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Odell plays up emotional, heart broken rocker status to award-winning success

Tom Odell is a 22-year-old up-and-coming singer-songwriter from Britain who fits the stereotype of the pained, sensitive, broken-hearted male whose emotions are so heavy they can only be processed alone, hunched over his instrument.

He wears oversized layered shirts, sweaters and jersey jackets (even though he doesn’t play sports), skinny jeans and boots.

He could easily fit into Gainesville’s downtown hipster scene, especially at Maude’s Classic Cafe, at its outdoor courtyard one balmy evening.

I can see him singing under the strings of lights — his soothing ballads the perfect backdrop to a good book and a hot cup of tea.

Odell’s debut album, “Long Way Down,” which was released June 24, is defined by its romantic and melancholic lyrics accompanied by the piano, which once in a while break out into rousing Mumford & Sons-type anthems (sans banjos and beards).

Like Taylor Swift, Odell takes an autobiographical approach to songwriting.

“Another Love” is a song on his new album about how “all (his) tears have been used up” on a girl he fell in love with when he was 16 or 17, and she broke his heart, he told the Daily Mail. Apparently, his inability to have a lasting relationship at 22 is because of a romance he had sometime as a teenager he can’t remember.

Or maybe it is because he needs new material.

“My last relationship, I was thinking, ‘I’ve got to end this or I’ll never write anything,’” Odell told The Daily Mail. “I think I subconsciously put myself in these situations where the girlfriend isn’t pleased with me. I’m useless as a boyfriend. That’s how I managed to write all these songs.”

Woe is Odell. Somehow I fail to sympathize with his tragic, self-indulgent attitude toward women.

Odell’s angsty, introspective style of music can also make relationships kind of awkward, he told Glamour magazine, when his friends know whom he is singing about.

“Well, the worst thing is that a couple of people think that ‘Another Love’ is about them,” he told Glamour magazine. “It’s weird, people do say, ‘Is that about me?’”

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Yet, I doubt the young artist is too concerned, seeing how he put a picture of his ex-girlfriend on the cover of his EP, “Songs from Another Love,” in October 2012.

But as with Swift, audiences can relate to the general emotions behind Odell’s personal lyrics, and as a result, he has shot to popularity.

In February, he received the 2013 BRIT Critic’s Choice Award, which has previously been given to artistic successes like Emeli Sande, Ellie Goulding, Florence Welch and Adele.

Daily Mail said some are calling him a one-man Coldplay. However, just weeks after the win, a critic at the music weekly NME gave Long Way Down a zero-star review, referring to Odell as a “poor misguided wannabe.”

But NME’s scathing review is a little misguided because aren’t all individuals wannabes?

We are not born with predetermined identities. Rather, we mold our identities based on our personalities, our inspirations and our likes, as much as our dislikes.

And Odell’s niche works for him. He may be marketing to it, but there’s a demand for his brand of music.

He has shaggy, chin-length dirty blond hair, pale skin, quintessential crooked British teeth and fine bones.

He wears fragile and damaged just as smartly as he does that Burberry jacket.

I think Odell will probably continue to rise before he falls, and then he will have a long way down.

A version of this story ran on page 13 on 10/24/2013 under the headline "Odell plays up emotional, heart broken rocker status to award-winning success"

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