At this point, it's a law of television that the results of American Idol are not proportional to post-show success. Past winners are without record contracts, and, among the ranks of former sixth place finishers, Kellie Pickler (aka "Pickles") has gone from waitressing to amassing a handful of pop-country hits at only 22 years old. On her second effort, Pickler spreads her wings beyond vocals to songwriting half the 10 songs.
Things kick off with the mighty message song, Don't You Know You're Beautiful, in which Pickler bolsters the self-esteem of young girls to stand up against the pressures of their peers and designer labels (more on that later). It's a home run, catchy and positive. Pickler channels Dolly Parton, not so much in sound as in style. She thrives at those crossroads between funny and sexy, charmingly naive, not dumb, and wraps it up with real singing talent. No wonder even Simon liked her.
If there's a theme in this set, it's kiss-offs to boyfriends who've left for another woman, whom they then wed. Frankly, it's hard to believe this happens to Pickler with such frequency. Those tunes range from the simmering Lucky Girl, to the oh-well Best Days of Your Life, to the hilarious Rocks Instead of Rice.
There's the occasional misstep - why are we getting a rerun from the last album (Didn't You Know How Much I Loved You)? Making Me Fall In Love Again pickpockets the riff from Hall and Oates' You Make My Dreams Come True in broad daylight. And the closing track Going Out in Style, while cheeky in tone, totally contradicts everything we've learned about not bowing to designer labels (Pickler wants her ashes spread in the shoe department!). You can almost hear the girls thinking, "So I do want Prada?" But for her biggest foray into writing, and a lot of southern appeal that comes straight through the speakers, this is a winning barrel of Pickles.