When I decided to write up a review of the new Blake Lewis CD Heartbreak on Vinyl, I did so with a bit of hesitation. Not only do I know several people in the blogosphere will be looking at this release quite closely, but also because I really loved his debut CD, and no one likes to be disappointed, right? It’s not like I haven’t had a good idea of what is on the CD from the preview tracks “Binary Love”, “Heartbreak on Vinyl”, and current single “Sad Song”. The good news is that this record ups the dance quotient exponentially from Audio Day Dream, while holding onto the clever wordplay that helped ADD become a standout 2007 release.
I could rave about the title track for several paragraphs, but the first real standout track for me is “Freak”, which finds Blake flirting some authentic dancefloor beats that mix with a trance-like feel. “Rhythm of My Heart” goes straight for the 80s era synths with some beatbox scratching in the mix, and then “Afraid” comes back to 2009 with potentially the most radio-friendly track on the CD. While they are all dance tracks, each track has a distinct style. Having said that, the common denominator is the way that Blake takes the lyrics of each track and uses them to build the vibe of that particular songs. These are not songs where a melody is written first, and then the lyrics are written to fit that melody after the fact. The music, the beats, and the lyrics all come together to establish a mood that is greater than each individual part could do on its own.
Heartbreak, for all of the strengths, still has one glaring issue that slows down the middle of the disc. For me, the production on some tracks that sounds a bit amateurish. “Left My Baby For You” is a good example, where some of Blake’s repeated lyrics just sound flat and don’t really go anywhere. It’s like you are waiting for this great rollercoaster, and then your car goes down the first hill just as slow as it went up, even though you are waiting for top speed.
It wouldn’t be a Blake Lewis CD without a beatbox track, but on this disc, he keeps it to a one-minute track called “SuperScratchaVocalisticTurnatableLicious”, and it works because it’s just a quick vignette, and then we are back into the lyrical content. “Our Rapture of Love” is the first mellow song, reminding me of slower tracks on classic dance CDs like Kosheen’s first album, and then “The Point” steps a little bit away from the dance tracks, providing a vocal highlight for Blake. With all of the vocal acrobatics and beatboxing that Blake is capable of, it’s great to hear a track where he just sings, and sings well.
Overall, the CD is terrific. In a world where dance albums are often just a lot of filler to milk buyers looking for one killer jam, Heartbreak makes sure it doesn’t break your heart with inferior material. Blake kept his promise about the material being more love-related, but it’s not a sappy collection at all. In fact, the appropriate response to this kind of love is to hit the dancefloor and dance. Mission accomplished.