Often praised, long troubled actor Robert Downey Jr. makes his solo vocal debut with The Futurist. Having sang in various film and TV projects, it was often rumored that Downey wanted to make a move to the music business. Well, the rumors were true and the results are largely laudable. Vocally, Downey has a unique sound that falls somewhere between the melancholy twang of Bruce Hornsby and the soulful grit of Joe Cocker -- think Bruce Springsteen doing a cabaret night. Musically, he lands squarely in the adult contemporary vein with songs that recall So-era Peter Gabriel and post-Soul Cages Sting -- synthesizers abound. Respectably, Downey wrote many of the songs on The Futurist as well as collaborated with journeyman pop scribe Mark Hudson -- who also shares production credits here with one-time Yes producer Jonathan Elias. That said, Downey's ear tends toward the languid and his lyrics, while heartfelt, are obtuse and often seem to dance around deep issues without revealing much. For example, on the title track he sings, "They'll take the walk/We'll sage the world/Sounds like October/A Futurist nose/Our furious, curious, fantasist code" -- code indeed. Not surprisingly, though, Downey the actor turns out to be a great interpreter of other musicians' work. His duet with Jon Anderson on the classic Yes track "Your Move" sounds absurd in theory, but the rub between Downey's throaty croon and Anderson's angelic background vocals is truly invigorating. Similarly, he seems to bring all the highs and lows of his life and career to bear on his trio version of Charlie Chaplin's "Smile," featuring legendary jazz bassist Charlie Haden. While the album may not hold any clues to the future of Downey's music career, in the moment The Futurist is as unpredictably moving as the best of Downey's film work.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar