Album review: Conor Maynard’s “Contrast”

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by Kaitlyn McCurdy

Conor Maynard has been called the UK’s Justin Bieber.

That comparison must suck when you’re just releasing your debut album.

With a comparison like that, I’m not expecting a lot from this album. It’s a huge hit in the UK and Maynard is definitely getting quite a bit of love from US. I’m hopefully, but rightfully nervous. Let’s be honest, Europe is making much better music than the US right now, and I don’t want that trend to end here, with Maynard’s debut, titled “Contrast.” I guess we’ll see.

The album kicks off with “Animal,” a perfect start. The official video for the single brings in UK rapper Wiley, but I prefer the album version, which features only Maynard. The track has an irresistible beat and fantastic vocals from the Maynard. Right off the bat Maynard sets a great tone for his album. Sure, it’s pop, but it’s got a nice, mature feel to it, which greatly differs from the usual Bieber. He’s already disproving the comparison. If this streak continues, Maynard’s got one great debut album under his belt.

If you’ve heard any song from Maynard, it’s likely to be “Turn Around,” which features Ne-Yo. It’s been played on US radio quite a bit recently, although “Vegas Girl” is probably Maynard’s biggest hit in the US. With a chorus that says “so turn around, floating so high above the ground, floating so high / turn around, together nothing can stop us now” and another catchy beat, the single fits in flawlessly with the other singles playing on US radio. However, it’s Maynard’s weakest radio release. In comparison to others, it’s boring. It gets repetitive fast and does nothing to really show off Maynard’s talent. A great effort, but not his best.

You can guess the point of “Vegas Girl” from the title. Another traditional pop song about a girl dancing and how great she looks, woo. It’s quick to get stuck in your head and as sick as I am of this type of song, I do quite enjoy it. I can see why radio stations played it so often. Still not as strong as his first track, so we’ll see how this goes.

“Can’t Say No” is the another single from the album, and it’s the song that brought Maynard on the radar over in the UK. Again, it’s easy to see why. The track is full of great, cheesy lines (“Houston, I think we’ve got a problem” being the most notable) and another smooth beat. Very nice.

The next track, “Lift Off” is another collaboration, this time with Pharrell. It’s one of the weaker songs on the album, but, once again, not bad at all. The instrumental isn’t as great as the other tracks and the lyrics are pretty decent (“I wonder why they say / the limit is the sky / it seems to me, we need to be, whatever is that high”), but I’m not totally in love with it. Pretty boring for this album.

The beginning of “Mary Go Round” transports you to an amusement park before effortlessly sliding into a fantastic track. Maynard describes going in circles with a girl in lines like “go play with someone else / I’m getting off this ride right now / someday you’re gonna want me back but I won’t come back.“ The track isn’t super memorable, but still worth a listen.

“Take Off” is one of my favorites. The track stands out against the others to me for some reason, and I can’t really tell you why. The chorus is booming and the beat is fantastic and there’s just something about it.

One of the best collaborations is “Better Than You” with the UK’s Rita Ora. The two artists’ voices mesh well, and though I was somewhat nervous, their unique styles come together seamlessly. If you’re looking for a track that isn’t a single to listen to, this is the best option. It’s another strongpoint for the album.

This is going to sound very strange: “Another One” reminds me of a much more mature Cody Simpson. Told you it’d be weird. Don’t let that sentence deter you from the song, however. It’s definitely better than the Australian singer’s efforts. I can’t actually see Simpson singing “voulez vous you know the rest / merci beaucoup she said and got undressed.” Anyways, the track isn’t the best; the beat isn’t as loud and addicting, the lyrics aren’t as great. But as with all the other “low points,” this track still manages to be pretty great.

“Pictures” is the track I was most excited for it was penned by the incredible Frank Ocean. The song doesn’t disappoint. Ocean brings his R&B feel to the track, and Maynard’s vocal talent is showed off. Ocean’s writing (“that’s why I was always taking pictures, pictures / ‘cause I didn’t wanna miss our thing, miss our thing / tell me how could you take the pictures, pictures / when you knew they were all that I had left, nothing left / they were part of our history, this story”) is probably the best on the album. A definite must listen. I’m in love.

Maynard takes a bit of a darker turn with “Glass Girl.” The track has a small influence of dubstep (not enough to make me cry, thank goodness) and it’s definitely different from anything else on the album. I’m very impressed. Maynard shows a great level of maturity on the track, with lines like “I’m too young to be committed.” Another must listen.

The album ends with a laid back, hopeful tune in “Just In Case.” It’s a great note to end the album on. Maynard’s voice shines. However, I wish all the “ballad-like” songs weren’t shoved at the end and sprinkled throughout. But that’s not important. The track is great.

When I heard “Justin Bieber” and “Conor Maynard” in the same sentence, I definitely whined “not another one!” However, Maynard’s debut album isn’t at all what I’d expect from someone compared to Bieber. I can definitely see why the resemblance is made, but “Contrast” is much more mature, with some truly incredible pop beats, catchy lyrics, and great vocals from Maynard. I’m pleasantly surprised.

My only real concern involves the collaborations. There are quite a few for a 12 track album, and I’m hoping Maynard doesn’t lose himself if he continues doing as many. Even with that note, I’m not worried at all. Maynard will make it big and, unlike most these days, he deserves to make it big. He’s a real talent.

With that said, I leave you to listen to a truly great pop album. Enjoy yourself.