The 2013 winner of the BRITs Critics’ Choice Award, Tom Odell is due to release his debut album on Monday. It’s called ‘Long Way Down’, which seems like quite an apt title, given the hoo haa around it over the last few days.
This week’s NME magazine ran a review of ‘Long Way Down’ written by Mark Beaumont, in which he called Odell a “poor, misguided wannabe who’s fallen into the hands of the music industry equivalent of Hungarian sex traffickers”. Continuing the seedy sexual theme, he added that Odell will be “all over 2013 like a virulent dose of musical syphilis”. Clearly incensed by Odell’s decision to record an album’s worth of music a gentler reviewer might have simply called “inoffensive”, Beaumont slapped a 0/10 rating on it.
What Tom thinks of this we don’t know – he spent his time over the last couple of days sending out promotional tweets to his 56,000 or so Twitter followers and made no mention of it. But we do know what Tom’s dad thinks. He’s not happy. Though, actually, that’s about as much as we do know, because the storm around all this was borne out of one single tweet, from NME Deputy Editor Lucy Jones, who simply said: “Tom Odell’s dad just called the NME office to complain about his album review”.
First came a wave of mockery, and embarrassment on Odell’s behalf, then a second wave of debate over the rights and wrongs of publishing a 0/10 review, followed by a third wave of coverage of both.
Is that zero a fair score for Odell’s album? Surely a record that, as Beaumont acknowledged in crude terms, has the capacity for mass appeal deserves more than that? But then, are we saying that appealing to a mainstream audience automatically gives an artist the right to at least an average score? Meanwhile, can a magazine that, as many have pointed out, gave the Beady Eye album 7/10 last week, really be trusted?
Though, actually, it doesn’t matter, all of this is irrelevant. All you need to know is that Tom Odell’s dad is a marketing genius. That one phonecall will have done more to sell his son’s record than any of the in-store performances Odell Junior has been busy doing this week.
When glancing over the reviews section of any magazine, the ones that stand out are the high ones and the low ones. And more so the low ones. You’ll always read a one or no star review. The worst possible situation for any artist is to be somewhere in the middle. ‘The cunts gave us a six”, is a sentence I’ve heard uttered by many a musician.
Now, at last count the NME was shifting just over 23,000 copies a week, and most of the people buying it are already primed not to like Tom Odell. They would have simply enjoyed having their distaste validated. The review will go up on the magazine’s website next week, but that’s still going to be mainly read by existing Odell-haters. But that one simple phonecall to prompt a one-off tweet sent the review viral. Like I said, genius.
And the review didn’t just create a Twitter storm, it got broadsheet level media coverage in print and online. On Wednesday, it was impossible to avoid the fact that Tom Odell had an album coming out. And it was impossible to avoid the fact that the Big Bad NME had said nasty things about him.
And here’s the thing. Just as NME readers will have been made to feel comfortable in their opinion of Odell by Beaumont’s review, his fans will have had their resolve firmed right the fuck up. What better way to show the NME a lesson than by pre-ordering the record in question that very second? Yeah! And then there are the fence sitters, who, with the NME’s brutality now in their faces, may well have been persuaded to take more of an interest in this nice young man who plays the piano.
Reviews rarely have such an impact. Tom Odell could not have hoped for a better result than this. Next time someone says something nasty about me in the comments section on this website, I’m totally getting my dad to reply.