dimanche 13 février 2011

The next Youtube sensation is called...

Omar Afuni
and he is from Kuwait
Remember his name : a star is in the making !

I was intending to post about Same Difference's second album this weekend as it was released last monday but I still haven't received my CD (Grrr!!) so I was just blogging around when I came to a post in a chatbox about a talented guy who needed to be giving a listening chance and gave a link for FREE download of his album. Even not knowing the style of music he did but curiousness took the best of me and had me following the link
http://www.omarafuni.com and I came to a blog page where you can direct download a full amount of good electro pop in full 192 kb glory and listen to it soon after while reading the posts of his blog and biography or watching his youtube videos. I spent the rest of the evening there, totally spellbound by his talent !

The videos of his cover versions are incredible and from the oldest ones (Rihanna's Umbrella) to the latest (Lady Gaga's Born this way mashed up with Madonna's Express yourself/Jump) through the fabulous Katy Perry's Teenage dream/California gurls mashup or Ke$ha's Your love is my drug, Lady gaga's Bad romance and Christina Aguilera's singles, you hear and see the guy learned from his mistakes and now does the best : other recent highlights are Bruno Mars' Grenade and Cee-Lo's Forget you. When he initially sang and danced for the camera on his backing track then sang and played keyboards live while recording music & vid, he now records the lead vocals & vid and then mixes it with the backing track with additional vocals to a full professional result. His voice goes less vocalizing too and it's a good thing as its overuse was too much. Shall I add there he looks so much better with his hair cut short too ! ;)

So we now know he's a vocally talented guy who knows how to belt out a tune with his heart, and not only copies the original version of the song, and sure he knows how to play piano too 'cos all the music belongs to him too. And the 25 year old boy is good-looking, middle-east type with large shoulders (half-Jordanian, half-Lebanese with Turkish origins), tender brown eyes and a smile the groupies cannot resist. But this guys has even more talents : he sings but also writes and composes and plays and produces and mixes his own songs and he has released his first collection of 14 original songs on iTunes, Amazon and co worldwide. And all of this from his little bedroom and his spare time (he works full-time as civil engineer on construction sites 'cos like everybody he needs to pay the bills...). This guy is amazing ! How can he still not having been picked up in a real-TV music show a la X-Factor or Pop Idol and have already raised to the fame he deserved ?!
The country he lives in must not be the perfect place for a pop music fan & star in the making to break through for sure. And that's a real shame so please do like me : Give him a listening chance and if you like it, spread the world, help him get the chance to travel to the UK or US and make his music heard : record companies nowadays can sign an artist on the huge following he's got on the net. He sure looks older than Justin Bieber but he's cuter to me and he sounds a lot more talented and distinctive. His electro pop has slight arabian flavour (not too much of it, don't worry) and his voice is pure bliss, like honey for the ears. He makes it go high and low like he wants it or so it seems, and you get hypnotized by its warmness. He decided to become a singer when he was 8 and since then has grown and practiced a lot singing the artists he likes, George Michael, Mariah Carey, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston and Christina Aguilera, but we see from his cover versions that the new dance/pop stars appeal to him too.

So now comes the real thing. I have listened to his album, Resurrected and need to post a full review for it like I usually does with international star. But Omar Afuni is one too ! If not how can he be featured on a french blog like mine ?

Resurrected starts with the first single he displayed to his fans through his blog and iTunes last November, Resurrect me, and it all all starts vocally with the chorus lines nearly a cappella before the electro music loops get in with symphonic arabian arrangements : "Resurrect me babe I'm fallin', resurrect me I'm a billion pieces. Resurrect me, save me, bring me back, back, back. I'm dead without you..." The song is catchy and gives a nice first flavour of what's to come : good electro pop with middle-east influences in the vocalizes and strings. At more than 5 minutes the track doesn't sound too long but it sure would be too long to get radio airplay. It needs a radio edit !
Where I can dance follows and should be the next single. There surely couldn't be a better choice 'cos this electro-fused upbeat anthem could make a bang in the clubs. The 3'30 original version makes me want to dance with my hands in the air on a crowdy dancefloor : warm, hot and sexy are the words that come to my mind to express how this club banger makes me feel. So you bet what a full extended version can do to a real dancefloor ! Some dance label out there in the US should pick this up and release it as a test : it would top the Circuit club charts.
Blind is next and was released as a preview to the album too. It is more of a mid-tempo with vocoderized backing vocals but the chorus lines stick to your head : "Love turned off the lights, turned off the lights. Love made me so blind, made me so blind..." The atmospheric break is nice and really gives more power to the final part of the song and chorus with its high-pitched ad lib vocals. But this song is not as catchy as the two previous ones for me.
With Get ova U Omar goes back into the electro club upbeat dance song with nice strings adding light to a dark and sexy overcharged atmosphere. I imagine his songs would sound perfect in the clubs and backrooms of the middle East where european and american tourists would go dancing and fooling around with locals. The repetition of the Get ova U words in the chorus is catchy and doesn't sound too much at all : I like it !

