To keep from playing the fool, an athlete needs to understand when he’s setting foot where he doesn’t belong. At odd times like these, he needs to hear he’s stepped out of bounds.
Someone, please tell Houston Rockets star James Harden that he has.
Look, I’m not an expert on contemporary R&B. My musical tastes run toward Joshua Redman, Al Jarreau, Randy Crawford and soul artists from the old Motown stable of stars. I like Cee-Lo Green, Mary J. Blige and John Legend as much as I do a New Year’s Day hangover. They have a style that I can’t get with.
These R&B artists aren’t trying to appeal to me, though. They’re trying to reach an audience Harden would fit into well: young and urban cool — a double scoop of the good life.
With center Dwight Howard as his Houston sidekick, Harden has a future as bright as the North Star. His future is in hoops, not in harmonies.
If any pro athlete should not abandon his day job, Harden would be that pro athlete. His foray into the music biz brings laughter if not derision or disgust. He dropped a single last week called “Harden Soul,” a clever title that trumps the vocals.
In this solo, he displayed a musical range from A to B, which puts him in the company of Paris Hilton, Miley Cyrus and American Idol icon William Hung. Harden makes Carl Lewis, Shaq O’Neal and Floyd Mayweather sound like Sam Cooke, Otis Redding or Marvin Gaye.
Using the stage name “J-Hot,” Harden has a voice that could rouse the dead. The lyrics in his debut solo are as wooden as a baseball bat; they aren’t Metta World Peace, as Nick Creegan of FOXsports.com put it, rapping about saving mankind.
Perfect pitch is lost on Harden. He might as well be Vanilla Ice. He holds a note like Howard shoots free throws.
It is comical to see men stretch beyond their reach, and too many of them tend to do so in entertainment and sports, where friends massage their egos with words of encouragement.
Friends have done Harden no favors.
Like hip hop or any art form, R&B has its structure, and Harden sounds as if he spent no time mastering that structure. His singing is God awful, like a dog howling at the sun. He finds himself in good company here, however.
While it’s fine for a man to have grand dreams, he must wrap his dreams in reality. R Kelly will never lead the Chicago Bulls to the NBA championship, and James Harden will never make the Billboard Hot 100.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)