Austin Mahone

The Secret

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Austin Mahone's second EP runs eight tracks, clocking in at 27 minutes, which makes it nearly as long as a short LP, but the appropriate nomenclature for this record doesn't really matter. What matters are the songs, largely produced by RedOne -- the producer who broke into the big time via his work with Lady Gaga -- with the exception being the single "MMM Yeah," a cut produced by the Futuristics, a team who had hits with Wiz Khalifa and Flo Rida, but features Pitbull, a frequent collaborator with RedOne so it's of a piece. "MMM Yeah" and its immediate predecessor "Next to You" are the tracks here that channel EDM into pop -- the latter even contains a refrain about a bass kick -- but, like any pop record, the emphasis isn't on the production, which is all about fashion, but the songs, which are catchy and all about the hook. This means Mahone isn't always at the forefront; then again, he's not an especially charismatic singer. He's a pop idol, cute in a Bieber fashion -- a fact he doesn't disguise and he couldn't, not when he came onto the radar after covering Bieber on YouTube -- but there's a sense that Mahone still yearns for acceptance, a nicety Justin abandoned once he started to rack up hits. Mahone is ready to please, which is why the big dance tunes on Secret -- which is most of the mini-LP -- are cheerful, even candied, and why the ballad "All I Never Need" is sweet, not cloying. He's not quite a compelling singer but that doesn't harm Secret much: he's eager like a puppy, which is why Secret is so ingratiating.

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