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Omarion makes his own mark with ‘O’

/ Source: Billboard

Current albums chart-topper Omarion is the latest in a long line of artists making the transition from teen dream to adult singer/songwriter.

And there is no denying that the B2K phenomenon has given the 20-year-old singer’s solo flight, “O,” a pivotal boost.

The Los Angeles urban boy band burst into public consciousness in 2001 with the top 20 R&B hit “Uh Huh.” B2K notched two more top 20 R&B hits -- “Gots Ta Be” and “Why I Love You” -- before hitting the R&B (No. 2) and pop (No. 1) big time with the 2002 single “Bump, Bump, Bump” with P. Diddy.

The group also scored two top 10 albums on The Billboard 200 in 2002. Its self-titled debut peaked at No. 2, with follow-up “Pandemonium!” landing at No. 10.

Then, on the heels of B2K’s soundtrack release, “You Got Served,” in December 2003 and before the same-titled film’s premiere the following January, the group imploded. The reason? Irreconcilable differences.

Omarion elected to stay on with the group’s manager, Chris Stokes of the Ultimate Group. Remaining members Lil Fizz, J-Boog and Raz-B are pursuing solo endeavors.

“It was time for Omarion to move on and stand on his own,” Sony Urban Music GM Lisa Ellis says.

“We’re all focusing on our own projects,” Omarion (his last name is Grandberry) says of his former groupmates. He addresses the breakup on one of his strongest album tracks, “Growing Pains,” and in his memoir, “O” (published Feb. 22). “More than anything, we had a friendship.”

Will B2K ever reunite?

“We have to build up our friendship first before anything else happens,” Omarion replies.

Asked to describe the major difference between himself then and now, the 20-year-old artist notes, “I grew up more than anything. I just want to show people I’ve matured, not just physically but mentally.

“When I was in B2K, we were just talking about love, being in love. But now I’m talking about being intimate, understanding what love really is about.”

Back in the spotlightTo boost awareness of Omarion’s T.U.G./Epic/Sony Urban Music debut -- and further build momentum behind his title-track first single -- the label staged in-store appearances in New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta the week of its Feb. 22 release. Those appearances are being fortified by guest stints on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” as well as various MTV programs.

In addition, a DualDisc version of “O” is available. The DVD side features “MTV Diary” footage and the full-length “O” video, a ringtone and a surround-sound mix of the whole album. A second single, “Touch,” has already been chosen.

Omarion teamed with the Underdogs, the Neptunes, AllStar, Rodney Jerkins and Sean Garrett, among others. Guests include OutKast’s Big Boi on the boisterous “Never Gonna Let You Go (She’s a Keepa).” Overall, the album mixes retro and contemporary sounds, balancing ballads with uptempo numbers that recall B2K’s R&B/hip-hop/pop/dance vibe.

“Omarion is the total package,” the Underdogs say. “His dedication to becoming a complete artist will take him far. As he continues to develop, he should be a real force in R&B music.”

Omarion is preparing for a promotional tour in Europe. The “O” single is being released there in April, followed by the album in June.

The artist is also pursuing his acting sideline. With “You Got Served” and the recent “Fat Albert” among his credits, Omarion has signed a two-picture deal with Paramount/MTV Films and will begin shooting a new feature this spring.