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Opener of the Week: Luke James

Freelance writer Selena Fragassi picks her opening act of the week:

Support the support acts! Opening bands are more than a commercial break—it’s your preview of the next big attraction, and we know you don’t want a bad case of FOMO. Get to know our pick of the week, and get to the show early to see them live.

By Selena Fragassi

There must be something in the water at St. Augustine High. The New Orleans school is best known as the alma mater for Frank Ocean, the R&B star who made headlines and nearly every “best music of the year” list in 2012. Now his former classmate, Luke James, has the edge as the one to watch in 2014.

The 29-year-old crooner, who grew up on a heavy rotation of live jazz and recordings of “Showtime at the Apollo,” started his journey behind the scenes, penning songs for pop stars like Bieber and Britney and singing backup for model-turned-singer Tyrese. However, it was Beyoncé who really thrust James into the spotlight, first casting him as a back-up dancer in her 2011 “Run the World (Girls)” music video, and this year personally selecting the talent to open both legs of her Mrs. Carter World Tour.

The exposure earned James recent Grammy nominations and a Soul Train award, and launched his acting career (he can be seen in the musical “Black Nativity,” in theatres now). One listen to his breakout hit, “I Want You,” and you’ll know why this singer couldn’t be kept under wraps for much longer.

Luke James | HANDOUT PHOTO

With a chilling falsetto and emotional magnetism, sensual numbers like “I.O.U.” and the newly released “Strawberry Vapors” recall bedroom R&B stars like Marvin Gaye, Brian McKnight and Babyface, and the more recent solo work of Justin Timberlake. If James’ to-be-released debut album (coming in 2014) is any indication, this singer was Made To Love.

Who: BEYONCE; LUKE JAMES

When: 8 p.m. Dec. 13

Where: United Center, 1901 W. Madison

Tickets: $45-250 (in advance)

Info: (312) 455-4500; ticketmaster.com

Videos

Run the World (Girls): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VBmMU_iwe6U

I Want You: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1gbZTmPiYA

Strawberry Vapors: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zcd0l9MtsI8