Leslie Odom, Jr.


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Having recorded a wide-ranging batch of interpretations and a holiday set, Leslie Odom, Jr.'s natural next move was to work with fresh material. The Tony-winning actor and singer does just that with his third album, released a week after the biographical film Harriet, in which Odom portrays writer and abolitionist William Still. There's a little thematic connection here, specifically in "Remember Black," where Odom nimbly reflects with pain, perseverance, and pride over a grand production that at various moments evokes a jazz club, soul revue, and HBCU halftime show. The album as a whole is similarly sweeping in style, moving through big band, intimate acoustic jazz, could-be show tunes, boogaloo-laced Latin pop, and a fair amount of adult contemporary pop and R&B, with some songs either blending or switching between modes. Odom co-wrote all the originals (11 of the 13 songs) and smoothly navigates the curves and turns, singing mostly about one-on-one matters -- infatuation, exasperation, devotion -- with much more flash and a little more fire than he did on his first release. The stirring ballads "Cold" and "Lose It," and the easygoing dancefloor cut "U R My Everything," are unequivocally modern R&B and wouldn't be out of place on LPs from Brian McKnight, Tank, and Ne-Yo. Those highlights don't deviate from Odom's past enough to repel those who admire him most for his theater work. Opting to work with album co-producer Theron Feemster among a handful of other stylistically flexible R&B specialists paid off.

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