Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Omarion Omarion

Just as Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie did before him with the Jackson 5 and The Commodores, 21-year-old Omarion utilised his time spent with boyhood super group B2K, which in turn helped mould the young soul vocalist into one of the best in the business. Dominating airwaves all over the globe, Omarion currently holds the number spot on the US Billboard chart thanks to his new age-related album “21”. He’s also on the hunt for his first ever number one record with the Timbaland-produced “Ice Box”, which continues to move higher and higher up the US chart with a measured inevitability.

It’s always a pleasure to interview Omarion. His manner and vocal tone come across as enthused yet comfortable, eager yet relaxed as if he’s getting ready to go out on a Friday night with the fellas. Explaining how things have been for him recently, he beams “Life’s been pretty wonderful recently. I’m really grinding hard back in the States. In my album’s first week of release I got the number one spot. That was an amazing way to bring in the New Year. For that I’ve gotta say thanks to the Man upstairs.”

Originally set for release back in October ‘06, “21”, already one of the most anticipated R’n’B albums of the year, had to be pushed back because of a certain discovery. “We had a dilemma,” Omarion smiles.
“The dilemma was that we found “Ice Box”.” Without question his best piece of work thus so far, “Ice Box” sees the singer team up with Timbaland, the maestro producer who’s currently hotter than your breakfast toast, and together they crafted something that is, in all honesty, nothing short of amazing. “What happened was, we had a date for the album,” he explains. “But I had a worrying feeling that the album wasn’t quite full enough, like it was missing a song or two. Then, for whatever reason, the album got pushed back once, and then it got pushed back again. Then in the midst of all this we ended up getting together with Timbaland,” he reveals. “Tim sent over a bunch of tracks, which included “Ice Box” and “Beg For It”, and I loved them both. So we went back into the studio with him and recorded them both. I was a lot happier about the overall strength of the album after they were included. Anything can wait. Anything can wait for a hit record. That, after all, is what everyone wants at the end of the day. I guess you could say that the wait was well worth it.”

It is clear that the young man is more than comfortable with his own professional and personal life and his newly found level of maturity and assuredness beams from him like a lighthouse ray.
“I recorded about thirty songs for this project. Out of those we selected twelve. Out of those twelve songs I wrote eight,” he says with an undisguised pride. “So I’m getting my pen game up too.” Listing some of the producers who worked on the new album, Omarion drops names like Bryan Michael Cox, Pharrell and The Underdogs, but one name in particular he can’t stop enthusing about is a newbie by the name of Eric Hudson. “He plays like five instruments,” he gushes. “It’s old soul. I would consider him my Teddy Riley because he’s helped me project my influences on to this album. If you listen to “Electric”, “Entourage” and “Been With A Star”, all those records are records that I dug into the crates for to help me create that feeling of old funk. No one makes records like that anymore. Eric helped me to do that. He’s a name that you should watch out for.
He’s big talent.”

So are existing Omarion fans gonna be satisfied and thrilled by the new album? “I would say that this is my most personal album to date. I always wanted to project a story, and because I got more involved in writing this time around, the overall project has been more appealing to me, to my life, and to the people that have gone through the things that I have gone through in my life. There’s a lot of personal stuff there.”
It’s good to see that the boy who once offered songs like “Bump, Bump, Bump” and “Girlfriend”, hasn’t been brainwashed or tarnished by the vagaries and pitfalls of the music industry. He, thankfully, has survived the initial obstacles and has emerged as a genuine talent with his head set firmly on his shoulders and his feet squarely on the ground. “On all the songs on the record, I feel like I’ve put genuine and real emotion behind them,” he says with conviction. “I wrote and sang about my reactions to real life situations. So I feel like I’m giving little bits and pieces of me and my situations. That’s, I think, is why it’s coming off differently this time, because it’s true... it’s real.”

As to the inevitable lure of the Big Screen, Omarion talks of two new flicks he’s in that are set to drop in the not too distant future. Yeah, I’ve got two movies coming out soon - Somebody Help Me and Reggaeton. “Somebody Help Me is a scary film which stars myself and Marques Houston. Then there’s Reggaeton (written and produced by Jennifer Lopez) in which I play a character named Rob. He’s from Harlem and is half black and half Puerto Rican, with aspirations of becoming a rap star. Both of them were lotsa fun to do and a big learning curve.
In Reggaeton in particular, I get the opportunity to show my range as an actor. I have scenes where I cry and a love scene. I think people may be pleasantly surprised at what they see.”

Omarion's album “21” is out now through RCA Records.
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