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BWW Album Review: ABANDONED HEART by Michael Mott

BWW Album Review:  ABANDONED HEART by Michael MottIn the wider world of pop culture, there's a bit of a misconception that Broadway performers and writers can only succeed in their own niche. Michael Mott's second album, Abandoned Heart, blows up that stereotype. The album (produced by Broadway Records) is chock-full of highly enjoyable pop songs that would not sound out of place alongside some of today's most-played hits.

The best albums take listeners on a journey, and this is where Mott's theatre roots shine through. After the catchy, Justin Timberlake-esque opener "Love In Stereo," the first half of the album covers the "abandoned" part of Abandoned Heart. Songs about distant, unattainable, or otherwise troubled love dominate this section, though the sound of the songs varies widely. Jenna Ushkowitz's "Minefield of Love" and Kacey Velazquez's "Not Your Fairytale" bring a pop-diva energy, though the latter is the superior song, with sharper, more original lyrics. Both sound like radio-ready feminine anthems; if there's a complaint to be had, it's that they sound almost overproduced, occasionally obscuring the women's powerful voices.

"Complicated," sung by Eric LaJuan Summers, and Loren Allred's "Single City" slow the tempo down a bit. Taken together, back to back, they tell a miniature tale all on their own, of a drifting, lost love affair followed by a mournful ode to a newly single life that ends the first half of the album. But it's "Gold," with vocals by Jay Armstrong Johnson, that is the highlight of this part of the album. With lyrics that alternate between evocative imagery and quasi-conversational phrases, it's the song that sounds most like a Broadway pop-aria, feeling almost like a character's mid-act musings.

Halfway through the album, we are treated to a brief, lovely, piano interlude that starts out bittersweet and builds to a little crescendo of hope towards the end, signaling the tonal shift in the album - Act 2, if you will. Kicking it off is Natalie Weiss on "Genuine (It's Real)," a catchy, upbeat tune that points to the theme of this second half: a more optimistic, hopeful view on love. Hannah Zazzaro's "Breathless" feels like it would be right at home alongside current pop hits.

On the slower, more anthemic "The Wild Ones," Crystal Monee Hall soars on a paean to taking risks on love. Broadway favorites Jennifer Damiano and Andy Mientus (probably the best-known names on this album) duet on the slightly clichéd but genuinely lovely "My Favorite Color." Mott himself returns to close out the album with "Get Up On My Feet." By bookending with this song and "Love In Stereo," the album as a whole suggests something truly beautiful and profound: journeys of love may be equal parts heartbreaking and happy, but if we start and end with joy, there's always hope.

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