Lemar recalls ‘surreal’ and ‘wild’ Fame Academy experience on 20th anniversary

Lemar recalls ‘surreal’ and ‘wild’ Fame Academy experience on 20th anniversary


He hasn’t aged a day but our favourite crooner Lemar is celebrating 20 years since he made his musical debut. 

Those who are old enough – sobs, us included – will remember the If There’s Any Justice hitmaker, 44, rising to fame on BBC reality competition Fame Academy in 2002.

Yes, before there was X Factor and while we were gripped by Pop Idol, Popstars and Big Brother, there was Fame Academy and Lemar competed in series one, narrowly missing out on winning to Daniel Sneddon. 

Lemar, full name Lemar Obika, went on to release a string of hit singles including Dance (With U), 50/50, Another Day, It’s Not That Easy and If There’s Any Justice, wowing the nation with his famous raspy yet silky vocals. 

He released his debut album, Dedicated, in 2023 and it’s now the record’s 20th anniversary. 

Marking the huge milestone, Lemar is now making a return to music after 11 years with new single Future Love, while a new album, Page In My Heart, is set for release on March 24. 

As fans relish in his new material, Metro.co.uk caught up with Lemar to reminisce on the old times… 

Welcome back Lemar! How does it feel to release new music again and why did it take so long? 

It’s exciting to be talking about something new, not old music – not that there’s anything wrong with old music. My fans have always been supportive so it’s nice to be able to say, here’s a new song, have a listen. 

Life’s not always straight forward… I was releasing music back-to-back so by the time I got to 2009, I was a little bit burnt out and I did still want to do music but then other things took over. I released The Letter and then there was Covid and I’ve got a family also, so there’s been good reasons. 

It just doesn’t always seem that way on the outside. 

I’ve always wanted to release some music but I wanted to make sure I could do it, number one, how I wanted to and getting to my fans how I wanted. 

We’re loving the new single Future Love, it’s very 80s! What inspired this track?  

It’s an era that I love – I love a bit of Luther [Vandross], Chaka Khan – and being that it’s been 20 years since Dedicated, that started off with Dance (With U), so with this one I thought I’d start off with a similar tone but modernised and a bit more fun. I’m glad that people have got that [from] it. 

It’s been 11 years since I released new music so you wonder whether you’re on the same page with your fans and whether they’ll get what you’re trying to do. 

I’ve tried to keep it topically and musically in a familiar space. 

You’ve got a new album on the way, what can you tell us about it? 

It’s more light-hearted than it sounds! I wanted to make it easy to listen to in one go and with this one, because it’s been such a long time, I’ve got songs of various emotions from various periods. 

Some of these I’ve held onto because I was in a particular space or I was a bit down. I’ve had quite a few conversations with a few fans who I’ve known now for quite a few years and I know what they’re going through relationship-wise as well and there’s a lot of parallels to be drawn. 

You’re very much known for your vocal talent – do you feel the art of singing has been lost in recent years? 

I think it’s swings and roundabouts. Yeah, the type of song has definitely changed; the music I was into growing up was very much, how much can you show that person how much you love them? The topic has changed slightly over the years and things are more beat-driven but more than that, things are shorter, fast-paced. I don’t think that’s a bad or good thing, it’s a different thing and a time thing. 

People will continue [doing] what they’re into and that’s ultimately what matters. 

Looking back over the past 20 years, what’s been the proudest moment of your career? 

Getting the Mobos and the Brits, that was really nice to be recognised by peers in your industry. 

But I remember my last tour for my fourth or fifth album with Sony, and I performed at Royal Albert Hall. I think JLS supported me on that one and that particular show stays in my mind a lot. I felt like everything I’d worked for so many years and so many albums, it just felt nice. 

You’ve won two Brit Awards and three Mobos – there’s a lot of talk about the validity of awards shows at the moment. How much do you value them these days? 

I think they’re good for people’s overall careers, things do change a little bit if you pick up a prestigious award for the people at large. If you say to someone I’ve won a Grammy or I’ve been nominated for a Grammy, a Brit or Mobo, it makes them think oh maybe I should [pay attention to them], it’s also nice for their ego. 

Beyond that, I don’t know if there’s much significance. As an artist, the focus is just trying to put out the best music you can. 


Fame Academy was brilliant! What do you remember of your time on the show? 

