By Michael Slezak
November 07, 2006 at 12:00 PM EST

Chris Daughtry is a brave soul. Not just because he’s dropped his first name to record with the creatively titled band Daughtry (such a move is all the rage, or so I’m told*), but rather, because the former American Idol finalist’s first single, “It’s Not Over” (now streaming at AOL Music and Daughtry’s MySpace page) opens him up to potentially cruel taunts from haters who’ll inevitably suggest that “it,” in fact, is over — “it” referring to Daughtry’s recording career, his 15 minutes of reality-TV-derived fame, and his status as America’s sexiest baldie, among other things.

To my ears, however, Daughtry may end up with the last laugh. “It’s Not Over” is far from revolutionary, but it’s the kind of steady, straight-up-the-middle pop-rock you’d expect to find on the iPods of both the MTV and VH1 set. (Okay, okay, and maybe mine, too.) It’s got a pleasing melody that Daughtry doesn’t muck up with indulgent caterwauling (his Achilles’ heel), and perhaps most importantly, it’s a considerably better lead single than, say, “Miss Independent” or “Jesus Take the Wheel,” neither of which seem to have slowed down the respective Idol alumni who recorded them. Not only that, with lyrics that could just as easily be about Chris’s premature ejection from Idol‘s fifth season as they could about a tortured relationship (“I was blown away what could I say… You’ve taken away everything”), there’s a little preaching to the nation’s Daughtry-obsessed speed-dialers for good measure.

What do you think of “It’s Not Over,” PopWatchers? Does it have you filing Daughtry alongside names like Clarkson and Underwood (believe it or not, I’m actually digging her latest!), or are you reserving a place in the bottom drawer next to Guarini and DeGarmo?

* For the record, “Michael Slezak” is retiring from PopWatch; starting tomorrow, I will begin acting as the frontman for “Slezak,” a band of scruffy, soulful pop-culture pundits. That is, if I can successfully grow out the soul-patch I started working on this weekend.