Album Review: Victor Oladipo’s “V.O.”

MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 09: Victor Oladipo #4 of the Indiana Pacers looks on during player introduction against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on November 9, 2018 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 09: Victor Oladipo #4 of the Indiana Pacers looks on during player introduction against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on November 9, 2018 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

We all know Pacers guard Victor Oladipo’s game on the court is must-see television but is his new R&B album something you can’t afford to miss as well?

Every so often, NBA players come out with music. There have been several high profile athletes throughout the years that have done so, including dudes like Shaquille O’Neal, Ron Artest, Kobe Bryant, and more recently, current players such as former Pacers wing Lance Stephenson, Damian Lillard, Lonzo Ball, Kevin Durant, and more. Critiques of these musical endeavors typically range from “cheesy and unnecessary,” to “not bad for an NBA Player.”

While most every other musical NBA player sticks to rapping, Victor Oladipo is a different breed. We first got a taste of it in 2015 when he sang Sinatra during the Slam Dunk Contest. He then surprised the world again when he dropped some songs last year that really showed off what he could do and then followed that up with a 7 song album later in the year called “Songs For You.”

Vic’s rise to stardom in the NBA last season did nothing to slow down his desire to create some new jams. Throughout 2018, he’s been releasing a few singles which led up to the release of his brand new album “V.O.” coming out everywhere today, November 30th.

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Let’s get this out of the way: Victor Oladipo can sing. Period. Full stop. He isn’t just a good singer “for an NBA player,” the dude has a legitimate set of pipes. Still, just having the talent doesn’t always translate to releasing good albums. Songwriting is a separate talent that sometimes even the most musically talented people in the world can’t figure out. Luckily, Victor and his team were able to come up with several tracks that really highlight his talent while creating 8 mostly enjoyable songs.

“V.O.” kicks off with probably the most high-energy song of the 25 minute, 8 track album, “Lights On (Ft. Tory Lanez).” You might have already heard this one if you’ve been keeping up with Victor’s music, as it was a single he released in the run-up to the full album. It’s a solid listen with a good groove, a pleasing electronic beat, and lots of talk of making it rain… on… a cat… (Ahem). Tory Lanez’s feature on this track meshes very well with Vic and adds another dynamic to the song that would have been lacking otherwise. Of the 8 songs, this isn’t the one where Vic sounds the most confident and impressive in comparison to others, but it’s overall a nice way to kick off the record.

Just In You (Ft. Eric Bellinger)” comes next and is an instant change of pace that ditches the upbeat electronic feel of the opener and opts instead for a minimal guitar riff leading into a nice R&B rhythm. Vic sounds great on this track, and once again, the featured artist Eric Bellinger, adds another nice layer to the song as a whole. Again, the lyrical content is more of the same and talks about Vic wanting to get with someone he’s interested in.

Up next come “Forward and “Connected (Ft. PnB Rock).” The former is the first track on the record that Vic goes solo on, and he shows he’s more than capable of doing all the work himself. Like his game on the court, he’s great sharing the spotlight with others but can take over when he needs to.

The latter song has arguably the catchiest chorus on the whole album that you’ll likely be singing in your head for a while once you’re done listening. Vic nails a nice high note in this one, and once again, the feature from PnB Rock is a welcome addition. Olaidpo knows how to pick his features, which is an underrated and mature thing for a budding musician to be this good at. Guys like Kanye West know when to smartly use features in their songs to help cover their deficiencies as musicians and improve the song overall, and Victor Olaidpo generally does the same on “V.O.”

Victor Oladipo
NEW YORK, NY – FEBRUARY 14: Pacers guard Victor Oladipo sings during 2015 NBA Allstar Weekend at Barclays Center on February 14, 2015, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

Despite all of this, the middle of the album is about the point where we start to feel a bit of repetition, both lyrically and musically. Aside from the opening track, the rest of the following songs, including the two that come next, “First Chance” and “Drown (Ft. Trey Songz)” start to almost run together at some points. They’re different enough when they first kick in, but soon fall into a chill, R&B slow jam formula all about wanting to be with and/or hook up with someone. On their own, all of these songs are solid, but in the context of an album, the lack of variety starts to become a bit more apparent the further you go. “First Chance” at least mentions Victor’s future first dance at the wedding of he and his love interest, which is a nice indication that it isn’t just all about hooking up for Oladipo and he does want something deeper at some point.

That takes care of the first three-quarters of the album, which leads us to the final 25%. The fourth quarter, if you will. Like we’ve seen so often from Victor Oladipo’s performances late in basketball games, the ending of “V.O.” is where he truly shines and shows off what he can really do. Song number 7, “Testify” is another slow one that features a really impressive falsetto chorus and his most meaningful lyrics yet, including lines like, “When they’re talking about a woman and her goodness, they’re talking about you.”

That leads us into the final track, “Funny Thing About Love,” which is the clutch, dagger three-point shot to lock-in a victory. The song hits hard right off the bat, and Victor’s vocals here are undoubtedly the strongest and most emotional of any song on the album. He’s absolutely saved the best for last, which is such a Victor Oladipo thing to do.

Lyrically, this track has more substance than anything else we’ve heard on “V.O.” including lines like, “That’s the funny thing about love. It won’t be who you want, it’ll be who you need… It won’t come when you want, it will be where you need.” It’s the most mature version of Vic that we get on the album, and it doesn’t stop there as he continues to sing about love, “It can speak another language, or it can be right in front of you. Love don’t really have a color. And it don’t know how to keep track of time. If it feels like you should let go, then there’s somebody better for you.” It’s the best track on the record and leaves you wanting to see if Victor can grow from this onto his next musical endeavor.

Overall, “V.O.” is a fine record. It surely won’t top any “Album of the Year” lists when various publications start releasing those, but it’s solid nonetheless. Repetition and a lack of initial depth hold it back a bit, but the vocals are impressive, the production is great, the beats are predominantly good, and it’s catchy as heck.

It’s important to give credit to Victor Oladipo for releasing music this solid while obviously being a full-time professional athlete on top of everything. Full-time musicians are able to spend countless hours over the span of years to craft masterclass albums that stand the test of time. Victor simply does not have the same amount of hours in the day to dedicate to his music, which is likely the root of some of the issues the record does have. When you consider that, it’s pretty darn impressive that Oladipo was able to put out 8 songs of this quality.

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The album left me wanting to see what Victor does with his music next, which is definitely a good sign. It also has solidified that Vic has got to be one of the most talented dudes in the league overall when you combine his electrifying game on the court with his rising musical prowess.

Overall Grade: B-