it.
- CHUCK CAMPBELL, SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE
R&B: Anthony Hamilton, "Back to Love" (RCA)
Hamilton has a voice equally fit for soothing or supplication, and he finds time for both on his steadily engaging, rarely surprising new album, which is just what you want from him and just what he wants to give you. As an R&B singer upholding a grown-up masculine ideal -- chivalry and constancy, strength and humility -- he's in the business of meeting expectations.
He sounds marvelous. Hamilton is 40, married with a family; he's also unfettered by any track record of lecherous club hits. Behind the album's thematic consistency is a sort of stealth eclecticism. Its 12 tracks, all partly written by Hamilton, range in tone and texture from earthy Southern soul to lissome 1990s-style R&B, with beats that nod toward hip-hop.
"Sucka for You" awkwardly emulates the sort of funk-pop anthem now associated with Cee Lo Green. Hamilton sounds truer to himself on "Never Let Go," a pas de deux of domestic reassurance, featuring Keri Hilson, and "Best of Me," his rundown of courtly attentions. But he also pulls off the lead single, "Woo," a testimonial of the so-bad-but-feels-so-good variety, produced and co-written by Babyface.
"Pray for Me," another song bearing the Babyface imprint, finds Hamilton pleading with an estranged lover and entreating the heavens, as if unsure which tactic will work. It's a moment that rings of genuine desperation on an album that reeks of reassurances.
- NATE CHINEN, NEW YORK TIMES