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Taio Cruz - Rokstarr

Taio Cruz, Rokstarr

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2.5 out of 5

LONDON-based singer-songwriter Taio Cruz is really expected to break big with sophomore album Rokstarr. Buoyed by the No.1 success of lead single Break Your Heart, the album is one of the autumnal releases that’s deemed genuinely keenly anticipated.

But now that it’s bowed, the results are distinctly underwhelming.

Where debut album Departure showed plenty of potential, Rokstarr feels like a backward step and even comes burdened with the new trend in poor spelling.

I’ve never been sure of why artists feel the need to play with the alphabet, as if advocating illiteracy. Hell, even Quentin Tarantino took to it with the spelling of his latest movie, Inglourious Basterds.

But music artists are particularly susceptible to the “modern” text speak, whereby letters are often replaced by numbers, vowels are dropped completely and things are deliberately spelt wrong.

There’s no obvious reason for Rokstarr to be spelt the way it is; especially since it doesn’t even feature as a track on the album.

But I digress… misspelling alone isn’t responsible for the album’s ills. A generic approach to songwriting is.

Rokstarr only seldom throws up a catchy pop hit, appearing content to merely go through the motions and pander to current trends.

It begins brightly enough with the infectious former single Break Your Heart confirming what Cheryl Cole didn’t appreciate – that Cruz knows what it takes to deliver a No.1 hit.

But the scuzzy synth-rock of Dirty Picture is pretty lame stuff, complete with warped beats and boy-girl vocals with Kesha. N*E*R*D did it so much better.

And the euphoric synths of tracks like No Other One, Take Me Back and Forever Love just become repetitive and formulaic after a while. There’s very little to really differentiate them, apart from a blatant desire to appeal to the mainstream dance market and the Ibiza scene.

Take Me Back, in particular, strikes as poor, especially as it’s a collaboration with another artist-of-the-moment, Tinchy Stryder. But the combo of synth-disco and rap is ugly.

Cruz rallies slightly on moodier, more atmospheric offerings such as Best Girl, or the soapy I’ll Never Love Again, which reminded me of OneRepublic’s Apologize.

Only You, meanwhile, has a keen sense of melody in its skyscraping chorus, but partially ruins it with another silly slice of synth.

Final UK bonus track The 11th Hour replaces the synths early on with piano and actually benefits from that approach, ending the album with an unexpected flourish. Yes, the synths when they eventually kick in feel lifted from Faithless’ Insomnia but they contain more bite than most of Cruz’s other material.

Overall, though, the highpoints are more fleeting than on his debut. And that’s just disappointing.

Download picks: Break Your Heart, Best Girl, The 11th Hour, Best Girl

Track listing:

  1. Break Your Heart
  2. Dirty Picture
  3. No Other One
  4. Forever Love
  5. Take Me Back
  6. Best Girl
  7. I’ll Never Love Again
  8. Only You
  9. Falling in Love
  10. Keep Going
  11. Feel Again
  12. The 11th Hour