Matthew Morrison - Matthew Morrison
In the space of just two songs on his debut album, Matthew Morrison declares his intentions to 'make love in the summer rain' and 'go upstairs, close the curtains and we're all set to pick up where we left again'. Oh, Mr Schuester! The runaway success of love-it-or-hate-it TV phenomenon Glee has made stars of a cast who were all relative unknowns two years ago and are now beginning to release their own self-titled albums. I'm a self-confessed 'Gleek' (yeah, I said it) but even I was a bit wary about the debut LP from Morrison, whose role as the eternally optimistic, championing director of the Glee club is the beating heart of the show but also provides it with its stinkiest Stilton moments. If this first stab at solo wing-spreading was as cheesy as one of his character's motivational speeches, then we were all gonna be in trouble...
Thankfully, Morrison (mostly) side-steps the massive pitfalls that surround a release like this. It would be easy, very easy, to dismiss the record cavalierly and dismiss Morrison himself as next in line to the smarmy charm of Michael Buble's easy-listening act. There are songs on this debut that inspire a bit of cringe, such as the 'Justin Timberlake's big bro' act on pop parp 'Don't Stop Dancing' and self-pitying ballad 'My Name', where Morrison's attempts to distinguish himself from his fictional guise are paper-thin as he claims 'I'm not complaining BUT...' and then proceeds to bemoan the fact that 'they smile, they came but they don't know my name, we only look the same'. It's a hard life, ay?
Still, bad stuff aside, much of this self-titled debut is no worse than recent radio-friendly offerings from Train, Jason Mraz and so on. The same breezy, singalong sound - yup, expect some ukulele - is intact on 'Hey' and the single 'Summer Rain', while 'Still Got Tonight' is perfectably acceptable drivetime rock that's a bit Kings of Leon-lite (although I am referring to the new, neutered Followhill sound, so that's pretty light). The album's guest list of mega-stars - Sting, Elton John and occasional Glee co-star Gwyneth Paltrow - means the album may even tempt devout anti-Glee musos into listening (even if the songs in question are covers), while Morrison traverses the variety of styles commendably, moving from pop vocals to Broadway-style theatre ('It's Over') and intertwining confidently with his co-stars on the duets.
I won't pretend that this is going to win over those who think Glee is all that is wrong with modern music, but I won't let myself be bored by their protests. The youngsters who wanna grow up to be Rachel may find Mr Schuester's liberation as a sex-having, non-teacher, thirtysomething grown-up a little bit startling and might want to stick to the official soundtracks, but don't doubt me when I tell you your mom's gonna love it. Although it's positioned dead centre in the middle of the road, it's a relief to see that the first significant solo release from one of the show's cast features original material; I suppose that's a minimum ask really, but I'm pleasantly surprised to say that this is a record I might even - shock horror - play again. I doubt I'll be saying that about Matt Cardle's upcoming masterpiece. Here's to lots more post-Glee cracks at chart stardom - personally, I'm waiting to see if the sexy but annoying one with a conk on her can impress with anything but a ballad. In the immortal words of one super-inspirational teacher: 'From the top...'