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on June 13, 2010
Taio Cruz, a British producer and songwriter turned singer/rapper (a la Timbaland), has been responsible for a large quantity of irresistible electro-pop/R&B confections since 2008, and several of them are cobbled together here on the U.S. edition of his overall second album, `Rokstarr.'

What's amusing is that minus the #1 single "Break Your Heart," follow-up "Dirty Picture," "No Other One," "Feel Again" and "Falling In Love," not a single one of the other five tracks from the original UK version of `Rokstarr' made the tracklisting here. This is moderately understandable, since the original album wasn't all that exciting, save its singles, all of which are included on the U.S. release. Several tracks here are in fact from his debut, `Departure,' which was actually a great album, but was unfortunately never released in the states.

UK smash and U.S. breakout "Break Your Heart" deserves its success; it's a pounding, pulsating dance romp with an infectious chorus, whose U.S. version benefits from the almost-always-enjoyable Ludacris verse. On the original album, nothing else rocked quite as hard, but thankfully "Dynamite," an all-new U.S. exclusive track, comes close. This joyful and heavily danceable thumper tweaks and twerks along to the electro-noises found frequently throughout Ke$ha's album.

The aforementioned electro-pop tart also just happens to make a notable contribution to "Dirty Picture," the album's second single and heaviest nod to pure electronica. "Take Me Back" was originally a highly successful collaboration with rapper Tinchy Stryder in the UK, but on the U.S. edition of `Rokstarr,' it appears as a solo cut, featuring just Taio Cruz's vocals. Although it more or less still serves its function in this form, without Stryder's rap verses it loses much of its personality and zest.

This is a particularly unfortunate sacrifice due to the fact that lack of personality is present throughout quite a bit of the album; one may think that including nothing but cherry-picked hit singles on an overseas debut would equal an immediate triumph, but much of Taio's U.S. debut so blatantly caters to the whims of mainstream radio that it's hard to appreciate as an actual album. Cruz gradually becomes faceless beneath the surge of big, repetitive, simplistic hooks, and although they're cater-made for the new-age MTV generation, it becomes increasingly difficult to form any sort of artistic impression of Cruz himself.

The notable exceptions are where he slows things down; Taio Cruz's early releases benefited from exuding a trademark emotive, melancholic vulnerability, which initially really made him stand out in the R&B/pop scene. Sadly, the two most pristine examples of this, his first singles "I Just Wanna Know" and "Moving On," are both absent on `Rokstarr.' This really robs U.S. listeners of the opportunity to hear the gentler (and generally more captivating) aspects of Cruz's musical artistry.

Thankfully, the states are at least treated to "I'll Never Love Again," with its dreamlike synths and lush vocals, another example of what Taio Cruz was like before he decided to become a rokstarr. Another U.S. exclusive, the smooth house beats of "Higher" don't feel quite as coldly calculative as some of the other upbeat tracks, and the sincerely uplifting "I Can Be," released as a single with Estelle in the UK, is another notable keeper. The skittering, spastic "Come On Girl" is a major grower, but once its appeal sinks in, it's hard to resist. Luciana Caporaso contributes a delectable verse to the song, and it's charismatic enough to warrant listeners wanting more; her sassy `come on boy, come on boy!'s reveal a saucy, energetic boy-girl lyrical play that could have been.

"No Other One" is hooky but generic and doesn't stray from the album's straightforward electro-R&B formula, but things take a sweeter, more acoustic turn with "Falling In Love" and "Feel Again," two ballads which end the album on a sentimental note. The former rides a swift, catchy piano loop and eventually breaks into live instrumentation, differentiating heavily from much of the rest of the album, while the latter doesn't manage to hold interest for quite as long.

For better or for worse, `Rokstarr' lives up to its name-it's guiltily pleasurable, caters to the general public in a broadened, generic sense while still maintaining a sloppy sense of self-indulgence, celebrates both modern-day bling culture and being unabashedly yet routinely in love, and has some noticeable nosedives right alongside its brightest triumphs. It's by no means a bad pop album, and having heard a large majority of Taio Cruz's catalogue in its entirety, I know for a fact he has a much-deserved place in the U.S. music scene. Whether or not that place is utilized to its fullest within the tracks of this album, however, is debatable.
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on June 7, 2013
The CD was advertised as having both "Dynamite" and "Break Your Heart" listed but when I opened the package and checked the CD, "Dynamite" was not present. I don't think I'll be keeping this. I'll probably have better luck on Ebay or at Amoeba Music.
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on June 14, 2013
I am very disappointed. Just ordered this for my nephew's birthday, and it does not have the one song he wanted. When I ordered this album, it claimed to have the song "Dynamite". It does not. I will be returning it.
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on September 3, 2010
WOW!
I heard the two singles on the radio, but had no idea who it was, I knew I liked the songs just didn't know their origin.
Now thanks to Amazon's delightful, based on your likings recommendation page I came across this and downloaded it.
Surprisingly I am impressed by this U.K. artist. Every song flows beautifully leading into the next.
He has a smooth silky voice and a great delivery...if you can get your hands on this, do it!
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on July 27, 2013
I ordered this exclusively for the song Dynamite. It was not on the CD I received, yet it was on the song list in the description. I ordered it July 16, 2013 and received it on July 24, 2013 and my return window ended July 24, 2013. That means I would only be entitled to a partial return, had I actually had time to return it. Trouble is, I had opened it, assuming I received what I ordered (silly me) and returns must be unopened, so I can't even get the partial credit. What really irritates me is that in looking at previous reviews (after the fact) I see that this issue had already been reported and yet Amazon has done nothing to fix this. I'll take my business elsewhere. Even if I have to pay more, I will find a source that believes in true customer service. UPDATE 07/28/2013 I contacted Amazon customer service and they have refunded my money, and offered to replace the CD with free shipping. They have gone above and beyond what I would have expected and restored my trust in shopping with Amazon and their customer service. They are notifying the proper departments and giving their full effort to see this doesn't happen again. Thank you Amazon!
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on July 19, 2010
I didn't know much at all about Taio Cruz prior to downloading this album. I had heard "Break Your Heart" on the radio and that was about it. This turned out to be a good album. I love working out to this music, and it's equally good just to listen or dance to. I got this at a great price from Amazon and that makes it even better. Great album, can't wait to hear more from Taio in the future.
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on July 12, 2010
This is a highly enjoyable album. My favorite songs are Dynamite and Dirty Picture. Only Ke$ha could have pulled this one off and it works! My only gripe is that there are tracks missing that were on the original UK release. I can understand adding songs (Dynamite is superb) but keeping songs off the US version is a move that puzzles me. Why not just include every original song AND add more? Despite that, this is a great release and I highly recommend it to any pop-lover out there.
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on May 21, 2011
I was pleasantly surprised with this album. There are a few songs in this album, but they are all very good to great songs. I purchased this album a couple of months ago and I am still listening to this album. If you like good happy party sing along music, buy this album, you will not regret it.
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on November 17, 2012
I ordered this CD so that I could have the song, "Dynamite". Imagine my surprise when the CD shows up and it has different songs on it than shown in the track list. Oh, and Dynamite isn't on the CD. Not sure what's going on, but I feel cheated.
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on August 26, 2011
Discovered Taio Cruz and wanted the CD as soon as possible - didn't have time to go shopping so I ordered from Amazon.com. The CD was in perfect condition and arrived sooner than I expected. Great service.
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