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Personality helps Pickler after loss on show

Erin McGinn | Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Jessica Simpson gained dubious fame for asking a now infamous question while pondering a can of Chicken of the Sea. “Is it chicken or tuna?” Following in Simpson’s vein of dumb-blonde antics is Kellie Pickler, whose debut came in season five of “American Idol.”

Whether it was her confusing the meanings of “minx” and “mink” or her drawn-out Southern pronunciation of calamari, Pickler gained as much – if not more – attention for her na’ve personality as for her musical abilities.

She was so endearing and adorable, even when calling her fake eyelashes “tarantulas,” that she warmed the hearts of all her viewers. Even the stone-cold Simon Cowell admitted that he was a Pickler fan. In the end though, her personality wasn’t enough and she was eliminated from the competition in sixth place.

Even after being bounced, the “Idol” producers recognized her lasting popularity and they filmed a recurring segment called “Puck ‘n Pickler,” where chef Wolfgang Punk introduced Pickler to unusual food for comic relief on the show. She continued to be popular on the show, singing in the finale episode and doing several promotional spots for later shows.

Although she finished in sixth place, Pickler has returned to the public eye with the release of her debut album, “Small Town Girl,” which debuted at number one on the Billboard country chart. The album is standard fare as far as country music goes, and her catchy lyrics and upbeat voice will make the release instantly popular with country fans.

Her first single off of the album, “Red High Heels,” has consistently been in the top-20 of the country charts since its debut. A catchy and sassy song that talks about her love for collecting shoes, it is the perfect introduction for Pickler to the world outside of “Idol.”

In a break from tradition and a show of support for Pickler, the production company for the “Idol” contestants released her album two months before “Idol” winner Taylor Hicks was set to release his. In previous years, all of the contestants were under contract not to release their albums until after the first and second-place winners released theirs.

“Small Town Girl” is full of energy, and Pickler celebrates everything that makes up her vivacious country personality. Although much of the album is upbeat and energetic, it also balances out these moments with more emotional, sentimental songs.

The tearjerker track “I Wonder,” which is scheduled to be her second single release, is an ode to her mother, who left her when she was a young child. It’s obvious that Pickler put her heart and soul into the song, and it is sure to be a successful country ballad in the future.

Throughout the album Pickler ranges from sounding almost cynical on “Things That Never Cross a Man’s Mind” to showing some heartbreak on “Didn’t You Know.” The song “One of the Guys” shows that she knows how to have fun, and then she goes back to being sentimental on “My Angel,” a tribute to her grandmother.

Although Pickler puts together a great album and her performances are definitely better than the ones she gave while on “Idol,” she still doesn’t have the wide musical appeal in the mainstream community necessary to become a big star.

Pickler will find easy and rapid success in the country music circuits, but unlike her country-“Idol” predecessor, Carrie Underwood, she doesn’t quite have the vocals to make an impact outside of the somewhat self-contained country circle.

Overall, “Small Town Girl” is a great country album, with both upbeat songs and ballads that hit all of the right notes. For fans of that genre, Kellie Pickler’s album is a fantastic addition to any collection.