Soquel Native Chris Rene Goes Pop Heavy on Debut Album

'I'm Right Here,' on Syco/Epic Records comes out Tuesday, in time the holiday season, with enough positive pop to make anyone smile.

Chris Rene is unabashedly optimistic on the album fans have waited nine months for, I'm Right Here, which hits stores and online sellers Oct. 2.

And who could blame him? In less than a year he went from hauling trash and being strung out on drugs to becoming an internationally known star, clean and sober.

He's come out with a work of pretty but authentic pop with enough hooks to bait every boat in the Santa Cruz Harbor and the varied influences of a kid who grew up in Soquel, with dashes of hip-hop, punk, rock and soul.

The album is tight, if short, but filled with songs that should be hits. It also lists for only $6.99. A different bonus song is added to iTunes and Amazon versions.

He recorded and wrote the short seven-song disc with a host of LA producers including Claude Kelly, who worked with Akon, Britney Spears and Bruno Mars; Chuck Harmony, who produced Ne-Yo, Rihanna and Mary J. Blige; Supa Dups, Christian Rich and Soulshock, whose clients have included Eminem, John Legend, Pharrell, NERD, Usher and Lupe Fiasco -- or basically almost everyone on the charts in contemporary hip hop and pop.

The big labels clearly primed the pump for some big success, no doubt stoked by Simon Cowell immediately calling him a star and Rene's likeable, humble, almost shy persona, a big change from some of the blowhards and gangsta wannabes who rule the charts.

The result is a disc on which every song has hit potential and every one of them presents a bright, shiny alternative to the seamier stuff that has ruled rap.

The themes are familiar to those who followed this 29-year-old breakout star from last year's first season of X Factor: kicking drugs, breaking chains, making something of yourself in the world, and the two words he's most known for, "loving life."

You could almost hear the record execs minds churning: here's a guy who is as authentic as Eminem but takes a positive view. He isn't fighting the same battles over and over. He doesn't brag about carrying guns or beating women.

He's got Justin Timberlake looks with a darker edge. It's hip-hop you can play for your 13-year-old, but has the authenticity to reach everyone who has struggled to overcome serious problems.

Musically, there is some surprising depth.

Opener 'Chains' is a shiny, happy, bouncy redemption song, well-played with a kind of Buddhist lyric:  "See we all could be happy people/ if we stop feeding our own egos /and live our lives right where we are/ instead of where we want to be."

"Rockin' With You" is a soulful shuffle that could have been done by N'Sync. It will stick in your head whether you are embarrassed or not.

'Back From The Dead" has a reggae flavor with a catchy hook: 'Just call out my name, no matter what, girl if you need me, I'm coming back from the dead.' It's romantic and club-ready.

The acoustic "Trouble" was written with American Idol singer Alex Lambert (differnt from Adam Lambert) and has the happy lilt of a Jason Mraz radio hit. His singing sounds pure on this one.

"Young Homie" was the original song he strummed on guitar that got him through the X Factor auditions and won over the rancorous Cowell. It gets a lush production on the album, heavy on the piano, drums and synthesizers that brings to mind Stevie Wonder.

Throughout he sings as high and tight as a Matt Cain fastball, although sometimes his voice sounds a touch too overproduced and synthesized, the plague of much modern pop. Not that it's hurt artists from Cher to Usher.

Pop is about passion and melody and this album has plenty of both.

Jenna Hanecak September 30, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Last year, my son Maverick was in Ms. Coyle's class (she's amazing). She expressed how proud and happy she is for you...just thought I'd share. You've found your passion and are on the journey...congrats from your friends at Soquel Elementary!! Jenna


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