There is more than one singer/songwriter named Ernest Rose. One Ernest Rose is a New Mexico-based alternative rocker who has cited Linkin Park and Third Eye Blind as his primary influences (that Ernest Rose came out with an album titled Infusion and has recorded for the Mustang, Oklahoma-based Tate Music Group). But the Ernest Rose heard on Tragically Extraordinary doesn’t sound anything at all like New Mexico’s Ernest Rose; this Ernest Rose is based in Los Angeles, and he favors a relaxed, subtle, smoky blend of R&B and pop/Top 40. Stylistically, tunes like “I’m the Only One,” “No Way” and “Kaleidoscope of Love” have nothing in common with the alt-rock of Linkin Park or Third Eye Blind, but they certainly have a lot in common with Jamiroquai or Lilly Allen.
Tragically Extraordinary is an example of what music critic Nelson George has described as “retro nuevo,” meaning that it has one foot in the past and the other in the present. Rose’s music is not an exact replica of music from the 1970s, but he does get plenty of inspiration from old-school 1970s soul (especially Stevie Wonder, the Isley Brothers and the late Marvin Gaye). But Rose’s vocals are hushed, reserved and understated. “Coma,” “No Way,” “I’m Onto You” and “No More” are not a shout or a scream; they are a soulful whisper. Tragically Extraordinary is funky, but it isn’t funky in the sweaty, aggressive way that Wonder got funky on “Higher Ground” and “I Wish” and the Isley Brothers got funky on “Fight the Power,” “The Pride” and “Living in the Life”; Tragically Extraordinary is soulful and funky in an ethereal way. The side of Wonder that Rose identifies with on this digital album is the Wonder of “Golden Lady” and “My Cherie Amour”; the side of the Isley Brothers that Rose identifies with on “Falling in Love Again” (not to be confused with the 1930s standard), “Mystery” and “We’re Through” is the Isley Brothers of “Journey to Atlantis,” “Footsteps in the Dark” and “For the Love of You.” Or, if one needs a Marvin Gaye comparison, there are echoes of “After the Dance” and “You Sure Love to Ball” on this release (but not the exuberance of “Got to Give it Up”).
However, none of that Wonder, Gaye or Isley Brothers influence means that Tragically Extraordinary sounds like it was recorded in the 1970s. Rose’s production style is more modern and more high-tech, and Rose (who wrote all of the material and produced the album himself) is clearly aware of hip-hop. Rose does not inundate us with rapping on Tragically Extraordinary; he is a singer, not a rapper. But production-wise, there is no overlooking the hip-hop influence that Rose brings to “Coma,” “Change My Ways,” “Mystery” or “I’m Onto You.” Rhythmically, Rose is very much a product of an era in which so many R&B and pop/Top 40 singers grew up listening to hip-hop.
“Coma” is easily the darkest song on this 2012 release, and it would have been perfect for the soundtrack of Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar’s 2002 film “Hable con Ella” (“Talk to Her”). For those who are unfamiliar with Almodóvar’s movies, “Hable con Ella” is about two men in Madrid (a Spanish nurse and an Argentinean journalist) who become close friends and bond over the fact that the women they are in love with are in comas. And “Coma” is Rose’s ode to a comatose woman he is in love with; much like Almodóvar’s characters, Rose is hoping she will come out of her coma even though it doesn’t look good.
Tragically Extraordinary is exceptional, and it's a really enjoyable listen. For those who have spent a great deal of time listening to artists like Jamiroquai, Adele, Lily Allen and the late Amy Winehouse, Rose is well worth keeping an eye on.
Review by Alex Henderson