Twelve months after leaving *NSync-esque boy band What's Up, Disney Channel pin-up Eric Saade returns to the hugely populated Swedish dance-pop scene with a solo record which will determine whether he's the band's Justin Timberlake or the band's Chris Kirkpatrick. Written and produced by the likes of Fredrik Kempe (BwO), Peter Bostrom (Alcazar), and Gustav Efraimsson (September), Masquerade certainly comes with a pretty stellar pop pedigree, but it's this impressive behind-the-scenes team which proves to be both the album's strength and its downfall. The Adam Lambert-esque electro-glam of "Radioactive," the pulsating disco-pop of "It's Gonna Rain," which borrows the bubbling synths from Madonna's "Hung Up," and "Break of Dawn," which ventures into Ryan Tedder-penned epic power ballad territory, are undeniably all hook-laden and chart-bound slices of contemporary schlager-pop. But apart from his brilliantly overblown Melodifestivalen entry -- "Manboy," which combines a spooky Theremin intro, "Womanizer"-inspired verses, and the kind of ridiculously infectious novelty chorus that makes the Cheeky Girls sound like Nick Cave -- its 12 tracks are so utterly generic that they could have been recorded by Darin, Ola Svensson, or any other Swedish male pop star created by a TV talent show over the last decade. Saade himself possesses the kind of pleasant but ultimately bland vocals that you would expect from a squeaky-clean boy band member going solo; they provide the perfect blank canvas for the bombastic synth-heavy pop of "Upgrade" and the unusually titled "Why Do We Need Fashion?," but appear overwrought and faux-emotive on piano-led closer "It's Like That with You" and the early noughties-influenced, midtempo "Say It." Masquerade is a perfectly serviceable Swedish pop record which will undoubtedly appeal to fans of Eurovision without alienating Saade's teeny bopper audience, but apart from the odd flash of unashamed cheesy-pop nonsense, it's all been done before.
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AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien