Mike Posner does not make hip-pop music. Mike Posner makes pop music. Rather than taking hip-hop and moving it towards the pop end of the musical spectrum, Posner makes pop music that occasionally includes hip-hop and r&b influences, not because of any specific affinity for the genre, but because like most people of his generation, he’s grown up with hip-hop as a natural, unremarkable part of the musical landscape. Some of his friends are rappers, most aren’t. As strange as it may be those of us old enough to remember the ‘80s congressional hearings on …
DJBooth Album Review
Of course, this also means that Posner’s debut album, 31 Minutes to Takeoff, is a pop album. The album’s tracks are built upon pop foundations: they’re easily accessible, about young love and short. How short? The entire album runs at approximately 38 minutes, hence the title; by the time the last note has played the listener will feel as if they’ve reached new heights, as will Posner’s career. Or at least that’s the idea. In reality, 31 Minutes experiences some turbulence – thankfully the seat next to you is occupied by a cute girl, and the in-flight movie’s reasonably entertaining (let’s go with Step Brothers), but you have to pay for the peanuts, and once you get them, they’re a little stale.
It’s no coincidence then that Posner’s breakthrough smash is the purely pop Cooler Than Me. A metronomic, lightly electronic cut that emphasizes his every man quality, Cooler is exactly the kind of song you find yourself guiltily (or not so guiltily, depending) singing along to on the radio during traffic jams. While 31 Minutes’ second single, Please Don’t Go, takes a slightly slower approach, it’s essentially the same song, bringing back that same electronic-edge and metronome rhythm for an enjoyable cut that Posner carries capably - except for the more falsetto sections, more on that later. Even if it’s not your personal preference, and frankly it’s not mine, there’s no denying that Posner has a talent for crafting pop records, and from the slightly funky, sure-to-be-a-single Do You Wanna to the more adult, club-soaked, break-up anthem Cheated (note to DJZ, ask Mike if Caroline Stevens is his actual ex on the next interview), 31 Minutes is proof of his ability to craft the kind of music that, like all good pop music, has a universal appeal. They’re the type of songs crowds everywhere from China to Norway can sing along to, even if they have no idea that the lyrics mean. With Posner, it’s not what he says that ultimately matters, it’s how he says it.
There’s simply no escaping one fact about Mike Posner; he’s not a very good singer. The voice we hear throughout 31 Minutes to Takeoff has an instantly relatable, breathy, slightly raspy quality, but it never impresses. For a pop artist that’s absolutely fine – does anyone think Britney Spears is famous for her voice? – but the album hits some notable turbulence when Posner embraces his more r&b tendencies. After all, r&b is all about the voice. A title like Bow Chicka Wow Wow suggests a sense of humor, but after a listen the song’s title and hook seem like a pre-emptive defense; any criticism can be waved off with a “oh, I wasn’t serious.” Regardless of his intentions, there’s no denying that Posner’s voice simply can’t carry a slow burner like Wow Wow, and the “get your Red Bull on” lyrics aren’t exactly helping. Throw this track on when the lights get low and your girl’s more likely to start laughing than start undressing (trust me, I’m a father for a reason). Incredibly, the bouncing ballad Déjà Vu recruits Boyz II Men (mother**king Boyz II Men!!!) for some harmonizing on the intro, but Posner sounds more like a boy amongst men standing next to these legendary crooners, and his vocal cords fall flat where they should soar on the hazy Synthesizer. Luckily Posner has enough charisma to push these tracks towards decency, but if ever truly wants to be taken seriously in the r&b realm, he’s got a long way to go.
So where does that leave us? The great thing about pop is there’s really no ambiguity. If you liked Cooler Than Me, you’re almost guaranteed to like 31 Minutes to Takeoff, as long as you’re not expecting to also double as a babymaking soundtrack. And if you don’t, like me, then Posner will likely become another artist whose music floods America’s airwaves, but you pay no particular attention to.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 08/9/10
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