Friday, October 27, 2006

Har Mar

Wherein not just a mall


So I'm driving into work a couple years ago, and hear the last half of a song that blows me away. One of the benefits of listening to college radio as opposed to commercial is that if you call you'll probably get the DJ. Artist was Har Mar Superstar and the song was Transit; an intriguing piece of studio-engineered funk. Heavy doses of self-deprecating humor, reasonably well sung, it grabbed me and based on that 2 minutes I bought two CDs. I was also intrigued by the name since Har Mar is the name of a mall down the road from the Minnesota State Fair. Turns out the guy is from St. Paul. Real name Sean Tillman, he also has a rock band, Sean Na Na. Hmm, looks like I just missed them in concert.

Har Mar is much more popular in Europe than the US, where the character seems to be celebrated for his goofiness more than his singing. And it is an interesting character. Looking quite a bit like the schlubby Jon Lovitz' animated character from The Critic, he often strips to his underwear while his songs are almost parodies of the sexual boasting of R&B and rap.

The guy can sing, but it can be hard to take him seriously after watching a couple videos:

I have an earlier CD, You Can Feel Me and, my favorite, The Handler. In The Handler, Har Mar proves to be a student of R&B. Compared to earlier CDs and tracks I've heard, the whole effort also sounds like an attempt to be taken more seriously as a singer without completely foregoing the humor -- from what I remember of the reviews, not many people enjoyed this album as much as I did; come to think of it, when I passed around a few tracks at work, it was pretty much hated. Checking iTunes, DUI is one of my most listened to songs (try getting the video to work here) and traffics in early Jackson 5 and Prince falsettos. Body Request is early 80s Michael Jackson and Sugar Pie is a decent Stevie Wonder cut. Love the lyrics for As (Seasons) and the delivery reminds me a little of Eminem, while Save the Strip is also more recent hip hop. I'll also recommend the weirdness of Back the Camel Up, the jazzy funk of Bird in Hand, and dipping back into the 70s with a very sad Alone Again (Naturally). Fair warning, I might be the only person who likes this CD.

For a good sense of what I'm trying to get across about Har Mar, it's worth viewing this clip from Jimmy Kimmel. First he strips down to sing Power Lunch with some very sexy dancers, then, if you can hang out until about the 4 minute mark, still in only his underwear, he rips into an amazing Sir Duke. I like the guy.

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