It’s definitely saying something about the country’s present condition when Omarion, of B2K fame and Ashlee Simpson, of Jessica Simpson’s ugly sister fame, can both produce albums that debut at number one on the Billboard charts. A suspension of reality, perhaps? The need for one is always necessary if one aims to fully embrace any product of mainstream music. Sure the content of Omarion’s freshmen effort, O is characterized by continuous renditions of the “I wanna be wichoo girl” mold typical of most R&B ballads, but what other pool of experience does he have to draw from?
In its attempt at passing off Omarion like some STD-free version of that other much-talked about controversial star of R&B, O proves that popularity is all about perfected emulation. Usher Raymond and Omarion Grandberry. Aaliyah and Ashanti. Yeah, you get the point. Despite a mild sprinkling of expletives throughout O, Omarion is merely a sanitized clone of Urrrrsher himself and lacks the “If I wanted I could take you from your man with my eyes closed” arrogance of the original.
In a similar way, O falls into the dangerous gray area of “easily forgotten” because it lacks an identifiable edge, which causes the compilation of songs to slowly meld into one continuous sound. Omarion plays it safe with his first album, relying on formulaic tunes insured for mass acceptability for success. Songs like “I Wish,” “I Know” and “I’m Tryna,” aside from suffering from a shockingly bad case of title repetition, also recycle content and sound. As soon as the obligatory, slow tinkling sound that always opens ballads enters my ears, I know I’ve heard this song before … in this case, three minutes ago.
Viable dance tracks like “Take it Off” inject desperately needed ounces of energy into the album, but are still derivative in nature. “It be shakin’ like a Polaroid picture” urges Omarion in a P. Diddy-esque example of blatant repetition. Not exactly a resevoir of vocal prowess, Omarion instead opts for the patented Britney Spears approach of filling his songs with husky words, random moaning and somewhat sexy whispers. Is there no hope for this album?
Look, I’m not going to lie. I loved B2K, despite the adolescent quartet’s frequent attempts at obtaining sex-symbol status before their driver’s licenses. Poppy, hip hop songs by a boy band with an affinity for synchronized dance moves while collectively decked out in Burberry? What’s not to love? Yeah, it’s hard to explain. The saving grace of O (if there can be one at all) is “Growing Pains,” where Omarion reflects on the break up of his “boys for life.” There are no “mami’s” or “bootyshakin” on this track and for once Omarion drops the player-status image to confess, “This is my growin’ pains/ Cause by the fortune and fame.”
Archived article by Tracy Zhang
Arts and Entertainment Editor