Let’s all be glad this isn’t 2004. If it were, suburban Detroit native and Duke graduate Mike Posner would have just graduated from the Mickey Mouse/Lou Pearlman factory into a rosy cheeked R & B album that, since not likely produced by Timbaland, would have flopped, and left him to be a soulless J.C. Chasez instead of Justin Timberlake, the inaugural blue eyed soul champion of the 21st century. Well, it’s 2010, and the tweenage dance pop synths that pushed N’Sync and the Backstreet Boys to celebrity and fame are now firmly entrenched in the realm of mature sounding R & B, which means that for rapper turned singer Posner, his solo effort in trending mainstream can be an epic victory of dance pop AND traditional R & B, saccharine pop with an edge. In blending the best of the worlds of “Bye, Bye, Bye” and “My Love,” and creating a blueprint for pop’s next generation, Posner‘s 31 Minutes to Takeoff could be a sleeper pick as one of 2010’s best albums.
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Outside of great mainstream radio friendly single “Cooler than Me,” the true success of this album may be between producer Greg Kurstin (of indie band The Bird and The Bee fame) and Mike Posner. Timbaland was ultimately the key that took Justin Timberlake from a handsome face in a top selling boy band into becoming a 21st century pop institution. Well, JT is off making movies and Timbaland is at a career crossroads, so in steps this new power duo to take the reigns. “Drive your high heel into my heart, I don’t even care/cause my pride is worth much more than yours, you stupid little love.” On album finale “Falling,” with one couplet of lyrics over a barren piano that fades into a keyboard programmed to sound like an elegant harpsichord, and a quiet and respectful synthed out bassline, Posner‘s pop face melts away into a bare and honest reality, a broken-hearted love song elevating the performer from least anticipated to the most wanted. Where Timbaland needed Beethoven-styled orchestral histrionics to elevate JT, Kurstin employs a bare bones production method to underscore Posner‘s melancholy. Yes, he also goes the TImbaland route with complex drum fills on the chorus of “Save Your Goodbye,” but for the era of the melancholy pop rapper, Kurstin has set the standard.
In employing Gigamesh, The Smeezingtons, Benny Blanco and Cisco Adler on this record, there was clearly a “spare no expense” edict laid out by J Records to give Posner the best chance possible to stake control over a thawing consumer market. Even Boyz II Men are pulled out from the moth balls to add an especially soulful touch to the chorus of “Deja Vu.” Cisco Adler especially, when not attempting to copy mainstream trends as he did on weak Shwayze follow up album Let it Beat is a phenomenal pop producer. Shwayze’s “Corona and Lime” and “Buzzin'” are two of the best pop songs of the past five years, and he adds “Gone in September” from Posner‘s debut to that bunch as well. Posner‘s selling sun kissed fun times with polite depression here, not the father deprived manic depression of Drake or the overwhelming doubt of Wale, but an album that is a great representation of the nary a soul quaking care suburban experience.
Hip hop music is experiencing a renaissance, and sorely needed pop heroes for the mainstream. Between the likes of Wale and Tabi Bonney, Nicki Minaj, Drake and Mike Posner, the cavalry has arrived.