It must be terrible to be thought of by millions of people as a one-hit wonder if you’re actually an artist who has had a long and varied career with artistic highlights and influential fans in high places, yet been unable to turn any of those things into mainstream success. If, in other words, you’re Omar.
His breakout hit, and most famous tune, There’s Nothing Like This, was released on Gilles Peterson’s era defining Talkin’ Loud label and was, and is, an acid jazz standard. Since then he’s released numerous great pieces of music, including one of my favourite albums of the last decade, the brilliant Sing.
But, for most people Omar is probably still the guy who sang that song about ‘champagne wine’ back in the early 90s, even though he was even awarded an MBE in 2012 (probably the best thing that Cameron’s mob have done since coming to power) and despite the fact that Stevie Wonder supposedly said this about him:
When I grow up I want to be Omar
Many musicians have become bitter about situations like this, even ones who have gone on to great success. We all know the bands who will wilfully refuse to play the song that most people want to see them perform (Radiohead and Creep is an old example that springs to mind). But Omar, in what strikes me as a signal of the sort of man he is has, instead, taken an opportunity to revisit his defining moment 20 years later and, if anything, perfected it.
It still sounds exactly like a lazy summer’s afternoon, but this time has more of a Spanish air, has a slightly more pensive air about it, a beautiful touch of brass and is, simply, beautiful. It is an inspiring and heart-warming slice of modern soul.
Thom Yorke was bashing Spotify again this week, and maybe he has a point. But maybe it’s also the case that in the modern world where uniformity is prized over all, and the ability of mediums like radio to break new music is being crushed, we need the Spotify’s of this world to ensure we don’t run out of people like Omar.
Overall Omar highlights why we should all stop pandering to the Miley Cyrus’ and Sinead O’Connor’s of this world (they’re both looking for attention, just in different ways), stop side-lining music that doesn’t fit a money spinning formula and focus instead on spirit, talent and soul. All of which Omar has in abundance, which is why this record will probably not come within a million miles of the chart.