MKTO Delivers Worthwhile Pop Music on Self-Titled LP
Up-and-coming pop duo MKTO doesn’t reinvent the wheel but delivers worthwhile pop music on their self-titled debut album.
Every year, there are new pop acts that come and go. Some make a gargantuan impact and either exemplify current trends soundly or begin a new trend. Others fall by the wayside, going unnoticed. For MKTO, made up of actors/musicians Malcolm Kelly and Tony Oller, they don’t reinvent pop’s wheel (if there is such a thing), but they do execute pop’s current trends very well. With Kelly handling the rhymes and Oller handling the soulful vocals, debut MKTO definitely shows potential.
“Thank You” begins MKTO incredibly positive and upbeat; there isn’t the slightest ounce of negativity. Calling “Thank You” something previously unheard in pop music would be a major overstatement, but in the context of a debut album, MKTO get off to a solid start. If nothing else, the vocal grit courtesy of a soulful Tony Oller is noteworthy.
While “Thank You” is a highlight, “Classic” is even stronger. Don’t go so far as to say it exemplifies its title, but it is definitely irresistible pop. Lyrics like,
“I wanna thrill you like Michael / I wanna kiss you like Prince…”
are just, scrumptious. That’s not even the chorus:
“You’re over my head / I’m out of my mind / thinking I was born in the wrong time…you’re one of kind living in a world gone plastic / baby you’re so classic!”
Malcolm’s pop-rap swag seals the deal
“A 70s dream and an 80s best…Girl you’re timeless, just so classic.”
“God Only Knows” isn’t bad, though it doesn’t quite live up to the bar established by “Classic”. Still, “God Only Knows” is no waste, once more benefiting from catchy lyrics, most notably on the chorus
“God only knows /how much I need you…”
A song of both emotional investment and physical desire, “God Only Knows” is highly relatable to all ages.
“When you touch me with your body / and all that I can think is how to lose our clothes”
“American Dream” opens with the statement, “Do something with your life”, a definite foreshadow to the positivity of the song. Where Malcolm played a minimal vocal role previously on “God Only Knows,” “American Dream” allows the MC to shine as well. The results are none too shabby, though again, nothing incredibly innovative or ‘brand new’. Still, hard to deny clever lyrics like
“This ain’t the same summer that you used to know / ‘cause Jack left Diane thirty years ago…”
“Could Be Me” brings pop-soul singer/songwriter extraordinaire into the mix, Ne-Yo. Like everything else, the results are definitely pleasant, particularly adding Ne-Yo’s smooth vocals. As expected, “Could Be Me” is a soundly crafted pop cut with great potential to appeal to multiple audiences. The most surprising aspect of “Could Be Me” is that Malcolm doesn’t allow the perceived ‘innocence’ to hold him back.
“She keep on searchin’ for the wrong man / with the iced out Cartier on hand / So mean but he look like Tarzan / little b*tch but he act real hard man.”
“Forever Until Tomorrow” cedes no momentum, as the duo continue to please. The lyrics are revolutionary, but simplistic, conveying emotions everyone experiences:
“Girl I, I’m gonna love you / forever and ever and ever / girl I, I’m gonna hold you / forever and ever and ever…”
If there was any doubt that MKTO had some rebelliousness despite their ‘feel good’ pop, “Wasted” definitely proves this – all it takes is one f-bomb, right? Honestly, “Wasted” is the edgiest song of the sunny debut and the sole ballad until this point.
“Am I crazy to think that I could be in love when it all ends up,”
Oller sings on the chorus.
“…I’d give you my heart, but I’d just f*ck it up / we’d end up, we’d end up wasted / la la la…”
The sharp song manages to reference “Jack and coke smokin’ on the fire escape” as well as the religiously skeptical lyric
“If I believed in God I’d pray, to God I’d pray.”
Maybe it won’t appeal to those who enjoy everything being utopian, but personally, a little edge never hurt anyone.
Atonement arrives on “Heartbreak Holiday”, in which a quicker tempo and bright sound returns to MKTO. Even so, it’s pretty safe to say that MKTO doesn’t enjoy February 14:
“(Baby I hate) I freaking hate / (Valentines Day) Valentines Day / (I’m feeling this pain) It cuts like a blade when I think about you…”
Even through Oller’s soulful disdain for being without his baby, the listener is treated with another winner overall.
The opening of “Nowhere” is certainly suggestive…um, just plum freaky.
“Breakfast in bed, bacon and eggs… she keeps me fed / breast and some legs / well done, yeah, well done”
It is what it is… hey MKTO are comprised of two twenty-something guys – what do you expect? Ultimately, MKTO aren’t going “nowhere” anyways, though one has to question if it’s merely the emotional benefits of the relationship… just saying!
Penultimate cut “No More Second Chances” opens lovely, with Oller displaying the sheer beauty of his pipes on the chorus.
“No more second chances, no more plastic lies / no more giving me reasons to make me have to say goodbye.”
It follows with quasi-rap/spoken word by Malcolm, who gets a slight change of pace with the production to progress the cut. Sure, Malcolm goes a bit stupid, but the reference to Waka Flocka and a variant on the f-bomb does capture one’s attention:
“She trying to be my flame like Waka Flocka with the focka.”
Closing cut “Goodbye Song” puts the sentiment of ‘goodbye’ out there explicitly:
“Ya I’mma put your shit out on the lawn / leave my heart and take your bone / there’s nothing left to say so long / this is your goodbye song.”
Well, at least the album ends with a bang.
Overall, MKTO is an enjoyable, solidly conceived pop album. Like many of the albums it competes with, the rub is its lack of big-time innovation. Though MKTO isn’t particularly innovative or strikingly different from other pop/hip-hop hybrid acts, it’s still one of the better albums using this style. There are no misses, just certain numbers hitting home more than others. There is room for improvement, as there is with a number of artists and bands, but MKTO certainly get off to a good and speedy start.
Gems:“Thank You,” “Classic,” “Could Be Me,” “Forever Until Tomorrow”& “Wasted”