"American Idol" has earned its place in history as a star making factory, and voting viewers have enjoyed their early investor pride in the superstar success of winners like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. But by the 15th lap, the TV competition was gasping. In America Idol's 2016 final show, a 25-year-old Mississippi native named Trent Harmon was chosen for the top prize. With his leprechaun features and aw-shucks delivery, he seemed like another in the yawn parade. But wait - a good song can change everything, and along came "There's a Girl." Instantly identifiable with its "things we do for love" lyrics, the song works. It's got the Top-40 chops of what other male country pros are doing today - soft, breathy verses over a crashing power chord chorus.
"There's a Girl" is the far and away standout of Harmon's first EP, and prospective fans may want to consider cherry-picking it as a single. The other four tracks are a retread (not an easy feat for a debut) of the Idol journey to the top. That means cover tunes in spades, such as Sia's "Chandelier" and Justin Timberlake's "Drink You Away." (Warning: it's probably never a good idea to challenge stars currently atop the musical world on their own turf.) The finest of the covers bunch is ZZ Top's "Sharp-Dressed Man." The Delta-area crooner deftly handles a jazz intro into the Texas guitar crunch.
Harmon has a pliable voice that can cross genres - go back to his Idol tryout, and you'll see the judges debate whether he's a country or R&B singer. This small release certainly doesn't help settle that question. But what's worse, this particular handful of songs doesn't show off much of the soul sound (he sang Percy Sledge, Ben E. King, Harold Melvin) that propelled Harmon to the crown. These aren't even nearly the best of his Idol tunes - where are those excellent renditions he did of "Southern Man" or "To Love Somebody"? Keith Urban's original-penned "Falling" helps - Harmon has a nice falsetto when he dusts it off. But the schmaltzy remix is overloaded with production, and there's little in the tune worth a return visit. Overall, this is a non-essential souvenir of a game show experience with a couple of extras. Harmon deserves his own record, freed from TV contractual obligations, in which he has more input and room in the song selection.