Known only by his stage name, Romeo Dance Cheetah cut his young teeth on the vocal pyrotechnics and showmanship of artists like Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson before venturing out of his small Missouri hometown to attend school for film production at the University of Iowa and, eventually, earn his first national exposure as a contestant on the show America’s Got Talent. His unique blend of nearly reverential tribute and outrageous satire places him in his own artistic sphere, but much of what he turns to bears a recognizable sound that’s been twisted to its own individual ends in unexpected ways. Romeo Dance Cheetah deserves kudos, if nothing else, for his utter bravery – he doesn’t evidence a single stitch of concern that anyone might find him an absurd figure or struggle to take him seriously. He’s an epically gifted entertainer, but he certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Tackle his album Magnificent Man, however, with an open mind and you may find yourself rewarded.
“Magnificent Man” knocks a home run for the album with its first track. It’s a measure of the confidence Cheetah has in his material that he leads off with the album’s title cut and it’s all the more impressive considering the unusual nature of his material. The guitar work on Magnificent Man has a credible, rough and ready sound and its put to its most memorable use supporting the title song. “35 Year Olds Dancin” reveals Cheetah’s comedic side in earnest for the first time thanks to its much sharper wit than we hear in the title song. His writing can definitely cut, but he chooses easy targets for his comedy and satire. He’s also distinguished by a talent for only cutting so deep and never making things too uncomfortable for the listener despite however weird he chooses to get. “The Air Guitar Song” has the album’s biggest sound by far and definitely knows its source material with a fluent parody of arena hard rock tropes. The lyrics are often uproariously funny, but they also veer into some giddily lascivious content.
“Porcupine Love” pumps up the punk edge of the earlier “35 Year Olds Dancin’” without producing a track firmly in keeping with the other songs on the album. It’s hard to ignore how inventive he is as both a lyricist and musician, not just a comedic talent, and even the relatively simple line of attack he takes is handled with confidence and some sense of self. “1970’s Disco King” transitions early from an acoustic guitar powered opening into a hard hitting electric guitar track that rocks out quite convincingly. Romeo Dance Cheetah brings Magnificent Man to an end with the highly melodic and exceptionally produced curtain “Live the Dream”. It’s easily the straightest musical and lyrical moment on the album and a relatively surprising, but welcome, change of pace for the finish. You won’t hear another album or EP like this in 2017. Romeo Dance Cheetah has clearly discovered this own formula and explores territory that’s all his own.
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