In the years since Aloe Blacc’s last album, Lift Your Spirit, the global superstar spent time working on an even dearer project: his family. All Love Everything, his upcoming album, is the singer-songwriter’s first collection of material written as a father, a journey that’s expanded Blacc’s already heartfelt artistic palette. “Becoming a father made me want to share those experiences in music,” he says, admitting it’s a challenge to translate such a powerful thing into lyrics and melody. But the listeners who have followed Blacc over the course of his 14-years-long career know that his facility with language and sound is deep — if anyone was up to the task, it’s him. .
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Raised by Panamanian immigrants in Southern California, Blacc grew up around the sounds of salsa, merengue, and cumbia. He initially developed his own taste by throwing himself into hip-hop before trying out his soulful voice to other ends. Across three albums, his sound evolved and grew, finding a pocket that reflects the long and beautiful history of American soul with timeless, descriptive songwriting that speaks to the broad range of human experience, from platonic love to love for humanity, from politics to aspiration. Versatile and compassionate, his songwriting is classic in a way that makes categorization irrelevant; indeed, Blacc’s lyrics have been paired with dance music and country — always to stirring effect. Aloe Blacc isn’t defined by genre.
“Rather than a genre, my music follows a theme I call A.I.M.: affirmation, inspiration, and motivation,” he explains. Beloved hits like “I Need a Dollar,” “The Man,” and “Wake Me Up,” with Avicii, may not fall under the same musical umbrella, but they’re united by how they make the listener feel. That’s Blacc’s wheelhouse, the place where he excels. “After so many opportunities to talk about my music and not feel comfortable saying, ‘I’m a pop artist’ or ‘I’m a folk artist,’ I had this realization. My songwriting genre is thematic.”
“My Way,” the latest single from All Love Everything, is emblematic of Blacc’s mission. After having performed it a number of times for audiences around the world — Blacc’s toured the globe — he knows the song’s power well. “I know that when the rest of the world hears it, they’ll love it too,” he says. Produced by Jonas Jeberg (Panic! At the Disco, Selena Gomez), “My Way” is a piano-driven anthem about perseverance. “The harder that we grind, the sweeter is the glory,” he sings, full-throated; you know it’s true the second you hear the massive chorus.
Similarly “Corner” is a song to have you tearfully singing along before it’s finished. Anchored by march-like percussion, “Corner” begins solemnly before splitting open through the sheer sincerity in Blacc’s voice as he sings, “Wherever you go, and whether you’re high or low, I’ll be there for you: I’m in your corner.” The ache in his voice makes the well-known boxing analogy into something freshly stirring.
Elsewhere on the album Blacc focuses on the tender details that make up a life. The stand-out closer “Harvard,” produced by Jeberg, is a heartrending storytelling song in the tradition of Joni Mitchell and Bill Withers. It emerged from a conversation between Blacc and his co-writer Sam Hollander, who started a session by describing a beat-up car he’d seen with a Harvard sticker on the bumper. From there, they imagined a candid conversation about work and sacrifice between two strangers that hinges on the line, “I ain’t been to Harvard and I ain’t got no big degree.” Accompanied by gentle acoustic guitar, Blacc sings with disarming candor about a woman working two jobs to support her family, including a child with special needs. It’s the kind of subject matter you rarely encounter in pop music, and Blacc handles it with compassion and grace.
The title track expresses the idea that ties the album together, that fuses the songs of familial love and perseverance, the autobiographical details and the imaginative portraits. “The term ‘all love everything’ is a phrase that I share with family friends,” Blacc says. “In our salutations, we would say ‘all love everything,’ whether in text or in person.” After recording the song, Blacc realized that it best summarized the spirit of this new body of work. He thought back over his catalog and saw that it fit best with what had come before it. The song’s funky bassline works in concert with Blacc’s voice as it climbs to the top of his register, spanning from the low end to the peak of his passionate tenor.
All Love Everything is a generous addition to the A.I.M. catalog. It fulfills Blacc’s ambition to express the richness of familial love, while also making room for anthems about perseverance and support. Working with producers Jonas Jeberg, Jugglerz, Jon Levine, and Matt Prime, Blacc has crafted his most open-hearted album to date. Warm and earnest, All Love Everything draws on soul, folk, and contemporary pop, reminding listeners that there’s no pigeonholing the human experience. It’s out October 2nd on BMG.
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