Sunday, November 17, 2019

Kat's Korner: MR Leslie Odom Jr.

Kat: Leslie Odom Jr. may be one of the best recording artists not to have a hit single.  Yet.  Hopefully, his new album MR. will change that.

Mr My debut album of originals is out everywhere. I hope you dig it. God is good.


He's had solo singles, he's had duets (especially "Hallelujah with Jim Brickman).  Nothing has clicked with the larger public so far despite the fact that Leslie's done one of the most memorable commercials of recent years (him at the piano singing "Nation Wide is on your side").  It's a voice you don't forget once you hear it.  But somehow that has translated into a hit single (though MR has topped the charts on iTunes and AMAZON).

That doesn't mean that he doesn't have a following.  He  played the lead role of Aaron Burr in the popular (but misguided) musical HAMILTON and won a Tony for his performance.  His voice is up there with the greats in the recording industry.

But these days, that's not enough.  It's especially not enough for a man.  Today, a man is expected to sing and write songs.  We didn't expect that of Frank Sinatra.  We didn't expect it of Nina Simone either.

Nina did write some of her strongest songs however and, on MR., Leslie is writing songs -- including "Standards" which quotes Nina's "Feeling Good."   MR is a 13 song cycle and, for him, 13 is a very lucky number.

"Cold" is my own personal favorite but the whole album is strong, solid.  Were this the era of torch songs, MR would be topping the charts on the basis of his singing alone.  Will it happen today?

I don't know.

Male singers really don't hit the pop charts if they're just singers.  A Celine Dion, for example, can sing the songs of others and chart repeatedly.  But male singers who don't write or co-write their songs really do not have long careers these days -- not on the pop charts.  Rick Astley can have a hit or two but then he's off the charts and reduced to Rick Rolling.  Leslie's writing his own songs now but has that gotten out?  Or his image still frozen as Broadway star who sings?

He's a lot more than that and MR. makes that argument convincingly.  Give it a spin and see if he and his album don't move over to the list of your own personal favorites.  If you need some more persuading, check out his recent performance for PASTE MAGAZINE.