American Idol artists that last can be counted on one finger. These people typically find their voice on their sophomore album, a venture that is a little more personal and less dictated by contract. Blake Lewis, through a combination of unforgettable personality and a high-quality voice, has managed to slide along in the mainstream. His biggest crowd so far has been the dance community, who have been highly receptive to remixes of singles from his first album, particularly the first single, "How Many Words." Male singers in dance music are also a rare breed, and in the case of Lewis, a welcome one. I found Dave Aude's mix of "How Many Words," as well as Lewis' collaboration with Darude on "I Ran (So Far Away)" - a cover of A Flock of Seagulls' song - to be excellent additions to my dance collection. Lewis' voice works well with electronica, and his sophomore album, Heartbreak on Vinyl, sounds very natural. Sometimes the best compliment I can pay to dance music is that it doesn't make me cringe (and I love dance), and that is far from the best thing I can say about this album.
Hit The Decks
Heartbreak on Vinyl is a very smart album. Rather than aiming solely for the pop world, it has aimed also for credibility in the dance genre. On lead single, "Sad Song," Lewis' vocal performance elicits new wave vibes over a tech-y and trancey musical arrangement (the verses remind me of "The Modern's Industry," a beautiful track that slipped through the cracks) for a poppyunderground electronic track with lyrics that are far less upbeat than the music. Sad Song is an enjoyable listen, and it is also one of the worst tracks on the album. That should say something. The title track officially begins the album, a cheery number about a vinyl shop called "Heartbreak on Vinyl," and its customer's ongoing love of analog. It is also where Lewis, the protagonist of the musical story, would meet his crush, up until the shop closed. This cheery vibe is only really exhibited in one other track on the album, "Rebel Without A Cause," with Lewis delivering a performance that brings to mind classic pop voices from the late 80s and early 90s (think Sting and Billy Joel). The track is more minimal than Heartbreak on Vinyl. In contrast, he also goes for a darker, deeper club sound on tracks like "Freak," "Love Or Torture (Please Don't Stop)," and "Binary Love." The latter cut sounds like "Everytime We Touch" by David Guetta and Chris Willis, which is a fantastic compliment. "Everytime We Touch" was by and large the best track off of Guetta's Poplife album. "Binary Love" holds that title for Heartbreak on Vinyl.
For The Masses
The album offers more than just club music though. Embracing the current pop scene, Lewis presents us with "Afraid," a track that sounds like the current beat-heavy Gaga tracks that we're hearing these days. And sounding like an updated boy band, "Rhythm Of My Heart" is much slower and poppier than most of the album. Pulsing and sinuous, "Our Rapture of Love" is a mesmerizing trip-hop cut with a fantastic vocal delivery from Lewis. This is one of the most engaging tracks on the album. "On The Point," Lewis drops the electronica for a more straightforward guitar ballad, a tender note amidst all the partying. "Left My Baby For You" is a heavenly slice of 80s-flavored pop, combining elements of new wave, Prince-esque vocals, electro, and of course super-charged power pop. "The Remedy" is a gutsy and grimy track produced by Dave Aude. An excellent pop offering that is easy to see backed with a video chock full of choreographed dancing.
Blake Lewis' Heartbreak on Vinyl
is an excellent offering for a number
of reasons. He doesn't stick strictly to any one genre, instead
successfully tackling a number of them. His voice resonates nicely
with all of the tracks. The dance tracks aren't cheesy or
overproduced and would sound fantastic in a club. I can't see a
definite downside to the album. In this day and age, with so much
filler in the world, it's nice to see an album made mostly of meat.
Released October 2009 on Tommy Boy Records.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.