A Greatest Hits/Singles collection has the potential to function as something of a freeze-frame of a band’s progression. Obviously, this depends in part on how the band has developed over the course of their career, along with how the album is sequenced. The most successful of these records tend to be from artists for whom albums are not their strong point, but deliver impeccable singles, allowing the collection to render them in a more focussed and confident light. It’s Not Over… The Hits So Far presents the hit singles from Daughtry chronologically, which provides an interesting birds-eye perspective on the band’s evolution, if not necessarily an invigorating listening experience.
Since finishing fourth place, in the fifth season of American Idol, Chris Daughtry signed to the same label as fellow Idol alumni Kelly Clarkson. However, instead of following in her pop-smash footsteps, he formed a rock band, and released 4 albums of post-grunge and pop-rock. This compilation contains eleven songs from their albums, and two new ones. Daughtry, the band’s first album is overwhelmingly well-represented, taking up five of the eleven older tracks. Album number two – Leave this Town – has three, their fourth (Baptized) has two, and their largely unsuccessful third album (Break the Spell) only has one.
The first five tracks are actually somewhat fascinating to listen to as a cultural artefact, given they’re all from Daughtry. All of them are firmly entrenched in the post-grunge sound that was popular in the first half of the 2000’s, but has fallen out of favour in recent years. Tracks like It’s Not Over and Feels Like Tonight are catchy, and it’s very easy to see why they were such hits upon release. However, the extremely polished guitars and sweeping vocals haven’t aged particularly well, and it’s somewhat difficult to disassociate them from the much-derided works of over saturated bands from the same genre, like Nickelback. The songs feel very of their time, and it’s fascinating to see Max Martin credited as a writer on Feels Like Tonight, given how much his style has changed with his contributions to artists like Taylor Swift and The Weeknd.
The tracks from Leave this Town and Break the Spell feel very much a piece with the aforementioned Daughtry songs, but they feel less distinct. Whilst they are still catchy and hummable in their own right, by the time the listener reaches Crawling Back to You it becomes very apparent that Daughtry’s mucic didn’t develop very much over the course of the first three albums. In fact, whilst the consecutive listing presents the album as an interesting musical narrative, it is by far the largest problem with the album, in terms of actual listenability. Daughtry’s hits are all cut from a very similar cloth, with minimal change in tempo or theme for the first nine songs.
The new tracks, and the tracks from Baptized on the other hand, are actually quite different from the first two-thirds of the album. The production and melodic style suddenly shift to become much more reminiscent of contemporary pop, with the change in vocal processing being extremely noticeable. Synthesisers compliment, and even replace guitars, on tracks like Waiting for Superman. That track is also notable for having much more interesting lyrics than the somewhat vague angst of the band’s early work, with Daughtry singing in third person about a woman wanting to be swept away from her boring life, and it demonstrates his evolution as a songwriter. New song Torches was the lead single for this collection, and it’s easy to see why. Daughtry’s “ooh-ooh” vocal melody in the chorus sticks in the ear, and is complimented well by booming drums. Unfortunately the closing track Go Down suffers from muddled production, with cheap-sounding synth arpeggios sitting uncomfortably with the metal-styled vocals in the verses.
Daughtry’s career is well summarised by It’s Not Over… The Hits So Far, with their early style showing diminishing returns (by the album’s own implicit admission, given there is only one track from Break the Spell), but a revitalising Baptized bringing them back from the edge. The new songs are very much of that newer style, which is a wise move for the band, and bodes well for future hits to come.