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CD REVIEW

Powter sounds good, says nothing

In the sweet spot where Top 40 radio, television soundtracks, and the dreadfully titled but demographically diverse Adult Album Alternative format meet, you'll find Daniel Powter. His song ''Bad Day" is the best-selling single in the United States, the most popular digital download on iTunes, and a favorite at ''American Idol," which frequently uses the song to serenade the night's losers during closing credits.

At 35, Powter is too old to be a contestant on the show, which is one reason to cheer his sudden success. There aren't many more.

Powter is basically James Blunt (another chart-topping falsetto crooner) with a piano and a Motown collection. His self-titled debut, which arrives in stores today, is filled with winsome melodies, clever hooks, and inane lyrics. ''Bad Day" is built around the most overused chord progression in pop music, and it works brilliantly, lodging itself in whichever cranial fold is responsible for making otherwise reasonable people bop their heads in pseudo-solidarity to platitudes like ''You're faking a smile with a coffee to go." Talk about guilty pleasure.

Elsewhere, the Canadian musician sings of getting some and getting by in songs that fuse classic pop, lite funk, and dreamy balladry into something undeniably skillful and utterly anonymous. ''Free Loop" is a genial number about one-night stands in which Powter reveals that ''I've been fabulous through to find my tattered name/I'll be stewed tomorrow if I don't leave us both the same." I don't get it. Manic, beat-heavy ''Suspect" sounds like a lost Macy

Gray track, with Powter doing his shrillest, most fuzzed-out soul singing. In ''Jimmy Gets High" (a title that Powter's handlers reportedly wanted him to change to ''Jimmy Gets By"), the artist has crafted a finger-snapper that seems to exist for the sole reason of noting that the artist fraternizes with people who take drugs. And then there's ''Styrofoam" -- an exceedingly well-titled ballad that celebrates its own plain, flavorless namesake.

Powter says nothing, stylishly, which is fine for tartlets but not for an artist positioning himself as a mature singer-songwriter. Producer Mitchell Froom, veteran of sessions with Elvis Costello, Crowded House, and Randy Newman, elevates these 10 tracks above the pop-rock fray with his signature arsenal of panoramic textures and ingenious instrumentation. Thanks to him, the album sounds great, even if it isn't.

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