Lemar - Dedication

It's symptomatic of the reality TV pop phenomenon, but as we write this review there's only 2 names who truly mean anything - Phixx and Alex Parks (oh, and those Girls Aloud bints if you've fallen for the hype). Gareth Gates and Will Young seem to be heading begrudgingly down the dumper, Liberty X have released a bland album of Lumpen R&B and the first series of Fame Academy might as well be written off as a bad mistake for all it's success story. Sneddon has recently announced he's giving up the fame game so he can presumably write cod Robbie Williams meets Toploader styled pap for a new generation who progressively start acting like their parents a generation too early and the less said about Ainslie or Sinead the better.

Rank outsider Lemar on the hand has delivered the goods to everyone's surprise on his debut album "Dedication". If "Dance (With U)" offers an immediate indication of what to expect - 80s styled soul in the tradition of the greats rather than trying to fake his urban stylings with Neptune's lite beats and the obligatory Sean Paul collaboration. "Body Talk" sound like Lemar covering Justin Timberlake's "Rock Ya Body" in the style of Stevie Wonder. It's the sort of seamless cross-pollination of our forefathers and still sounding contemporary enough to avoid accusations of AOR coffee table soul. Not that there aren't points where the sweet saccharine soul can turn into a smaltzy sugary mess such as on "What About Love?" which brings images of Lemar staring intently to the heavens while a distant figure plays the piano in the background. "Another Day" balances things up and while it touches vaguely on the same sentiment as Daniel Beddingfield's "If You're Not The One" is somehow elevates itself to the status of a bona fide classic for even the hardest of hearts.

Where Lemar falls down on is his approximation of urban music. This is a guy who was brought up singing gospel music in his local Baptist Church and on "Hot Summer" is now singing about his homies, champagne popping and what appears to be the phrase "hold it down my n**ger". Whether this is down to Lemar himself or some white record company exec deciding this is what urban music is all about I don't know but it ain't convincing and stinks of a real desperation to gain some credibility. The only throwback to his Fame Academy is on "Lullaby", a track he wrote with fellow student Ainslie and sees Lemar's soul vibe mixed with a Travis lite guitar backing.

When I first got this CD in the office i'll admit I was ready to tear Lemar to shreds, but you just can't do it. "Dedication" is an album overflowing with quality and given the space between the TV Program and now he might just be able to forge a long-lasting career based on real talent rather than hype. If this is just the start then it's going to be amazing following Lemar as he progresses as an artist.

Alex McCann

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