Featuring the talents of actor/musicians Malcolm Kelly and Tony Oller, MKTO's full-length debut album, 2014's eponymous MKTO, is an exuberant and catchy mix of dancey, hip-hop-infused pop, rock, and R&B. Produced by Emanuel Kiriakou and Andrew Goldstein (Demi Lovato, Hot Chelle Rae, Jason Derülo), MKTO showcases the duo's one-two punch style, which usually consists of Oller's resonant vocals backed by Kelly's playful raps. What could end up sounding gimmicky or contrived doesn't, as Kelly (who some may remember as Walt on Lost) and Oller reveal they have enough thoughtful irreverence and technical skill to keep things interesting. MKTO, who met while starring on the Nickelodeon's Gigantic, seem at once like slick, major-label teen fodder and loose-cannon goofballs who don't want anyone to tell them what to do. Sometimes, as on the album's flagship anthem "Thank You," it's even unclear as to when the duo is being satirical or earnest. They sing "Yo, this one right here/Is for all the drop-out-of-schoolers/The future cougars/The Mary Jane abusers/The ones that chose to be losers/For all the misfit kids and total outkasts/MKTO, this one's for you/Role models." One assumes the truth lies somewhere in between and that MKTO the album is a smartly produced package that loosely contains the ball of synergistic ADHD talent that is Kelly and Oller. Thankfully, Kiriakou and Goldstein (who either wrote or co-wrote much of the album) know how to craft a catchy pop hook, and cuts like the immediately addictive "Classic" and similarly appealing "Could Be Me" (featuring Ne-Yo) are brightly colored, radio-ready songs that fall somewhere between the über-confident R&B of Justin Timberlake and the soulful pop of Bruno Mars.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar