It’s easy to skip through Mark Maze’s work and heap him up with all the other fresh-faced pop star wannabes that are all clean cuts, high-pitched ‘baby, baby’ pleas and no substance. I know because I almost made that mistake. But there’s much more to the Leicester-born crooner and I heard it in his music even before I got to his bio. There’s a sincerity in his songwriting and vocal delivery that doesn’t feel manufactured to fit a premeditated image. Listen to ‘Crying Game’ from his newly released album ‘Uncomfortable Truths’, you’ll get the same impression.
Mental escape in music
The song is a lament on the state of society tinged propped up by a message of hope. Something like ‘Heal the World. It’s therefore no surprise that the late Michael Jackson figures among Maze’s list of idols (though really finding a pop/R&B singer today not inspired by MJ is a needle-in-a-haystack quest). It was actually that positivity, that vision of a world of possibilities that really shaped Maze’s idea of what music should sound like. That mental escape was crucial for Mark growing up in the rougher parts of Leicester, East-Midlands in the UK. He lived with his parents in a seedy council estate house until they split up. While he was still young. he also witnessed a number of his friends make the wrong choices and pay dearly for them.
Music was an oasis for Mark in a desert of ills and when the call came to audition for a mixed R&B group, he jumped at it. While grateful for that first step to his artistic ambitions, Maze would soon fall out with the management of the group. He found their demands stifling, interfering with his desire to “bring my poetry to life to tell my truths as I understood them creatively.” That was to be the first in a series of learning experiences for Mark. In time he would get a chance to see things from the other side of the fence when employed as a junior booker at a talent agency.
Those experiences cultivated a strong sense of self-belief in Maze as well as a firm commitment to his ideals. They, along with his affinity for 80s pop acts like Depeche Mode, also gave him fodder for his debut solo album. Uncomfortable Truth crackles with airy synths and overproduced drums and there is quite a bit of Brian Littrell in Maze’s vocal inflections. But there’s a bit more depth to the content and emotion than in the Backstreet Boys’ popular ditties. A case in point is ‘Your Bite Was Beautiful’ which brings out the poet in Mark while showcasing the power in his trembling tenor. You can hear the strands of his heart tugging apart: “you took the best of me when I just believed in you.”
Something to dance to
In ‘Get Ya Back Up’ Maze has given fans something to break a leg to. Though I’ll admit I wouldn’t know whether to breakdance or head-bang to this one. But I can guarantee it will be well received when given the live treatment.
Few will fail to be charmed by Maze’s brave attempt at retro pop. If you have any sort of love for electronica, techno or the boy-band R&B of the 90s, you will understand where the London-based crooner is going.
Miami Based, Internationally Known