What Kind Of Post-’Idol’ Career Will Kris Allen Have?

Allen's debut album has 'got to have something about it that makes it special so it doesn't sound like everything else,' producer Howard Benson says.

The lights on the “American Idol” stage have gone dark. Season-eight champ Kris Allen shall be judged no more … at least for a while. When his debut album arrives at some point in the future, the fair-minded appraisals and vicious condemnations will begin anew.

The decision for Allen and his label will be what type of album he records. Will he stick to the acoustic guitar, singer/songwriter persona he seemed to favor during the show? Will he go in a country direction, as indicated by Wednesday night’s performance alongside [artist id="1161250"]Keith Urban[/artist]? What’s the best bet to ensure Allen has a long, lucrative career? MTV News spoke with some leading producers in the music industry to get their takes on what makes Allen special, what type of record he should make and what artists out their have a comparable sound.

“Kris is a heartthrob for the girls and has the looks and voice to carry a great pop career,” Lauren Christy, of the superstar producing team the Matrix ([artist id="509026"]Christina Aguilera[/artist], [artist id="1231897"]Jason Mraz[/artist], [artist id="501686"]Britney Spears[/artist]), told MTV News. “You could liken him to [artist id="1237620"]Nick Lachey[/artist] or Adam Levine from [artist id="1230385"]Maroon 5[/artist].”

Howard Benson, who produced both of Chris Daughtry’s albums, also saw a pop-rock vibe in Allen, likening him to Jason Mraz, John Mayer and the Fray. But he warned Allen against making songs that would create a radio listening experience that is too generic. “When Jason Mraz writes a great pop song, he writes a smash,” said Benson. “Kris I like a lot, but he might have the hardest job. It’s easy for him to make a passive record. You need a real active rock record.

“The more you’re [a singer/songwriter], the more it’s all about your songs,” he continued. “You can’t hide behind production at all. [His record has] got to have something about it that makes it special so it doesn’t sound like everything else.”

Christy agreed with Benson’s sentiment, raising the provocative idea that Allen could switch things up by moving in the direction of George Michael during his “Careless Whisper” days in the ’80s. She also was intrigued by the idea of the 23-year-old singer embracing his Southern roots and going country. Most importantly, Christy maintained, Allen “needs to avoid trying to be rock and songs that are too rangy for him.”

Whichever approach Allen ends up taking, he’ll have to contend for the first time with the requests and requirements of a major label. Butch Walker, who has produced songs for Pink and Katy Perry, advised Allen to proceed with caution. “You’ve got the heads of some pretty big companies saying, ‘All right, we’re going to put you with all these writers as soon as you win, and this producer, and you’re going to make this record,’ ” he explained. “I think that’s why Kelly [Clarkson] on her second record was so bitter. I think most people end up getting bitter about that because they learn for the first time what it’s like to be a puppet and be controlled.”

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