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Many music fans feel there is not much in the way of genuine sentiment in pop music in the current climate. With most of the genre boasting about partying, immense wealth and other vapid pursuits, a small faction of musicians are rallying to bring some semblance of honesty back to pop. In his debut album, Uncomfortable Truths, Mark Maze does just that with EDM-inspired music and pop vocals and lyrics which are surprisingly honest and genuine.
Mark Maze grew up in a working class area in Leicester in central England. He describes his upbringing as mundane and sometimes dangerous. Maze found pop music and its stars such as Prince, Madonna and Michael Jackson an uplifting inspiration during his formative years. He was also attracted to the new wave and early electro sounds of 80s bands such as Depeche Mode and Erasure. These well-rounded artists from his youth formed Mark Maze’s idea of what pop should be.
Early on in his singing career, Maze auditioned for and was chosen to be part of a label-controlled boy band, but quickly became disillusioned as his ideas for the direction of the group fell on deaf ears. The budding singer opted instead to work as a booking agent in the music industry, where he learned how this complex system worked and how to avoid its slings and arrows. When he finally decided to bring his own music to the world, Maze wisely opted to self-release his first album.
Uncomfortable Truths is a very appropriate name for Mark Maze’s first album, because although it is definitively pop, his lyrics may make the average modern pop fan squirm. Essentially his very personal poetry set to music, these lyrics explain why Maze turned down the opportunity to be in a boy band with no creative control. He is clearly a gifted writer with an incredible vocal talent, and it would have been a shame to see that stifled within a corporate music structure.
Maze teamed up with EDM production team Laconic for the arrangements on Uncomfortable Truths. The team’s bright, brassy techno and house style would seem to clash somewhat with Maze’s boy band/R&B-style vocal arrangements, but the two actually compliment each other quite well. This pop/EDM fusion is an ever-growing trend in music lately, but Maze and Laconic pull it off particularly well, creating unexpected genre fusions at almost every turn.
The first single off Uncomfortable Truths is called Devil May Cry. A video for the single was released on YouTube well in advance of the album, giving fans a chance to get to know Maze and his unique brand of pop. The track starts out with nothing but Maze’s perfect tenor and a piano in an achingly beautiful minor key. The electronic backing track begins quite unexpectedly in the middle of the song, and is used to create a frantic crescendo which builds to fever pitch by the end. The video’s action rides right along with the song and helps to drive home the passion and confusion of modern love connoted by Maze’s stellar lyrics.
Other highlights on the album also begin with an acoustic or sparse eletronic intro before launching into party music. Second Best features another interesting combination of Maze’s pop-fueled and syncopated vocals and a rumbling dubstep beat. Robot Eyes, the second to last song on the album, also has a slower, rolling backing track with an R&B influence while Maze’s vocals on this track are a little more dark and seething. It seems unexpected pairings are another thing in Uncomfortable Truths which set Mark Maze apart from the average pop music.
Mark Maze is clearly a very well-rounded musician. With classical lead-ins to his songs, a very well-trained and stable voice and the ability to find the right people to help create the sound he wants, this out-of-the-box pop artist brings a much-needed dose of integrity to the genre. With so many pop stars taking the easy road of catchy, repetitive hooks about little more than the party lifestyle and generic heartbreak, it is refreshing to hear a pop album with substance. Taking a cue from his pop forebears like Prince and Depeche Mode, Maze does not hold back in expressing true sentiment and raw observations on life. The independently released Uncomfortable Truths is available to stream or purchase on Mark Maze’s Bandcamp page, and his website will be posting tour dates shortly. Links to Maze’s work appear below in “Sources.”
Review by Layla Klamt