Despite conscious calls to remain objective, and the realistic need for unadulterated commentary, it’s always a bit more difficult to take shots at home state talent. The Michigan football team drops seven games — it’s a fluke. Michigan basketball executes a season’s worth of chokes after a much-hyped preseason — it’s Ohio State’s fault. Even with the ever-growing breadth of evidence against the Michigan cause, it’s nearly impossible to give up hope. But then there are those times when enough is enough, and, all scapegoating aside, you just have to throw in the towel and accept defeat.
31 Minutes to Takeoff
On the introduction to his major label debut, dance-pop purveyor Mike Posner — born in Southfield — audaciously croons, “Do you recall / I told you / This was just a matter of time,” with the perceived confidence of a “sure thing.” While this attitude is promising, it’s never fully realized, and unfortunately, after those 53 seconds, Posner emerges full of contradictions and lapses of judgment rather than compatibility and consistency. After listening to 31 Minutes to Takeoff, it’s clear that despite two successful self-produced discs, this mixtape wunderkind still has a lot to figure out.
What Posner does well, he does with the fluidity and spark of a true pop star. On the album’s first real song, “Please Don’t Go,” Posner’s airy voice soars over a 16-bit video-game beat as he belts out 31 Minutes’s biggest chorus. After a glitchy interlude, Posner unsheathes a soaring falsetto line, hitting a perfect climax after a stretch of production that’s a bit more out of left field than the remainder of the album. While the song itself isn’t what one would call “experimental,” it’s this fraction of deviation that hints at the fact that Posner isn’t afraid to embrace a less polished veneer.
Not too far beyond the entrance to 31 Minutes is its ubiquitous summer hit, “Cooler Than Me.” The finger snaps are infectious and perfectly utilized, and the beat is driving, yet never overwhelming. This song is Posner the entertainer: a singer with a purpose and a full arsenal of talent and creativity fueling his dry tenor and party-boy persona. This song achieves everything he wants, even while lacking any diversity at all in terms of tempo or feel — picture a confidant man strutting through a packed club, never scuffing a shoe or brushing an elbow.
Disappointingly, beyond the two aforementioned success stories, the rest of this LP takes a turn for the vapid and relies on teenage idiosyncrasies to shape its instrumentation and lyrical content.
Stylistically, 31 Minutes ranges from the big-band trumpet fanfare of “Do U Wanna” to the Maroon 5-esque guitar pop of “Gone In September.” Posner’s influences become fully apparent on “Déjà Vu,” a track that lives and breathes the Timbaland/Timberlake collaborations that have set an industry standard over the course of the past decade — everything from its frenzied percussion samples (see Timbaland’s “Give it to Me”) to its call-and-response verses (see JT’s “What Goes Around… Comes Around”).
What eventually becomes this album’s final downfall is its lyrics. Even though today’s hit music scene isn’t exactly filled with John Lennons, with talk of being “three shots deep” and the dire need for a Red Bull (from the sexed-up “Bow Chicka Wow Wow”) coupled with the rhyme of “synthesizer” and “synthesize her” (on slow jam “Synthesizer”), it’s glaringly obvious that Posner isn’t ready to write interesting pop songs. In addition to his lyrical underachieving, Posner is never fully able to decide between playing the invincible playboy or the heartbroken everyman and sings of conquest and heartache as if they’re one and the same. Ultimately, it’s this lack of direction that dooms one of our own.