THREE THINGS turn me on about Simon Curtis. In no particular order: 1) his music is impossible to stop listening to, and if you can resist dancing to it you are stronger than I, 2) he’s got balls--releasing his first album 8Bit Heart himself for free to build up followers and his second album RA through iTunes on his very own BoyRobot Records label, and 3) he is hotter than the melting point of carbon (the highest melting point for any chemical element, for my non-nerd readers).
There is no point in telling the whole story; just Google him. In a nutshell, this Tulsa-raised singer-songwriter beat leukemia as a child and went on to perform in the national tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, win Popstar Magazine’s “Get Famous” contest, write a song for Disney, and win the role of Royce Du Lac in the Nickelodeon musical Spectacular!. That’s the bio, but who cares? What really matters is the music.
To be up front, I hit Curtis in reverse order, hearing his second album before his first (what can I say, I am slightly out of touch here in Japan). RA (here), an acronym for “Robot Army” (a slightly Gaga-esque term of affection for his fans), is a brilliant album. It’s high energy pop with driving beats and surprisingly hard-edged lyrics, and a dark streak with teeth. There isn’t really a bad track on it, but for me the real stand-outs are “Flesh,” “Joshua,” “Chip in Your Head,” “Laser Guns Up,” and “Soul 4 Sale.” Having said this, after buying RA on iTunes and playing it over and over again until my iPhone begged for mercy, I went back to download 8Bit Heart and had trouble believing it was a self-produced debut album. “Delusional,” “Diablo,” and the mind-blowing “Joystick” are pieces a veteran pop star would be jealous of.
Now, I have no idea what this 26-year-old’s sexuality is, and it’s irrelevant to the quality of his music anyway, but whether or not Curtis is gay, he is certainly giving voice to things gay people can relate to. “Joystick” deviously evokes adolescent sexual discovery with a definite gay slant, “Flesh” is the flip side to Adam Lambert’s “For Your Entertainment” (and I must say, a far more daring and raw piece of song-writing). Song after song coyly flirt with a gay audience while deviously leaving themselves open to appeal to those of any gender and/or orientation. As mentioned, he does this better than Lambert and I daresay better than Gaga.
But laying aside the naughty thoughts he fills my head with, the most important thing about Curtis is the fact that he is doing it all himself. This is where I have to take my hat off to the man (if I wore one). Having a good Japanese friend who is trying to do the same thing here in Japan, and as a novelist flirting with the idea of self-publishing, part of what makes Curtis so sexy is his unflinching faith in himself, his fierce independence, and his determination to pursue his own artistic vision without selling out. His tremendous success is inspirational, and I think this is what sets him aside from any other pop act out there.
Bottom line, this guy is definitely here to stay, and as the Borg say, “resistance is futile.” So go ahead, get the “Chip in Your Head,” join the Robot Army, and stop fighting it.