If you aren’t a fan of American Idol, you probably haven’t heard of Anoop Desai. But don’t write this sixth-place winner from Season 8 off as just another forgettable talent from North America’s most-watched singing competition, because Anoop is about to do something major.
This North Carolina native got our attention when he busted out a soulful rendition of Boyz II Men’s “Thank You” during the first round of American Idol auditions. As he advanced to each round, Anoop continued to wow with his mix of R&B and pop choices, singing everything from Bobby Brown’s “My Prerogative,” to Eternal’s “Angel of Mine,” to Usher’s “Caught Up,” and even Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors.”
Now, two years after the show chose a winner, Anoop is ready to make a mark on the music world with a trilogy of EPs called Zero. The first record is called Zero.0 and is out now, while the next two will be released over the next six months. A listen to Anoop’s debut single “All Is Fair” and it’s clear that fans of Ne-Yo, Usher, and the likes, will also be swooning for Anoop’s smooth stylings.
Killahbeez recently got a chance to interview Anoop, asking him about American Idol, what this trilogy of albums is all about, and what it’s like to be a rising R&B star.
Killahbeez: Tell us a little about your upcoming trilogy of EPs. Why do three albums over the course of six months?
Anoop Desai: I’m calling it the Zero trilogy because I’m crafting each one to capture the essence of a particular feeling. I might be the only one who understands that feeling since I’m writing the majority of these songs, but I hope others can take that journey with me. I want people to really be invested in this project, spread the word to all their friends, and really make this a successful, organic effort to support good music.
KB: Is each Zero album quite different? How did you divide the songs into each album? Do they tell a linear story?
AD: It’s not really mathematical like that. Each album tells a story, definitely, but you have to feel it and see it in your mind. I couldn’t write a narrative for you.
KB: Your sound seems to be a little bit R&B, a little bit pop, a little bit soul, and hey, even a little bit dance. How would you best describe your music?
AD: Cohesive. Even though I experiment a little bit on Zero.0, I think listeners can still grasp the most important thing to me: a sense of melody.
KB: Did you always know you wanted to release this kind of album?
AD: I’ve always loved a lot of different types of music. I’ve also always wanted to put my mark on pop music using those influences, and I believe that this is the beginning of that.
KB: You cowrote most of the songs on the album(s). What was your inspiration for them and what is your songwriting process?
AD: That would take a novel to describe, but like I said earlier, it’s all about feel. Capturing the essence of a feeling is a tough thing to do, so I always ask myself what is the thing I could never say out loud but festers in my brain. That’s what I want to write about and that’s what I want other people to understand and feel through melody and lyric.
KB: You were a finalist on American Idol Season 8 (which ran from January to May of 2009). What took you so long to release an album after that?
AD: I released an EP last year entitled “All is Fair” which debuted at #14 on the iTunes pop chart. I believe the music on Zero is better and more innovative, which I hope will lead it to even better success.
KB: Did American Idol validate for yourself that you wanted to be a professional recording artist? Is this something you always knew you wanted to do?
AD: It definitely exposed me to the industry and let me experience the great highs of being successful in it. Getting back to that level of prominence is my main goal.
KB: If you weren’t a singer, what do you think you’d be doing right now?
AD: Might be a food writer.
KB: How would you describe your experience on American Idol? Any regrets looking back on it?
AD: Loved being on the show, and while I would do some things differently in hindsight, I’ve never had regrets about doing my best at the time.
KB: You sang “Thank You” by Boys II Men for your very first American Idol audition, and the judges were really surprised by how “soulful” your voice was. Have people always been surprised by your voice and the type of music you sing?
AD: Sure, but I love being able to surprise people. That’s my job.
KB: Why don’t you think there are more South Asian singers, let alone, South Asian R&B singers? What would you like to achieve in terms of breaking down stereotypes with your success?
AD: No idea why there aren’t more South Asian singers in pop music. I only know that I grew up singing, and so today, I’m very proud to be able to do it professionally. As to stereotypes, they’ll always exist. One person can’t break them down. My goal is to transcend them.
KB: Who are some of your idols or singers/artists that inspire you?
AD: Whenever I hear something dope, I’m inspired. Right now, Frank Ocean, David Ryan Harris, Sia, and Adele are definitely on that list.
Listen: Zero.O EP