Adam Haddour – ‘The Unknown’

7/10


Adam Haddour is the darling of the UCL Musical Theatre Society, starring in the eponymous role of Sweeney Todd and in the major roles of Warden in From Here to Eternity and Rapunzel’s Prince in Into the Woods. He is also the darling of the UCL Live Music Society, in which he has starred in the university-defining Rhapsody show for the past two years, most recently performing an operatic number from The Phantom of the Opera. He is, also, a darling. 

And so, his EP, The Unknown, comes without any doubts in his ability to sing. But what to expect from his studio recorded project, which isn’t a cast recording of a musical, was uncertain. But Haddour’s debut single ‘As I’, released in late 2018, is perfect. Haddour portrays a nostalgic lover piecing together conflicting elements of a break-up with the clarity of confusion familiar to his peers. If the cover art is anything to go by, Haddour is trying to depict an aquatic break up; which, if the song is anything to go by, sounds like the worst kind of break up. Here, set to an eerie, indiscernible synth and a possessed piano, Haddour uses the full weight of his impactful, well-trained voice; he maintains a dramatic awareness that conveys passion without sacrificing control. Think: ‘Pray’ by Sam Smith, but with half as much help from production.     

‘As I’ left its listeners wanting; and unexpected pushbacks, the result of feedback from Haddour’s band, left listeners wanting still. Only released in May, the EP is five tracks long; each of which hits with an emotionally wrought performance that make them inextricable from his affected imagination and the melodrama of his musical theatre background.  

The EP opens with ‘As I (Dean Street Version)’, a revision of the original ‘As I’. This opener reverses the tone of the single. The song is reminiscent of Bond theme music, except: less Adele (read: less sad), and more Woodkid (à la ‘Run Boy Run’; read: more determined). This track is an intriguing version of his single but leans into melodrama such that its best moments do not add to a greater sum than the original. 

The following track, ‘The Unknown’, is a kind of wordy confusion that is perhaps indicative of Haddour’s day job: a UCL degree in philosophy. An article on RapGenius might be needed for those easily overwhelmed by deep sentiments (me). Whatever the song means, its finale is resolute proof that Haddour certainty knows how to crescendo.    

It says something about the tone of this EP that the third track is still called ‘Pain’ and is, by some distance, the most upbeat. It’s a fun change of pace from his darker material that is at its best when Haddour harmonises with himself. 

The penultimate track prior to the ‘As I’ single proper is ‘They’, which sees Haddour convey the histrionic tone of a tragic hero who has learnt his lessons through pain and suffering. He plays this role well here, a performance surely bettered by the influence of his musical theatre background, which could later prove key to the development of his sound. Though, as with ‘The Unknown’, this track feels like it should go with a stage performance (potential music video(s)?) 

The perfected ‘As I’ single ends an EP which rightfully acts as a showcase for Haddour’s voice. This is the best asset of the project and is on its best display when paired with a dramatic performance (as on ‘As I’ and ‘The Unknown’) that doesn’t drift into melodrama. Haddour has produced a promising work that justifies excitement for his next project, which he is already hard at work on.


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