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The Critics Corner: Albums
Heartbreak on Vinyl
Blake Lewis- Heartbreak on Vinyl
Retro is the name of the game on nearly perfect sophomore effort
Name: "Heartbreak on Vinyl"
Label: Tommy Boy Records
Release Date: October 6, 2009
My rating: 4.9 out of 5


Review written by: Alan Ho

Success is in the eye of the beholder and for former Idol runner-up Blake Lewis; he definitely feels he has forged a successful music career. After getting beat out by eventual winner Jordin Sparks, who herself has become a bona-fide superstar and is miles away to reaching age 21, Lewis went ahead and crafted his perhaps only major label album, "Audio Day Dream" but after only 350,000 copies and in the estimation of his handlers at Arista was not enough to emerge out of Jordin's larger than life shadow, cut him loose.

'Audio Day Dream' is by no means a bad album (4.4/5), but major label production left Blake unable to spin his magic in its entirety and it came off as slick. So now a free agent and inking a deal with indie heavyweights Tommy Boy, what kind of album would the multi-talented and faceted Blake Lewis craft?

It's been nearly two years and the end-result is "Heartbreak on Vinyl", a semi-autobiographical 13 track effort that creates an incredible auditory roller coaster ride that combines the dance-pop from 'Audio' and completely merge it with Blake's past as a street performer, his inclination to 80s funky-dance rock (think Depeche Mode, Prince and Duran Duran), his recent inclinations to Euro-trance, electronica and of course his now famous break-beat.

The album begins with the autobiographical "Heartbreak on Vinyl", which might set a new standard for title tracks. Title tracks tend to be the among the weakest songs in any album but on this title track, there is strong lyrics from Blake (Heartbreak on vinyl/I'm missing you and how/Easy street is empty/The silence of the sound/I guess the turntable have turned one too many times) which was inspired by both his love for the Virgin Megastore in NYC and his anguish when it closed up shop as well as a direct allusion for Lewis' favorite record store in his native Seattle. The lyrics are backed by an organic dance-pop/electronica sound and electric guitars give the song extra energy and you will be moving your feet to this very hypnotic and infectious track.

The next track 'Binary Love' gets into the 80s-style dance-funk rock, something that was never achieved on 'Audio Day Dream' in complete fashion. Described as a "sexy, nerdy love song", 'Binary' showcases rather ironic lyrics and the dance-funk rock is shrouded also in ironic electronica sounds and a chorus that sounds a whole lot like binary signals!

"Sad Song" is another autobiographical song, this time a story about Blake having left his girlfriend in the dust in Seattle as he journeys back to California and then coming back to apologize for having left her in the first place. The song is very Daft Punk-like with a touch of Prince and should do pretty well on indie radio stations and might break mainstream outlets that are inclined to dance-pop/rock. "Rhythm of My Heart" is a testament to Blake's rebellious music streak; the lyrics at first listen feels more in line with a sappy R&B song, but like he did on Idol with Bon Jovi's "You Give Love a Bad Name", he is once again capable of turning songs not meant for a electronica-rock genre and come out smelling like roses. The song is well-executed in Lewis' fashion and could be one of the strong songs on the effort.

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