If baptism represents a public renunciation of your old self, then Baptizedthe fourth studio album of Daughtry is most aptly named.

The 5-man rock band formed and fronted by American Idol season 5 finalist, Chris Daughtry,has averaged an album every 2 years. However, despite being very commercially successful,the quintet’s music steadily reflected their growth and maturity through their evolving songwriting skills and musicianship instead of churning out album after album of safe identical/generic material. Any loyal fan would be able to observe the gradual progress from straightforward break-up rock songs like “Used To” from the first album to increasingly musically complex works like “Gone Too Soon”, which was dedicated to his unborn child, from the third album.

Like Jennifer Hudson who came in seventh in season 3, this Idol finalist who made a surprising exit finishing fourth 2 seasons later, proved that one doesn’t have to win to be alongside Idol alumni vocal powerhouses Kelly Clarksonand Carrie Underwood.

With this in mind, be prepared for a distinct change in sound in their latest album.

Gone are the days of distorted guitar riffs with angst-filled vocals as found in “Over You” or “It’s Not Over” from the band’s self-titled debut album, which got them named World’s Best Selling Rock Group  on 2007 in the World Music Awards. Also out are the solemn, emotional slow-rock tracks such as “Life After You” or “No Surprise” in their sophomore album, Leave This Town, which garnered 4 Grammy Award nominationseven the third album Break The Spelldoesn’t hint at what the fourth installment has to offer.

Doing a complete 180 from their previous work, Baptized is an electro-pop-influenced record mainly written and produced by Daughtry, as well as Martin Johnson, lead singer of Boys Like Girls.

One of the most noticeable differences is probably the prominent use of synth complemented with acoustic guitars, banjos, and occasional violins, which were most obvious in tracks “Wild Heart”, “I’ll Fight”, and “Baptized”.

In Daughtry’s defence, this sound change was quite a well-timed effort that didn’t shock its loyal fan base too much. The release of the album’s first single “Waiting For Superman in September served as a useful bridge from the past albums with Daughtry’s soulful vocals offering familiarity even when  married with a substantial amount of synth and heavy effects.

That’s not to say that all elements of rock were lost, as the North Carolina singer did confess his love for rock & roll with lyrics like “long live big guitars and music for the souland paid tribute to his musical influences by mentioning classic acts like U2, The Beatles, Van Halen, The Police,among many others in the second single “Long Live Rock & Roll”, which also included a vintage guitar solo in the later part of the song to complete the “old school” vibe.

Speaking of old school, the track “18 Years” seems to provide the perfect dose of nostalgia with a catchy and anthem-worthy chorus showcasing Daughtry’s wide vocal range singing “we were young / we were wild / we were halfway free”. This tune definitely calls for a get-together with a few old friends and booze – only if you’re of legal drinking age, of course. We’d be really disappointed if it doesn’t turn out to be a single.

Avid fans of the quintet’s older sound can still find vestiges of that in “Broken Arrows”, a piano-based ballad reminiscent of “What About Now” from 6 years ago, particularly in its first few notes. Unfortunately, this is the closest the band goes to its roots.

In all, Baptized did a commendable job experimenting with the a new direction while retaining the band’s paramount selling point – Daughtry’s impressive vocal ability and his extreme versatility.

While some fans may choose to be revel in the pre-Baptized work, there’ll definitely be those who will willingly embrace change. After all, the album peaking at number 6 on the US Billboard 200says a lot.

Album Details
Artist: Daughtry
Album Title: Baptized
Rating: 3.5/5
Language: English
Genre: Rock/Alternative Rock/Electro Pop
Record Label: RCA, 19
Release Date: November 21
Track list:
Waiting For Superman
I’ll Fight
Wild Heart
Long Live Rock & Roll
The World We Knew
High Above The Ground
Broken Arrows
18 Years