Lauren Alaina is at her best on 'Wildflower' when she's selling teenage stories of love, loss and freedom. The 16-year-old did a nice job of finding believable songs for her debut album, but only found one that sticks to the ribs like a home-cooked southern supper.

'The Locket' succeeds where other attempts at weighty material ('The Middle') fail. It's a sweet, well-told story that Alaina pours her soul into. The 'American Idol' runner-up didn't write this song, but clearly she had someone special in mind when she delivered her emotional performance. It's a tear-jerker, and despite its length, it doesn't grow old upon repeated listens.

Most of the remaining tracks -- specifically 'Funny Thing About Love' and 'I'm Not One of Them' -- are uptempo tales of love, heartbreak and everything that falls in between that fans who've experienced grown-up relationships will enjoy, but not hold on to. That's fine. At such a young age, it'd be unrealistic to expect her to deliver an instant classic. 'Wildflower' is the musical equivalent of puppy love. It comes on strong but doesn't stand the wear and tear of time and repeated listens.

The feisty 'Georgia Peaches' and 'Tupelo' are two other highlights, with the latter infusing a little soul into the project. Both are heavy on imagery, and both are vocal deviations from anything we heard Alaina sing on 'American Idol.' That's not a criticism of her previous efforts -- it's just nice to hear there are still undiscovered sides to her talent.

'Wildflower' was produced by Byron Gallimore (Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, JoDee Messina), and the album benefits from his country sensibility. While it's not an album of the year nominee, Alaina's debut project shows she has plenty of potential and will be capable of big things in the next few years.


Lauren Alaina 'Wildflower' Giveaway

Enter here to win a copy of Lauren Alaina's new CD, 'Wildflower'! Contest ends Oct. 25, 2011. Be sure to read the official contest rules.