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Tom Odell

Never has there been a modern-day artist that has divided critics so much as the fresh-faced TOM ODELL – only JAMES BLUNT or LEONARD COHEN might’ve been close in their heyday. Maybe ODELL’s sub-par KEANE, or his one-man COLDPLAY imitations alienated journos into lambasting his classically-trained/Seaford College background, but for the oft-baiting NME (and its reviewer) to give his inaugural album 0/10, while tabloids such as The Telegraph and The Observer shouted from the rooftops on other end of the spectrum, well, the jury was indeed out to lunch. Tom’s airline pilot father was incensed enough to call the NME to ask the reasons why.
Born 24th November 1990, Chichester in West Sussex, the young ODELL was brought up on the likes of DYLAN, COHEN and ELTON JOHN. Choosing not the route of X-Factor and sticking to his guns on fighting his own solitary corner, key-of-the-door Tom landed a lucrative deal at Columbia Records; offshoot imprint, In The Name Of, taking up the reins. From TV appearances on Later… with Jools Holland, and nominations for Critics Choice at the Brit Awards, ODELL was ready to unleash his brooding and crescendo-esque masterpiece, `Another Love’. A tearjerker and melodramatic ballad, the Top 10 record was spun out everywhere to promote his debut set, LONG WAY DOWN (2013) {*6}. Gate-crashing pole position in its first week of release, stop-me-if-you’ve-heard-this-one-before crooner ODELL drew from numerous example of songsmiths; the haunting `Grow Old With Me’, the glam-y-WHITE STRIPES-esque `Hold Me’ and the intense `Can’t Pretend’, other evocative tracks that reviewers might’ve skipped through first time around.
Whether the unwarranted criticism got to Tom, as he pulled out of a ROLLING STONES support gig that July because of illness, well… all would be put to one side when a version of The BEATLES’ `Real Love’ (from a festive John Lewis ad) reached the Top 10 in 2014. More would be revealed on that difficult sophomore set. Accompanied by several video vignettes scripted by movie buff himself Tom (and directed by George Bellfield), WRONG CROWD (2016) {*7} proved the swooning singer-songwriter was no one-trick-pony. He’d now settled in the bright lights of New York and L.A. – and it showed on the dancefloor-friendly and silky `Magnetised’, `Concrete’, `Silhouette’ and `Here I Am’. Filling a void left behind by KEANE, the UK Top 3 set re-established an orchestral ODELL as crooner incarnate to Sir ELTON JOHN, JEFF BUCKLEY or PASSENGER (examples `Still Getting Used To Being On My Own’, the flighty `Sparrow’ and the dub-beat title track).
Touted as a Mercury Prize nominee/winner right from the get-go, the soulful/gospel-esque JUBILEE ROAD (2018) {*6} once again divided critics. His third Top 5 album was presented in a 2-dimensional aplomb: on one end of the spectrum ODELL was pensive and melancholy (i.e. the opening title track, `You’re Gonna Break My Heart’ et al) and on the other hand, upbeat and spiritual on `China Dolls’, `Go Tell Her Now’ and `Son Of An Only Child’. The only exceptions to the rule was his duet with tip-for-the-top newcomer Alice Merton on `Half As Good As You’, and other download single, `If You Wanna Love Somebody’; add BILLY JOEL to his usual “Crocodile Rocker” suspects.
© MC Strong/MCS Jul2013-Nov2018

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