Dare To Dream (Epic)
It's easy to get the music world's attention when you're a 13-year-old with a soaring, powerful voice and a precocious personality. Keeping that attention is a little harder.
This is Billy Gilman's predicament. His first single, "One Voice," was a massive hit, and his debut album of the same name went platinum. For the follow-up, Billy handles the pressure to repeat such success by simply being himself. That means there are still songs here about being a kid - "Our First Kiss" and "I've Got To Make It To Summer" cover classic concerns of Billy's age group, and it's no surprise when the subject of "The Woman In My Life" turns out to be Mom.
Billy's voice has changed very little in the last year, and he sounds more confident using it. That comes in handy when he's belting out the tongue-twisting "You Don't You Won't." But even Billy's vocal gifts can't get the awkward "She's My Girl" off the ground.
Dare To Dream includes a few anthemic message songs in the "One Voice" mold, and there's the mandatory song about the victim of a life-threatening illness ("Elisabeth"). But the real highlights are a trio of horn-spiked tunes - the R&B stroll "Our First Kiss," the rockabilly-inflected "You Don't You Won't" and the swinging closer, "Shamey, Shamey, Shame."
Maybe those songs stand out because on them, Billy sounds like he's doing what kids do best: having fun.
- Chris Neal