09 August 2010

Album Review: Mike Posner - 31 Minutes to Takeoff

After releasing two critically acclaimed mixtapes as an undergraduate student at Duke University, Mike Posner faced the daunting task of delivering a debut album of equal or better quality. He did exactly that on his debut album, 31 Minutes to Takeoff. Only this time he has developed a new style and sound you might have expected to hear from Mike Posner.

With the help of DJ Benzi and Don Cannon, Mike Posner released his first mixtape, A Matter of Time, in March 2009. Songs such as “Drug Dealer Girl,” “Cooler Than Me,” and “Halo,” quickly earned him a cult following, and before you could say “record deal,” his music was blaring in dorm rooms and frat houses across the country.

After a summer of touring, signing autographs, and inking a deal with J Records, Mike Posner entered his senior year of college with literally one foot out the door. A flourishing music career in one hand and a stack of textbooks and papers in the other might seem like a lot to balance for a 21-year-old, but not for Mike Posner. In October 2009 he teamed up with DJ Benzi and Clinton Sparks to release his highly anticipated sophomore mixtape, One Foot Out the Door. Featuring the likes of Bun B, Kid Cudi, and Big Sean, One Foot Out the Door catapulted Posner into the limelight with tens of thousands of iTunes downloads, Twitter followers, and Facebook fans.

With two critically well received mixtapes under his belt and graduation on the horizon, Posner shifted his focus to his debut album, 31 Minutes to Takeoff: 12 tracks. Just under 38 minutes. Just Mike Posner.

The album starts off slow, reminding us of where we left off over nine months ago with One Foot Out the Door and A Matter of Time: “Do you recall?/ I told you this was just a matter of time.” With the stage set for the rest of the album and our undivided attention, the Mike Posner we have grown to love greets us with a raspy, quasi-falsetto voice over catchy beats in songs such as “Please Don’t Go,” “Bow Chicka Wow Wow,” and “Cooler Than Me.”

Beyond his natural ability to woo with his charm and pop star persona, Posner also shows a more serious side. In two songs specifically, we catch a glimpse into his personal life. In “Cheated,” Posner reveals that a girl he was in love with was cheating on him the whole time they were together. And just in case you were wondering whom this song is about: “Caroline Stevens, this song is for you!” Ouch.

He even goes a bit deeper in the song “Delta 1406.” He admits that even though people constantly surround him, he often feels alone. He also reveals that his relationship with his mother is suffering and his father “only has a few years left.” A song of this depth and emotion is much unlike his past works, and it shows that his success hasn’t been easy and his newfound fame might not be worth the strain it has put on his family.

In addition to the party tunes and emotional croons, Mike Posner offers a batch of feel-good tracks in “Do You Wanna” and “Gone in September.” The playful guitar riffs, live drums, and brass and woodwind instruments make for an easy and enjoyable listen.

It is often the case that new artists feel pressure from their record label to sound a certain way in order to sell more records. 31 Minutes to Takeoff has one glaring omission—the lack of featured guests. In the past, Mike Posner has worked with hip hop artists and certainly had a hip hop influence in his music. So it seems somewhat peculiar that none of them would be featured on the debut album. Perhaps record label executives want to promote Mike Posner as more of a pop act, hence the exclusion of rappers and hip hop producers.

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