I was at IU during Victor Oladipo’s final season with that dynamic 2012-13 team before getting drafted. It was easy to love Oladipo’s play on the hardwood, but the shooting guard and future Pacers All-Star made his presence known around campus for another reason — he loved to sing. So while it may have been a surprise to some when Oladipo belted out some Sinatra before the 2015 slam dunk contest, IU fans knew this was Oladipo just being himself.
Despite being in the midst of a promising NBA career (and dealing with a knee injury that’s kept him sidelined since mid-November), the singing itch obviously hasn’t disappeared for Oladipo, who released his full-length debut album, V.O., last Friday. This album comes on the heels of his first EP, Songs for You, that was released last year.
Overall, the result is rock-solid. Oladipo, who’s known for his energetic play on the court, brings the same energy to this eight-track, 25-minute album of love songs, love songs, and... well... more love songs.
He makes his impressions clear with uptempo opening track “Lights On,” and things proceed from there. “Forward” is an high note-hitting album highlight, and “Connected” has a Frank Ocean vibe to it. On “Testify” and “First Chance,” he isn’t afraid to slow things down, and album closer “Funny Thing About Love” even sounds somewhat inspirational.
The album features a bunch of recognizable guest artists, such as Tory Lanez, Eric Bellinger, PnB Rock, and Trey Songz. But Oladipo is the star here. There’s definite passion in his voice, and you can tell this is not Victor Oladipo the Basketball Player making the album, it’s Victor Oladipo the Singer, and unlike with past athletes that have released albums, there’s a noticeable difference between the two.
Another thing about Oladipo that shouldn’t be surprising but is worth pointing out is that he actually sings and sings well here. In an era where Post Malone mumbles his way to the top of the pop charts, and Drake can’t ever decide if he’s rapping or singing, Oladipo isn’t afraid of the microphone, and as shown in this Billboard interview, he’s put a lot of thought into each track.
In addition, the fact that he’s doing this while keeping up an All-Star NBA career is also impressive. Young athletes are more than ever being forced into specializing in one sport, without room for other interests. The NFL seems to really take issue with players having interests off the field as well. Yet here’s Oladipo, delivering a legitimate R&B album that isn’t a vanity project, with songs that aren’t about life as a basketball player. It’s downright refreshing.
“V.O.” may not break any ground in the genre and there’s no indication that Oladipo is going to quit his day job and go on tour. But it confirms to the world what many IU fans already knew: The guy loves to sing, and isn’t afraid to use that voice either. This is an enjoyable debut of eight R&B songs from Oladipo, and a statement that his talents aren’t just limited to the basketball court.