Lauren Alaina, "Wildflower" (Mercury Nashville/19/Interscope)
Lauren Alaina, this year's "American Idol" runner-up, opens her debut album with a country-rock stomper, "Georgia Peaches." The song establishes that this 16-year-old from the Peach State may come across as sweet and delicate, but vocally, she packs a punch.
Preternaturally confident, she sounds best on the most playful tunes, including a jaunty summertime ode ("Tupelo"), a challenge to a suitor ("I'm Not One Of Them") and a backwoods romp reminiscent of Gretchen Wilson ("One Of Those Boys").
The album only suffers when Alaina takes on material too carefully designed for a young female singer, such as the overly predictable first single "Like My Mother Does." Elsewhere, she does fine with coming-of-age narratives, such as "Growing Her Wings" and "She's A Wildflower."
But her star power comes across most significantly on a ballad, "The Middle," suitable for a singer of any age. Alaina belts it out with show-stopping drama, proving she has what it takes to become a top country music star.
CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: The only song Alaina co-wrote, "Funny Thing About Love," also comes across as the album's most mature cut. The funky, rocking arrangement lets Alaina show off a range of emotions, from vulnerability to desire to a passion edged in anger.