Release Date: Apr 23, 2013
Record label: Cult Records
Genre(s): R&B, Pop/Rock, Neo-Soul
Har Mar Superstar is known widely for his flamboyant antics and overly sexualized lyrics—some even propose that Sean Tillman’s albums are a joke. Bye Bye 17 doesn’t strike that way at all. The 10-song album explores love in despairing, hilarious and sometimes weird ways. No matter the lyrical content, Tillman’s silken, Otis Redding–reminiscent vocals anchor funky, horn-driven R & B beats that match the swagger of Motown.
Har Mar Superstar was a man for the early to mid ’00s, when his single-entendre R&B earned him a fleeting notoriety, somewhere between electroclash provocateur and indie-rock semi-celebrity. His fifth album, however, is worth a listen. ‘Bye Bye 17’ ditches raunch and irony for old-fashioned songwriting and something approaching sincerity, and the results are kind of amazing.
Over the course of his tenure as Har Mar Superstar, Sean Tillmann has always looked backwards to R&B nasty-jam provocateurs like Prince for inspiration, rekindling the fire of the classic sex jam while his contemporaries were reviving garage rock. Bye Bye 17, however, finds the songwriter looking even further back, diving headfirst into classic R&B with an album that's more about soul than sleaze. With crunchy, retro production and a full band (including a horn section) backing him up, the album finds Har Mar channeling greats like Sam Cooke as he pours his heart into tracks like "Lady, You Shot Me," and "Everywhere I’m Local." While the stylistic change seems a bit jarring at first, the change is ultimately a refreshing one.
After a four-year hiatus, Har Mar Superstar, looking like the bedraggled fraternal twin of Lena Dunham, has finally reemerged onto the musical landscape with his latest album, Bye Bye 17, proving that if nothing else, the career of Sean Tillmann’s alter ego will be remembered for his undying tenacity. It must have been quite a feat to hang on to his chunky, funky, oversexed, Ron Jeremy-lookalike one-trick pony, as it has bucked and reared over the last decade. In fact his mere existence should stand as a monolith of hope, for those artists who worry they won’t last the distance in the face of cultural and critical indifference.
"Is this guy for real?" "What exactly is his problem?" "Why does he have to be naked?" - all valid questions upon one's first exposure to Har Mar Superstar. After his 2000 debut, Har Mar catapulted to international semi-fame with the 2002 album You Can Feel Me, complete with a rather bizarre appearance on the Jimmy Kimmel show where he did "Power Lunch" and Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke". If he wasn't breakdancing in a thong throughout much of the performance, your first thought might have been, "he does Stevie pretty well".
"Lady, you shot me!" Sam Cooke's final words when Bertha Franklin unloaded the fatal rounds into his chest are the opening sob of Minneapolis' second least likely sex symbol. Tagged too long as a novelty act – just because he sometimes tucks his chubby physique into a thong – now Sean Tillman deliciously and shamelessly embraces his Motown passions. Label boss Julian Casablancas lends fellow Stroke Fabrizio Moretti to add an NYC disco rat-a-tat to "Prisoner," then "Everywhere I'm Local" creates psychedelic doo-wop, its cosmic keys and boop-beeps swirling over Archies-style teen pain.