El Estoque

Blackbear trumps his musical artistry with fifth studio album “ANONYMOUS”

18-track album titled “ANONYMOUS” is dubbed as Blackbear’s best album yet

Annie Zhang

Emerging in the music industry in 2012, singer-songwriter, composer and producer Blackbear has graced alternative R&B enthusiasts with his heavy lyrical albums. Extolling the thrill of heartbreak, drug addiction and sex, Blackbear has produced streaming hits such as the double-platinum selling “Do Re Mi” and “idfc.”  

Blackbear’s 18-track album “ANONYMOUS” is regarded as his best album and work — a “human” album. It showcases his vulnerability through ballad tracks and his consumerist pride through heavier hip-hop tracks.

On Feb. 20, Blackbear tweeted the confirmed tracklist for “ANONYMOUS.” The album was set to be released on Feb. 19 — the release date was delayed to April 26, as Blackbear signed to a new label. Dropping snippets of every song until the release coupled with the album delay, “ANONYMOUS” was long-awaited.

Before its release, Blackbear dropped five songs, including “1 SIDED LOVE,” “SWEAR TO GOD,” “HIGH1X,” “DEAD TO ME” and “HATE MY GUTS” on YouTube. On April 25 at 8:30 p.m., a day before the official release date, Blackbear dropped all 18 tracks on YouTube.

“ANONYMOUS” is a fusion of the musical artistry reflected in his earlier career — “NYLA,” a dreamy piece, is a slower re-recording of the original song he had released in 2013. The remake of “NYLA” can may also be correlated to the album’s message of change and personal growth — Blackbear is the same artist, but he is constantly evolving. Blackbear references his old songs through similar lyrics, sounds and verses that emit nostalgia.

 

“PINK ROLEX”

“PINK ROLEX” is a unique track — the song opens with a steady beat paired with Japanese dialogue exchanged by a woman in the first five seconds:

“そして再びそれは私の心です”

This translates to “once again, it’s my heart.” “PINK ROLEX” entails how Blackbear drowns his heartache in consumerism, specifically flaunting his pink rolex.

The woman’s monotone voice serves as an apathetic coping mechanism to her heartache — her pain is derivative from her heart. This interpretation is a direct connection to Blackbear’s dating history, as Blackbear has been unable to maintain stable relationships due to cheating complications and extraneous drug usage.

This cultural fusion is an ingenious way to communicate the essence of the song, adding an aura of mystery, as listeners are prompted to listen to decipher the meaning of the phrase.

Later, a verse following the pre-chorus wraps up with a Portuguese phrase:

“Novamente, é o meu coração”

Again, this translates to “once again, it’s my heart.” This consistency in cultural exchanges not only gives the song a nice ring but also communicates Blackbear’s continual dating history riddled with heartbreak through mystery.

With the song’s slow cadence, paired with echoes and a steady beat, it projects a somber yet dreamy instrumental. This coarse sadness that the song endorses mirrors the aching heartbreak and misery Blackbear tries to voice.

 

“SWEAR TO GOD”

Released on March 15 as the second song of “ANONYMOUS,” “SWEAR TO GOD” is paired with a violin instrumental and finished with a mesh of light rock. The style of the track is a bold experimentation that doesn’t sync with his previous work. Blackbear’s pieces are reputable for a heavy bass rhythm paired with echoing assets under the umbrella label of trap. “SWEAR TO GOD” is a divergent track from Blackbear’s trap prestige. The violin instrumental accentuates the lyrics of the song rather than the tempo of the track, which seems to be his intention, as this track is centric on the sentiment of the lyrics. “SWEAR TO GOD” is one of Blackbear’s more honest and vulnerable songs, as he sings about how heartache has given him the incentive to mold a better version of himself.

“I’m sick of taking flights to see these other girls
I swear I’m gonna change (Seeing right through)
I’m sick of taking drugs and feeling bad”

In the song, Blackbear is reflecting on cheating on his ex-girlfriend, Sydney Carlson, and showcases a more raw and vulnerable side. Blackbear communicates that he wants to rid himself of his drug addictions and morph into a better version of himself. This is a remarkable transition from his musical prestige and his character — Blackbear’s pieces often are centered around him wallowing in the waters of consumerism or drug usage. “SWEAR TO GOD” is a direct call for change, which should be pinpointed as a monumental phase for Blackbear’s personal growth. In the two lines below, Blackbear dissects how directionless he is and how he wants to change:

“I ran into God at the liquor store
She asked me what I’m always running for”

In these two lines, Blackbear makes a reference to his older song “cancel forever,” where a similar verse reads:

“I just saw God
I just saw God
Outside the liquor store
He told me I was lost
Lost”

These two verses accentuate the continuity in his character and how he has always been running from an unknown void. As “SWEAR TO GOD” is a self-reflection track, the song shows a basis for why he was running from himself. Blackbear has always been the same person to himself. This reference also addresses how he wants to rid himself of his old identity. The track is beautiful — the cadence and the rhythm of the song accentuate a somber and melancholy vibe. Blackbear drags his voice when he sings the verses that build up to the chorus — this shows his reluctance towards self change. But at the same time, the song is uplifting as the chorus is sung in a hopeful fashion.

 

ALBUM REVIEW:

“ANONYMOUS” carries a basketload of sentiment for Blackbear. A few tracks ventured out of his artistic taste and unveiled a raw persona, which was both refreshing and new. The album captured a of moods that gave a holistic view of his identity.

However, a complication with the album is that every song except five were below three minutes. The shortest song on the album, “DEAD BALLOONS,” was only two minutes and eleven seconds.

Some songs hardly made a lasting imprint — though the fusion of slow ballads and hip hop tracks was a perfect blend, a few titled songs seemed like a recycled mesh of his previously released work, following the same cadence and incorporating similar instrumentals. While a repetition of style defines an artist’s technique, overplaying the same sounds can become bland. For example, “MAKE A MESS” and “ITS ALL GONNA BURN” sounded like a track off Blackbear’s 2015 album, “Deadroses.”

“ANONYMOUS” is an incredibly raw album and is undeniably Blackbear’s best work up to date — from the song diversity, cadence variation and sentimental lyrics, Blackbear’s 2019 album is a self reflection album. Tracks off “ANONYMOUS” are perfect to listen to when paired with any mood.

About the Writer
Annie Zhang, Staff Writer
Annie Zhang is currently a sophomore on her first year on El Estoque as a staff writer. She spends her free time playing volleyball, watching Youtube, and spending time with her younger brother.