Review of Mike Posner’s “31 Minutes to Takeoff”

No telling if “31 Minutes to Takeoff” will lead to more than 31 minutes of fame for overnight sensation Mike Posner, but one thing is clear: Vocally, the 22-year-old sounds like a dance-leaning version of “American Idol” finalist Jason Castro minus the swooning romance. Posner deals in terms that most who juggle hangovers with morning classes can understand: hookups, failed relationships and white lies. “When I met you at the party and I told you you were pretty, I was honestly just trying to score,” he croons to his unsuspecting victim on “Gone in September.” Sweet. Posner’s high-pitched yet husky vocals are frequently difficult to bear, but his brand of electro-pop production proves interesting. Things even get mildly exciting when he dares to venture off-campus: Check the track to download, “Save Your Goodbye.” [Published in the Boston Herald on Aug. 9, 2010]

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Review of Jay-Z’s “American Gangster”

[Originally published in the Boston Herald on Nov. 5, 2007]

Jay-Z’s second post-retirement release is a concept album inspired by the hustler biopic “American Gangster.” And make no mistake, this is inspired. Whatever remnants of mediocrity the God MC displayed on his last album, “Kingdom Come,” have been shaken off in this journey back to the streets.

All of the necessary frameworks are in place: movie snippets weaved in between songs (it’s really hard to go wrong with Denzel Washington saying just about anything on your record); well-timed samples from the Beastie Boys and Marvin Gaye; a guest spot from Lil Wayne that works; a Nas-Jigga one-two punch on “Success” that proves to be a New York knockout.
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CD Review: Kanye West’s “808s & Heartbreak” is more heartbreak than 808

Chased the good life my whole life long/Look back on my life and my life gone/Where did I go wrong?

It was bound to happen. Kanye West couldn’t rap and sample Curtis Mayfield and Otis Redding forever. He had to become a New Wave singer.

The shift actually began on “Graduation,” when the Chi-town rapper/producer moved beyond a soul-infused sound toward electronica, pop-punk and some quirky, minimal beats (“Homecoming”) unlike what he’d done before.

But if “Graduation” was Kanye’s coming out party — a feel-good album that was part sonic experimentation and part celebration of the good life — “808s & Heartbreak” is the fallout, the morning after when your house is trashed and your head is pounding.

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