Wildflower by Lauren Alaina

The 16-year-old American Idol runner-up’s debut album puts her in the company of pop-country songstresses such as Carrie Underwood and LeAnn Rimes. Still, she appreciates both the traditional and rock-oriented versions of country, as evidenced when this Georgia native name-checks Alan Jackson and Jason Aldean in “Georgia Peaches,” the flirty album opener that showcases her powerful vocals.

The teen takes a cue from former Idol winner Carrie on inspirational songs such as “The Middle” and shows a vocal prowess beyond her years by confidently taking on the song “Eighteen Inches,” which Carrie co-wrote. One of the album’s most touching tunes is “The Locket,” the poignant story of a 14-year-old girl and a boy she meets who will become her husband of 60 years.

The done-me-wrong songs favored by female artists such as Carrie and Miranda Lambert are notably absent on this project. Instead, there is an ongoing theme of a good-hearted (if a bit sheltered) girl longing to spread her wings and experience life beyond her small town.

Despite the album’s title, she plays it safe rather than wild. But considering her audience, that’s a good thing.


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