Ashley Parker Angel’s Soundtrack to Your Life: Angel Sheds the Boy Band and Rocks Out

What’s a boy-band member to do when the boy band is no more? Go solo, of course! Justin Timberlake found success post-‘N Sync, as did Robbie Williams after Take That-but those are rare cases. Others have not been so fortunate when shoved into the spotlight all by their pretty selves.

Though they had decent sales, the world would not miss their music if they stepped off the face of the earth: JC Chasez, also from ‘N Sync, Nick Carter from the Backstreet Boys, and Nick Lachey from 98Ã?°, to name a few. Now comes Ashley Parker Angel (a quintessential, ready-to-mock boy-band name if there ever was one), who has risen out of the ashes of the overly manufactured O-Town and also out of his own post-band misery to deliver-are you ready for this?-a rock album. Just when you think you have boy bands pegged, some of them do something crazy like this.

It’s hard not to root for Angel. After O-Town broke up two albums into its career, things seemed to fall apart for him. He hit the skids financially and ended up sleeping on the couch of his pregnant girlfriend’s parents. Sniffing good fodder for yet another reality show, MTV documented Angel’s struggles to make a music comeback in There and Back.

The fruits of hard labor chronicled in the show are now delivered in the form of Soundtrack to Your Life, a 12-track album of songs that mostly teeter between melodic pop rock and grunge. Gone are the saccharine boy band harmonies and faux-soul song stylings of O-Town, and instead we get dream-like vocals, hard guitars, and a sense of momentum-with the occasional thinly disguised return to boy-band territory.

Angel is most successful with straight rock songs like the title track, in which he declares: “Your life is a flashback/A question, a photograph/A statement, a story, a struggle/A chance to laugh/’Cuz if you don’t laugh, you cry.” An edgy love song, “I’m Better” has an alt-rock flavor and would receive some college radio play if not for Angel’s O-Town stigma. The highlight of the album is “Crazy Beautiful,” a stadium sing-along with driving piano accompaniment and clever lyrics (“You’re like the label in my shirt/That keeps scratching at my back”).

Less interesting are the ballads, which really are just boy-band songs dressed up in rocker jeans. But Angel and his collaborators are accomplished lyricists, able to spin nice images and cool turns of phrase. And the slow songs’ ability to transcend manufactured clichÃ?© are admirable if not entirely memorable.

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