Monday, October 12, 2009

Blake Lewis: Be It Love Or Torture, Please Don't Stop

Since I don't like to review things without truly digesting them first, I'm trying to take my time with the plethora of new albums currently on the market. Of course, this doesn't bode well for my column, but given this job climate, beggars can't be choosers, and my real life must take precedence over my virtual one (sadly). With that said, I hope to complete more of these sort-of album reviews throughout the week given this week I actually have semi-normal hours and am not turning nocturnal like I was last week.

First on the chopping block: Blake Lewis and his sophomore effort, Heartbreak On Vinyl. (And can I just say, I've been less than enthused by cover artwork for most releases for the past few months, but this one really hit the hammer on the head. Gorgeous.)

My unexpected love affair with Blake Lewis has been well documented on this blog. I've also made no secret of the fact that during Season Six of "American Idol", I was more rooting for Chris Richardson and Melinda Doolittle than for Mr. Lewis. However, of all of the contestants in the running from Season Six (Jordin Sparks included), Blake has emerged as my personal favorite as of late. (Personal Note: I wish Chris Rich would hurry up with his tracks and just put out an album already, independently if he has to, before people forget he even exists more than they already have...)

While Blake's debut foray into pop, A.D.D. (Audio Day Dream), had so many stand out tracks ("End of the World", "She's Makin' Me Lose It", "Gots to Get Her", "Surrender", immediately come to mind) that never became singles (even though they could/should have), I personally feel that Heartbreak lacks that initial excitement.

It's for this reason that upon my first few spins, I've found Heartbreak on the whole a bit of a ridiculous let-down. With time, I've warmed up to it a bit, but even now, much of it starts to blend together (which, arguably, means its cohesive as an album set, something that is somewhat rare of the genre these days, but in Blake's case, that isn't something I'm pleased about). All of it is ear-arresting and fun to listen to, sure (given you like dancey music, of course), but few of the songs stand out to me as potential singles/favorites, beside "Sad Song", "Heartbreak", and my strategical third single guess, the final track (and rather saucy) "Love Or Torture (Please Don't Stop)".

"Love And Torture" is currently fighting the album's title track for my favorite from the set. It's so punchy and synthy and grandiose and swirly. Imagine my surprise (read: one of those situations where you really love a song upon first listen, and when you find out who wrote it, you immediately respond, "Well, that explains it.") when I realized it was co-written by OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder (who also contributed a few tracks to A.D.D.). Hence my gut feeling it may end up being spun out as a single. Tedder did co-write the underwhelming "Break Anotha" after all, but then again, he also co-wrote "Surrender" and "End of the World" which didn't get the attention they deserved.

So much of the middle of the set doesn't exactly have me sitting on the edge of my seat. This isn't to say it's an awful album -- quite the contrary. I do feel that this is the type of music Blake probably should have done all along, and given that he now no longer has major label/Simon Cowell album constraints, his free reign is quite noticeable. The lyrics featured throughout are all imaginative and praise-worthy. My main complaint that while virtually all of A.D.D. was so instantly exciting, singable and standout (like the mixtape concept idea he was going for) so much of Heartbreak runs together a little too well.

To put it plainly, this record does not carry many tracks that immediately require singular search-and-find on a lonely day. It's more of a listen to all-of-the-album-at-once kind of thing. Blake Lewis is still a creative genius, and will continue to be underrated.

With all that said, my love for "Heartbreak on Vinyl", the song, will never ever be compromised, and "Sad Song" still sounds amazing blaring out yo' speakers. "The Remedy" is fun, and "Rhythm of My Heart" is too. I could do without the obligatory beatbox vignette, but he is kind of known as "the beat box guy" to so many AI fans, so who am I to judge on that? Overall, the set is a grower. While initial spins had me more than a little dissapointed, I've come to appreciate it for what it is: a strong dance album. If you're looking to cherry pick tracks, however, this one might not be for you (and in that case, I suggest A.D.D.).


John said...

Great review. "Love or Torture" doesn't resonate with me quite in the same way it does with you, but I definitely like it. As much as it may pain some folks, I would bet that the more "now" sounding "Afraid" will be the next single.

Myfizzypop said...

great write up - i'll have to add the link into my post today when not commenting via blackberry!

J.Mensah said...

Very nice review, I really enjoyed reading that--I need to check this out, unfortunately there's no UK release so its either order an import or torrent... hmm.

Mel said...

John - The more I think about it, I suppose "Afraid" wouldn't be too terrible, and "Love or Torture" being a Tedder track may make the project seem a bit "desperate" to some. Still love it though.

Paul -- Awww, thanks! :)

J -- If you want me to send you the album so you can preview it, I wouldn't mind. :)

Anonymous said...



FEINSTEIN'S AT LOEWS REGENCY, the nightclub proclaimed "Best of New York" by New York Magazine, will debut MELINDA DOOLITTLE in her first-ever nightclub engagement from November 17 – 21. The “American Idol” finalist will perform an intimate evening of jazz standards, pop hits and Broadway classics, in addition to selections from her CD, Coming Back To You. All shows are at the Regency Hotel (540 Park Avenue at 61st Street). For ticket reservations and club information, please call (212) 339-4095 or visit and For more info

Follow Me on Instagram via @melismaticdiva