It was a nice experience, I was shocked when I got in because I was ready to go back to uni. It was nice to do something new. I felt confident in my singing but I wasn’t ready for the lights, camera, action part of it. 

That was a real baptism of fire, as they say. 

I’m just glad that it worked out and the cards fell the way they did. When you’re in something like that it’s just surreal. It was a much less connected world than it is now so when I was going in, there was no point of reference of how it was going to be or how it’d change my life. You didn’t think about what other people thought, you were kind of just going on your own decision-making. 

It was a wild experience, an adventure, in hindsight it could’ve gone either way, but I’m very happy and lucky that it did turn out like this. 

Reality TV has certainly changed over the years and there’s a real toxic side to it. What are your thoughts on how it is now? 

Everything evolves, just like music… so I think this is just a natural evolution. The nicest way anything starts is with innocence and seeing people on television that genuinely didn’t know what the outcome was or what this thing could be, that part has gone for good now because everybody knows what being on TV or putting yourself in front of millions of people does. 

But again, I don’t think it’s a bad thing or good thing. It’s an evolution. As long as people are watching, it will continue. 

Have you ever been asked to be a judge on another reality series like X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent? 

No, I haven’t. 

I don’t know because I’m at the stage where I’m doing what I love, when I love, and if something falls in front of me, I will judge how I feel at that time and judge where I am at that moment. 

I think that’s the best way to be. 

[But] Strictly’s amazing. 

You competed on Dancing On Ice in 2018. How did you find that experience? 

It was fine, it was good. Over the last few years, I’ve tried a lot of new things on and off camera. 

I loved learning a new thing, I can go down to the local rink now and probably do better than most or the average person on the ice. 

I’m grateful, it was nice to experience that in a public way – under pressure sometimes and falling on ice isn’t that pleasant sometimes, but overall, it was a positive experience. 

A lot of artists from your era have struggled financially due to poor advice or lack of. How have you managed your money over the years? 

That’s a very important part of the music business is putting things in place for when someone has something, but also for after. If you have just one hit and then you go away, people don’t realise how transformative everyone knowing you, having a hit song and then that going away, for the mental aspect I do think that needs to be addressed as well as the financial side. 

The same way you sign legally to a label, I think that needs to be part of the legal document – support afterwards depending on what happens career-wise mentally and also financial advice as well. 

It’s always good to have a good accountant. 

I was constantly moving around so it was kind of hard to mess up, but had it been a year or two, it could have been a different story. 

What’s been your most surreal showbiz moment to date? 

I remember going to New Zealand and having to perform out there on the Whitsundays. Sometimes you can have this out-of-body experience where, I remember being there and performing and thinking, I’m on the other side of the world on this random – but beautiful – island, singing to a handful of people who were fully engaged. 

That moment, on an island, on the other side of the world, sticks out for me.

What does Lemar’s weekend look like?

What does a typical Saturday look like for you? 

I’m a workaholic so I get up, I do some family bits, might go and watch some football or netball and then have lunch with the family. 

After that it generally is, every single Saturday and Sunday, a lot of work whether that’s meetings or something online, I’m at a laptop or on the phone trying to make sure that the next week goes smoothly. 

How has your weekend evolved over the years?

Back in the day that same Saturday and Sunday would be definitely a gig on the Saturday and maybe recovery and travel on the Sunday with a lot of laughs about the Saturday. 

Much more grounded now, I’m a grown-up. 

What’s your favourite weekend lunch?

Sometimes we get steak and chips round the corner. 

If you had a free weekend, what TV show would you binge-watch? 

I recently got into Suits on Netflix. If it’s just a regular TV show, for some reason I really like watching Gogglebox a lot. It’s something about watching other people doing what you’re doing at the same time and hearing their comments, it’s really cool. 

What would you like to watch at the cinema next? 

Avatar! I still haven’t watched it yet. I watched the first one, it was amazing – obviously like 100 years ago. 

My in-law is the most difficult to please when it comes to movies and he came back and was like, have you watched Avatar: The Way Of Water? He said he had to sit through the credits, he loved it. 

So I’m going on his word, I need to go check that out.

Lemar’s new single Future Love is out on February 7, and his album, Page In My Heart, is set for release on March 24. He’s also performing two live shows in Manchester and London on April 27 and 28, with tickets on sale this Friday at 10am.

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