Har Mar Superstar is Sean Tillman - long known in the Minneapolis-St Paul area for his work with bands Calvin Krime and Sean Na Na - who nearly a decade ago decided to test his R&B chops and began performing under his current moniker (named after St. Paul’s Har Mar Mall), to the simultaneous delight and disgust of crowds across the upper-Midwest.
There’s no doubt Har Mar has vocal talent. At times evoking Prince or Stevie Wonder, it’s easy to forget you’re listening to a chubby Minnesotan with a year-round February tan and hair that sticks out, well, everywhere. Audiences don’t always get it, admittedly. He’s garnered a love-hate relationship with crowds in recent years as an opening act for groups like the Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I’ve witnessed nothing but warm reception in his appearances (in the Twin Cities), but can understand the average Australian Chili Peppers fan anticipating Anthony Kiedis dancing around in a diaper having difficulty welcoming a similar level of exposure from Har Mar Superstar. Thankfully, Har Mar is showing that you don’t have to be poster-perfect to make it in music - or in Hollywood. He made a cameo appearance as “Dancin’ Rick” in the otherwise forgettable Starsky and Hutch movie, and now appears in Drew Barrymore’s “Whip It”, where he befriended Juno’s Ellen Page and Arrested Development’s Alia Shawkat (the former told a story on the Tonight Show a few weeks ago about the three of them vacationing in Amsterdam and the latter appears in Har Mar’s video for “Tall Boy”). The three of them are apparently now developing an HBO comedy called “Stitch N’ Bitch.”
The aforementioned “Tall Boy” track was originally written by Har Mar for Brittany Spears, but, perhaps not shockingly, it was rejected by her handlers. Presumably, they didn’t care for her being associated with blue collar drinking metaphors. Because, you know, she’s such a classy lady. Instead, Har Mar performs it himself, lyrically unaltered, as the first single from his Dark Touches album. The song is actually pretty impressive, I thoroughly enjoy the rhythmic can-opening noises which cause me to feel a strange (and otherwise unprecedented) desire to crack a 24 oz. PBR. The video is quite entertaining as well, featuring Eva Mendes and a sort of Daft Punk-reminiscent space-suited android Har Mar Superstar displaying just a hint of his ample robo-gut.
Dark Touches - his fourth full-length release and first in five years - is overall a pleasant surprise. There’s a certain something on offer here that was perhaps lacking in his previous releases. Maybe it takes a turn toward mainstream pop, but more than that I would say it possesses a certain level of consistent listenability that had always been sadly missing. And while I would have long classified myself as a fan, I would say that only now has he released an album that will enable him to cross the line from novelty act to legitimate entertainment. His trademark absurd (and invariably sexually explicit) lyrical turns of phrase are evident as always - my favorite is “Game Night” (featuring P.O.S and Adam Green) an electro-hip-hop ditty which rattles off various family board games and associated thuggish taunts “Gonna slay your crew in a game of Taboo” and “I got all the railroads. Crushing you.” And the title of the seventh track; “Gangsters Want to Cuddle Me” I think says it all.
Regardless of your feelings about lewd under-groomed chubby Minnesota R&B personalities who are gifted with buttery smooth voices, flawless dance moves and astronomical self-esteem, you’re going to be seeing a lot more of Har Mar Superstar. For those not faint of heart, search him on YouTube and sample his appearances in the “Crappy Holidays” short videos or check him out on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon October 26th. There's nothing quite like seeing him live, however, in all his glistening near-nude splendor. I recommend practicing your "horrified delight" expression in the mirror beforehand.