200 BPM has a strange title and chorus line but its effect is quite hypnotizing : All through the song, I was surprised to find me waiting for the next "Two, O, O, B, P, M" even though there is a real chorus too :) Not a single but a nice album track.

Puppet show's intro gives the mark and we know this one is a more arabian influenced R&B track with full-on urban effects like its Oh Oh refrain backing vocals. It is not my usual cup of tea but it doesn't make me skip to the next one as it is catchy enough to have me listen to it.

With Chaos (magnetic) Omar adds a harder edge to his electro sounds with some rock guitar riffs. His voice is filtered in bits and there are nice reverb/acid loops and echoed effects that all makes this new track another potential single choice. Its magnetism is certain.

Change of pace with the next song, Lavender love, where Omar is all emotional and romantic, using a beautiful piano melody to enlighten his warm and tender vocals. The first verse is the only one that is stripped to the piano/voice as more layers of piano, strings and other orchestral elements build up a warm wall of sound for the whole song until the final part where only slight piano notes and Omar's vocals end it like started. This song is so beautiful I listened to it a second time, touched to the heart by its beauty. As mad into dance/pop upbeat songs I am, I equally love piano-led acoustic ballads when they are touching and emotive and Lavender love is all that and would sound perfect on a Valentines' day compilation CD.

Omar continues with beautiful piano notes in the intro of Stupid (fly away) that sounds like another romantic (but more upbeat) ballad until an electro bridge follows the first chorus. But it goes back into the piano ballad for second verse and chorus. It is there after that the song evolves into a longer electro mixed piece that is a winning combinaison. The song gains in catchiness without losing its emotional depth. Another real good surprise with a chorus you find yourself singing along way after the song has ended !

Eviction sees the techno sounds come back, strangely it seems on a rock tempo while the verses play but the pre-chorus and then chorus makes it become an addictive retro but modern dance/jazz fusion pop anthem. Eviction must be a patchwork of Omar's influences and it remembers me of how Christina Aguilera sometimes sounds, in her Back To Basics era. I bet she would have loved to record this one for Bi-on-ic !

Hologram is another mixed bag, this time with arabian melody and electro/techno arrangements. At bits, I heard Daft Punk, sometimes it reminds me of Ofra Haza's Im n'in alu but as an ensemble, Omar sounds more like a modern Tarkan here. Despite its influences that don't really belong to the usual music I listen to, I didn't dislike this song as its repetitive chorus is very catchy and the dance elements stay stronger than the middle east influences.

Baby back's intro sounds like real drums giving the rhythm for an upbeat rock number, except Baby back is more of a catchy pop song that would have been perfect 100% organic-sounding without the electro synthé loops that disturb the chorus lines I think. A slightly remix polishing this little out of place acid sound would make this song a very addictive pop single. Is it me already gettin' used to it or have these loops been shut down a bit on the last choruses that sound a lot more better than the two firsts ? I need to replay this song after I'm done posting this review to check it out ;)

Delicate piano notes and atmospheric arrangements prepare ourselves for a new calm song and a warm and tender vocal performance by our talented guy. "Peel the layers of your soul for me (...) Show me your true colours" goes the chorus of Layers and it'd surely be a pleasure to be peeled off our clothes and everything hiding our truth by Omar Afuni. His voice is sexy and sultry, the beats are hot and forceful, the music overwhelming and caressing. I didn't see the 5'20 of the song coming to its end...

Reunited starts with a funky bass and electric rubbings that create a musical playfield for the doubts and search for himself this personal song shows. "Baby I was lost in a world where I couldn't recognize myself, I was someone else." I feel Omar Afuni has hidden one of his more personal lyrics at the end of the album because he wanted to include his thoughts but his will is beforehand to cheer people up with his music the same way as the music gives him the power to keep waking up every morning to go to work when all he wants to do is take his mic and sing for us a new Youtube video or play piano and create a brand new song for people like me to fall in love with...

Not to end on this deep feelings, Resurrected has a remix of Blind as conclusion and this Paradise Garage remix has a galoping joyful beat that gets you back on your feet to dance with your hands up in the air to the rhythm and the melody that makes the original mid-tempo R&B/pop song a full-on house anthem, like the name of the remix paid hommage to, mashing it up with the Motown hit You keep me hangin' on. His soulful rendition of the lyrics Kim Wilde popularized when he was only 1 year old fit perfectly with his original chorus and I can't help thinking it is a shame this album has already come to its end.


That natural conclusion is the only one you oughta come to if you give this album a chance !

If you want to know more about Omar Afuni, you have simply got to go to his site :

All the lyrics to his songs are found there too : http://www.omarafuni.com/lyrics/

If you want to support him, go and buy his music via iTunes http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/omar-afuni/id404213609

And I think you have got to subscribe (free) to his Youtube channel so that you won't miss his next hit cover version : http://www.youtube.com/user/OmarAfuni

And if you like what you read/heard/saw, please SPREAD THE WORD !

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