SPIN 2015 Exit Interviews: OMI

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It’s always surprising when a pop song goes from zero to Top 40. There was a time before said song was everywhere, legend has it, but the hit so quickly became omnipresent, blasting from every speaker and earbud, that it’s now hard to remember a time when it wasn’t that way. (Do you remember living in a time before “Fancy” or “Super Bass” dominated the radio?) It’s even more surprising to learn, then, that one particular omnipresent track effortlessly strolled its way to Song of the Summer status nearly three years after its initial release.

That’s what happened to Jamaican-American singer OMI when his ubiquitous song “Cheerleader” bathed the world in some much-needed rays of pop sunshine. Originally written in 2008 and recorded/released in 2012, the track only achieved moderate success in Jamaica where the effervescent star — born Omar Samuel Pasley — was signed to an indie label. But in 2014, OMI found his own professional cheerleader when the glitzy dance label Ultra Music noticed the song and commissioned a floaty, tropical remix by the 20-year-old German house producer Felix Jaehn. The new version slowly climbed the global charts, eventually breaking into the U.S. in May — just in time for it to ascend to its gradual Song of the Summer coronation.

The real highlight of OMI’s 2015, though, came in October when he dropped his debut album, Me 4 U. At 29, the singer’s happy to be here, topping the charts and sharing the 1989 tour stage with Taylor Swift, but he’s also earnestly savvy. It took a while for OMI’s career to jump into hyperdrive, and he’s determined to make 2015 go down as a real starting point, not just a flash of pom poms. SPIN spoke to OMI over the phone to discuss his rapid rise to fame, remix culture, and, yes, avoiding that dreaded three-word phrase: One-hit wonder.

I have to ask: Are you at all sick of “Cheerleader” yet?
[Laughs.] Oh, no. I don’t think I’m ever gonna be sick of that song. Maybe because it opened a lot of doors for everything else that I might do. And I live life with a philosophy that goes, “Remember the past, picture the future.”

Did you ever think that you’d be a part of the debate about the Song of the Summer?

Oh, man, I think that was even more exciting than the confirmation. It sounds weird, but the journey sometimes is even bigger than the destination. So leading up to the point where the song was officially called “Song of the Summer” was a thrilling ride.

What was it like when Felix Jaehn remixed “Cheerleader” years after its release? Do you have any feelings about the fact that the remixed version is the one that became so hugely popular instead of your 2012 original?
No, I don’t feel that way about it. Because what I believe is every musician — all great artists — collaborate. And as a musician, you might be able to take a song from nothing to 50 percent and somebody else is gonna take it from 50 percent to another figure until it reaches its full potential. It wouldn’t be right for me to have any hard feelings about it because it’s still me on the song. I love the fact that the DJ kept true to the essence of the song. It didn’t distract you from what the song was about, and it’s still my vocals, so it’s like a win-win.

For the full interview see here: https://www.spin.com/2015/12/omi-cheerleader-2015-exit-interview/

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