“I think I’m at a place in life where, I think it’s more of my responsibility to stay passionate about what I love, and that’s making music.”- Jon Bellion in a Genius interview.
That passion undoubtedly shines in Bellion’s ten track album, Glory Sound Prep that was released just a few months ago in November of 2018. Despite his growing fame and popularity, which is accredited to his platinum single “All Time Low” and previous record The Human Condition” from 2016, Bellion has focused on producing the music that he loves, with the people he wants to create with. With features from New York’s finest Roc Marciano and the likes of RZA, Quincy Jones, Tuamie and familiar face Travis Mendes, Bellion has created an album that is so hyper-focused on what he is striving to achieve with his music.
“I was never focused on getting bigger, just getting better / that’s why I keep getting bigger after every record”
He raps in the second verse of “Let’s Begin.” But nothing has changed; Bellion is the same. He has once again created another album filled with a genius mix of all genres and incredible, heartfelt harmonies which help in his exploitation of the idea of fame and the issues that surround his growing popularity. The effortless combination of his hip hop and R&B stylistic approach mixed with guitar licks, brass hits, string sections and pop-driven hooks gives Bellion a unique, glorious sound.
Just look at one of the albums singles, “Stupid Deep.” Bellion’s emotion shines through his vocals, which are backed with the mandolin, bass, piano, banjo and whatever else he decided to pull out of the closet that day.
“Stupid Deep” features his sister, Christianne Jensen, who is just as musically inclined and talented as her younger brother, matching the song’s key with her vocals the second she walks into the recording studio. Also featured is a longtime collaborator and friend Travis Mendes, who worked on “Guillotine” from the 2016 project. The two add to the track’s emotion with their harmonies. Bellion has this power of striking emotion with his “Making of” videos he posts on YouTube, and the “Making of Stupid Deep” brings you on the emotional roller coaster of the creation of this song, like when Bellion is brought to tears configuring the lyrics on a whiteboard in the studio.
If you couldn’t see the sentiment then, you certainly can see it later in his frustration after leaving the studio before finishing his vocal parts. Or towards the final minutes of the video, when Bellion takes his beloved vulnerability to a new level. Getting so caught up in the moment, Bellion lets his emotions take over the recording as his voice begins to crack while he belts the lyrics of the outro, the tracks most susceptible part.
It wasn’t Bellion’s greatest vocal performance by any stretch of the imagination, but it had to have been his most heartfelt and passionate—sending chills from the top of your head all the way down to your ten toes.
If “Stupid Deep” isn’t heartfelt enough, then the album’s opening track “Conversations with my Wife” certainly fits that mold. Bellion begs the question of his wife, “will you still love me when the phone turns off?” The social implications of his rising popularity don’t faze him, rather focusing on who and what has gotten him to this point. “Who the fuck cares about these plaques on my wall? / you're still the only thing I've done right,” he sings before the chorus, begging for a deeper relationship outside of the virtual world. If you care to see the emotion behind this song, the acoustic version on YouTube exemplifies these feelings with the help of a melody from the piano and a single violin. The band breaks out in a quite improvisational last chorus, while Bellion snaps and dances, he lets the instruments do some of the talking. With a fist bump to end it all, Bellion’s live acoustic renditions illustrate the passion behind it all.
“Blu” will bring you to tears, if you’re anything like me. It was the song that first jumped out to me that Friday morning after the album release, and still to this day, I find myself searching for the words to describe the capricious feelings that come about while listening. The studio version embodies Bellion’s sound undoubtedly but the acoustic version he posted on his YouTube again brings to the table something out of the ordinary; something that most other artists can’t replicate.
With Bellion behind the keys, he orchestrates the guitar melody with his powerful, soft vocals, as the saxophone player gives you a taste of what’s to come in the intro. Two minutes in, Bellion bellows “one...two...three...four” and begins to play those keys, as the guitarist switches to the grand piano and the brass section unleashes an indescribable solo, cueing Bellion back in with his shouting of “come on,” putting every ounce of effort to keep up with the arrangement to bring the song full circle.
Glory Sound Prep has given me something that few other albums have. In a world filled with endless amounts of virtual connections and one that lacks face-to-face interaction and vulnerability, Bellion has embodied this lack of susceptibility with his acoustic renditions, “Making of” series, and powerful, well thought out lyrics. Giving me a sense of hope that in a world filled with this lack of vulnerability, artists with a platform the magnitude of Bellion can and will create music that not only embodies a listlessness with the virtual world but also provides listeners with the idea that fame and wealth doesn’t equate to success and happiness: doing what you love and who you chose to do it with does.
Sorry, but this album is stupid good.
Image Courtesy: Leah Tribbet, https://www.leahtribproductions.com