Throwing the baby out with the bleach water, Katharine McPhee ditches dance-pop and her long brunette locks for her second album, Unbroken, upgrading to AAA crossover pop and a short blonde crop. The sudden departure was necessary, driven by the general disregard for her 2007 debut, which in typical post-American Idol fashion, chased after big hit singles at the expense of her show persona. On Idol, McPhee always favored middle of the road over modern, and Unbroken returns her to that course, bringing her somewhere within the vicinity of Paula Cole (who co-writes the title track), Rachael Yamagata (who co-writes “Keep Drivin’”) and Mandy Moore’s stylized ‘70s throwback, flavored with the slightest traces of modern sounds, including a vague borrowing of Beyoncé phrasing.
The Idol runner-up’s pleasant-but-unremarkable vocals can’t elevate this tepid collection. The moody visuals of ”Keep Drivin’ ” fit the breathier parts of her range well, but too many tracks are victims of oversinging: Katharine McPhee is aiming for ”quirky” with Unbroken but landing in ”musical-theater ingenue aiming for quirky” instead. Worse, what is potentially the most interesting song here (”Last Letter”) is hollered almost entirely off pitch.