Kris Allen Opens His Heart On 'Letting You In'—Album Review

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kris allen letting you in album review

Kris Allen is recklessly reflective and emotive on his new album, Letting You In—a title befitting of one of American Idol's most expressive and charming storytellers. He beckons you into his den of easy-listening jams and glistening melodies with deliberate slyness, and as you venture through a meager 10 tracks, you get the sense you are experiencing new layers of Allen’s spirit.

By now, the dwindling singing competition is only a footnote in his career. Since his win in 2009, he has unleashed a string of full-length studio records stacked with confessionals and propulsive musical exploration. He often bottles together singer-songwriter and adult-pop assortments with funk or groove-based embellishments, a formula we’ve come to expect from him; by the hands of anyone else, it would certainly be boring. Yet, Allen surpasses his own boundaries and continues to dig into deeper, cooler musical wells in order to polish his fingertips and push the edges. There is significantly more reliance on string work and luscious orchestral arrangements than on past albums, which heightens the cinematic scope and allows him to refocus his attention to vocal detail.

Kris Allen Gives Brian Wilson a Belated Birthday Gift With “God Only Knows” Cover

As a composite of folk, pop and rhythmic blues, Letting You In glides softly into the eardrums, and for a man now in his 30s, he displays remarkably ripened wisdom and grace. If We Keep Doing Nothing, Way Up High and Letting You In are triumphant renderings of the heart, while Faster Shoes and Move are delightful monkey wrenches thrown into the machine of expectation. Waves, too, is a glossy ripple which quivers across the album’s surface. Recorded in Nashville, the LP sees Allen turning to a bevy of producers, including Konrad Snyder (Mat Kearney, Owl City, Guy Clark), Ian Fitchuk (Kacey Musgraves, James Bay, Brothers Osborne) and Brown Bannister (Amy Grant, Kenny Rogers, MercyMe), for some creative insight and guidance. And the work paid off tremendously throughout much of Letting You In, which Allen has described as his “most personal work to date.” There are even traces of country, ghostly remnants of Keith Whitely and Johnny Cash are shaded here and there to give the record a truly haunting pulse.

Kris Allen Gives Brian Wilson a Belated Birthday Gift With “God Only Knows” Cover

Many of the predominate hooks on the record (like in Love Will Find You and Time Will Come) do not hit nearly as hard or are as memorable, however, as My Weakness and Rooftops on 2012’s Thank You Camellia or even Everybody Wants to Dance on 2014’s Horizons. Where Letting You In falls short in Top 40-ready sharpness, it makes up in cutting honesty and powerful images—I Remember You is Allen's shining moment on the record (maybe of his entire career); it is a vivid, spellbinding bookend to this chapter of his story.

Must-Listen Tracks: Waves, Letting You In, If We Keep Doing Nothing, I Remember You

kris allen letting you in album review

Grade: 4 out of 5

Letting You In drops on iTunes this Friday (March 18).

Stay tuned for Kris Allen updates. Be sure to follow @Popdust and @JasonTheScott on Twitter!

kris allen letting you in album review

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