Album Review: Katharine McPhee – Self-titled Album

Katharine McPhee is an American singer/songwriter and actor, she first came into public view after starring in season 5 of American Idol, and took 2nd place, with Taylor Hicks ultimately winning that year. Interestingly enough, this isn’t the first time I’ve reviewed an American Idol contestant and runner-up and you can check out what I thought of Willie Spence by clicking here.

Anyway, returning to Katharine McPhee, I know her best from her starring role as Paige Dineen on the CBS show Scorpion, which is loosely based on the real life of Irish businessman and genius, Walter O’Brien. You can check out the real Team Scorpion by clicking here. Anyway, I love Katharine McPhee on Scorpion, she was truly the heart of the show, she was kind and sincere, and McPhee injected real warmth and subtlety into the role. So after rewatching Scorpion recently with Tori B Bearly I decided I would review her music, and so today we begin with her debut self-titled album which was released on January 30th 2007. 

‘Love Story’ kicks off with fast, high energy, with horns and percussion that blended well with McPhee’s vocals, her voice deep and rich, and you just get caught up in the rhythm and energy of the performance. I’ve only heard McPhee sing on Scorpion prior to this so I was somewhat aware of her vocal skills but listening to this, even though it’s actually much earlier in her musical career, confirmed that she is super talented. I always like checking out an artist’s early work, and this album is certainly worth a listen. 

‘Over It’ opens with pounding guitars and a whole other side to McPhee’s vocals, her voice heavier, but still melodic, fitting for this slower and sadder track. I loved the balance between the vocals and instrumentals, both having their highs and lows, moments of softness counterpointed by heavier parts to create a richly textured melody. Two tracks in thought and I am already blown away by McPhee’s voice which is just sensational. 

‘Open Toes’ has a heavier, electronic vibe, and McPhee’s vocals are more fast paced and staccato, creating a really nice melody. Some artists, regardless of how talented they are, cannot always shift in style or delivery, but McPhee flows between the both with ease and grace. I think her voice is probably better suited to more melodic and perhaps even melancholic tracks, but she does this high energy, fast delivery number justice and proves that she can handle just about anything musically. 

‘Home’ builds slowly, slow, sustained piano chords that sweep forward, and support McPhee’s voice, and much as I said above, I thought her voice might be suited to this type of song, and I was not mistaken, her emotive and soulful voice is perfect for this, delivering a hauntingly beautiful number that will stick in your mind long after you’ve heard it. I was particularly caught out by how well she hit the higher notes, just perfection, honestly. 

‘Not Ur Girl’ opens with light percussion and jaunty chords that build and create a nice even tempo instrumental backing to this number. Especially after the last track, this one shakes things up a bit, a far more confrontational energy that really works, and McPhee carries it really well throughout, showing even greater depth and range to her voice. I love the softer moments, intermixed with the harder, harsher parts, it all blends together really well. 

‘Each Other’ shakes things up once again, a very unique string infused intro, I can’t quite place exactly what, it could be as simple as an electronically generated guitar chord, but I swear it sounds like a Harpsichord but again electronically generated. I don’t want to focus on it too much though, it’s just an interesting little string driven melody that blends into a deeper, background melody that supports some truly standout vocals.

‘Dangerous’ as evoked by the name is deeper, darker and heavier, powerful bass driven electronic melodies infused with McPhee’s voice, which tackles the tone and vibe of the song well, her vocals a little deeper and heavier to work with the song. I really liked the faster sections mixed throughout, the chorus is really sharp and it really worked for me. I think this takes the top spot on the album for me, followed very closely by ‘Home’. 

‘Ordinary World’ is slower and softer, again with some beautiful piano melody, that supports some of the most transcendently beautiful vocals on an entire album, positively replete with top notch vocal performances. I particularly liked the incorporation of the percussion after the first minute, adding in a little complexity and weight, as McPhee begins to really belt out the number, adding even greater depth and power to the whole track. 

‘Do What You Do’ really changes things up after the last number, rougher electronic driven percussion and bass beats, blending together in a high tempo, fast paced number. I liked it, the almost jarring impact of this after the last track makes you sit up and take notice and appreciate it even more. I’m also glad that McPhee isn’t drowned out during these heavier numbers, she pushes back, showing her own voice is strong enough to handle it. 

‘Better Off Alone’ slows things down again, and we are treated to another phenomenally soulful and poignant number, this one is tinged with bittersweet emotion and really hits you hard. I actually had to listen to this a few times as I was so caught up in the vocals I forgot to process the instrumentals, and I think that’s kinda cool. That being said, the instrumentals, a solid percussive beat, are fairly subdued, really letting McPhee’s voice shine, only adding to the mix rather than taking it over. 

‘Neglected’ keeps things slow, the guitar melody is simple, backed up by a light, percussive beat, it’s very stripped back, much like the previous track it just lets McPhee explore and push the boundaries of her voice. This one does build a little more, the melody becoming a touch more complex without being too much. It really works for the track. 

‘Everywhere I Go’ is our third slow track in a row, and it’s amazing how much difference and musical complexity she can pack into three tracks which are slower, more melodic ballad types. This one brings in a blend of percussive elements, while still keeping the focus on McPhee’s voice, and I have to say as we finish up the final track on the album, that I do not think I could get tired of listening to her sing.

So that’s what I thought of Katharine McPhee’s self-titled album, and if you want to check that out for yourself then head on over to Spotify. While you’re at it, make sure and support the artist by following them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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