Sean Tillmann, better known as Har Mar Superstar (also Sean Na Na) is a onetime indie/punk guy from Minnesota who's now known for playing shows in a Speedo and sweating like a UFC fighter. To his credit, Tillmann looks a fair amount like the un-mustachioed younger brother of paunchy former porn star Ron "the Hedgehog" Jeremy, which is to say, perhaps not the ultimate in Hollywood-approved hotness. The Har Mar Superstar character plays around with the macho, sex-obsessed urban R&B genre incredibly effectively, but his act isn't shtick. If you watch videos of live shows, you'll typically see a shirtless white guy with a great voice really going for it—no holding back. Har Mar is effective in poking fun where the R&B style is most ridiculous, and he also authentically embraces the music and writes really memorable tunes. That ability to both clown and perform seriously demonstrates Har Mar's keen self-awareness, discipline and talent in a genre that's pretty demanding of all those things. In "Lady, You Shot Me," from 2013's Bye Bye 17, Har Mar is at his level best paying sincere tribute to 1960s soul music while maintaining his stock-in-trade funny side.
I don't think this year's album, Best Summer Ever, is quite as compelling, though it's still pretty good. I have a hard time not blaming producer Julian Casablancas (from The Strokes) for making too slick a record and tinkering with a songwriting formula that wasn't broken. I just wish more of this record sounded like "Lady, You Shot Me."
Har Mar Superstar plays the Palace Fri., Nov. 4, along with Sweet Spirit. Doors at 9 PM, show at 10. $15.