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Blake Lewis 

Audio Day Dream 
(Arista/J)

American Idol winners (Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood) have it easy, as do American Idol early exiters (Jennifer Hudson, Chris Daughtry). But the penultimate position is a toughie. Beatboxer Blake Lewis tries to prove that America chose wrong with his debut disc Audio Day Dream, a refreshingly high-energy album that sounds far more crisp and confident than any recent AI alums' efforts. "Break Anotha" is a hearty dance track that could position Lewis as the beatboxing angle in a Timberlake-Thicke triad, while "Know My Name" (which features Lupe Fiasco) is a hip-pop staccato jam that makes you wanna do the Robot. "How Many Words" seamlessly incorporates Lewis' beatboxing on a nostalgic, '80s-synth backdrop, and "Without You" is the best kind of power ballad — unapologetically cheesy. Though Lewis loses his step toward the end of the album — the songs become increasingly generic — the bulk of Audio Day Dream ensures that his runner-up status was a fluke.

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