I hardly ever do in-depth album reviews here, but since Taio Cruz is such an ace popstar and so overlooked by other bloggers, I feel he deserves the extra support. His last album came out of the same analysis pretty well, so let’s see how Rokstarr compares.
Break Your Heart
Still amazing, and probably the best song Taio’s ever done. I read one cynical forum commenter dismissing this as a one-week wonder, one of those tracks that gets to no.1 by luck of nothing else special being around, but after three weeks it remains at the top. Taio, along with the brilliant Fraser T. Smith, is fundamental to the current strength and quality of British R&B, and he’s finally getting some credit for it.
The idea of Taio doing a duet with Ke$ha seemed too good to be true… until a few days later when I heard the song. While the album version is a slight improvement on the mix played on 1Xtra, it’s a big step down from Break Your Heart. Despite this, I still think it could be a huge hit. It sounds like the kind of dance music that does well, and the smutty lyrics will get it noticed. It’ll probably make everyone sane hate Taio, though.
No Other One
This one’s quite similar to Break Your Heart (lots of oh-ohs and woahs), with added hilariously unsubtle promotion of his brand of sunglasses. The “you know why” and “all I need is you” bits are nice, but the song does sway perilously close to Akon territory. His voice actually sounds like Akon’s in many parts of No Other One.
If I heard this on the radio I would honestly think it was a Seal song I hadn’t heard before. I’m not sure I’d even think it was a new single, just a 90s hit I’d somehow missed. It has some really lovely-sounding high-pitched bits, but other parts that are too dancey for my liking.
Take Me Back
Another one you’ll know, of course. It seemed a bit unfair at the time that Tinchy got credit for this, since it is obviously just a Taio song with a Tinchy rap, but now Taio is doing well himself I suppose I’ll let it go. Taio helped Tinchy make his name, and now he’s come back to retrieve his prize, having wisely saved his very best song for himself.
A slower track with a pounding beat, more similar to the American R&B style, although still plentifully electronic with a good helping of autotune. It’s a steady song which doesn’t really build up or change much as it goes along, but it’s pleasant to listen to. I just wouldn’t pick it as a highlight.
I’ll Never Love Again
Now, this is weird. This song was on the last album, one of its best tracks, but sadly never released as a single (I always thought it could be Taio’s If You’re Not The One). The fact that it has reappeared suggests that the label weren’t confident enough in the new stuff for them to put a new song on the album instead. Still, it’s a beautiful song that deserves to be heard, whatever the reason for its presence.
From I’ll Never Love Again onwards, the album takes a much lighter, poppier turn. The change is so distinct, it may as well be two separate albums merged into one. Only You is a sweet love song with schmaltzy lyrics enveloped in swooshy synths, and like much of the latter half of Rokstarr it sounds like a mixture of Take That and Ryan Tedder. Rokstarr is certainly an album full of surprises, it has to be said!
Falling in Love
Here the album reaches its poppiest level yet, and the first few lines make me smile with huge relief. Poptasticness at last! The verses of Falling in Love are absolutely lovely, really uplifting, so it’s a shame that the bland Take That-ish chorus lets the song down. It’s still very listenable, but its potential isn’t reached, which is a massive disappointment.
Another comparison I’m itching to make is, oddly, to Måns Zelmerlöw! Rokstarr reminds me of Måns’ last album, as it has the same mixture of dance music and cheesy pop, but is actually much more cohesive than Rokstarr. Keep Going is the song that sounds most like Måns, a cute and jolly pop song which (at last!) has a chorus that outdoes its verses. This one I’d definitely recommend for those of you who think pop should be as pure and light as possible.
I’ll Never Love Again showed that Taio is capable of amazing balladry, so I was excited to hear his latest ballad. It starts so well, but the high parts of the chorus are off-putting. Since he’s made so many amazing songs before, I thought Taio was aware that the chorus is the most crucial part of any pop song, but apparently not, and this is one of several songs where recognition of that fact would have been very beneficial.
This is like a ballad sung over a dance track, but it’s far too repetitive for my liking with too many bits without any singing. It’s fine to have a synthy bit with no vocals, but only if the synthy bit is amazing, and this is just like an average dance track that would blend into all the others heard on a night out. You can do so much better, Taio!
You know what? Taio was right: he did break my heart! Let’s hope these songs grow on me quickly or I will have to give up fighting his cause altogether. I think I’ll just go and listen to Break Your Heart again. It may have turned out to be a poignant warning in musical form, but it’ll cheer me up anyway.