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Review: Aloe Blacc - "The Man"

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Aloe Blacc - Wake Me Up EP

Aloe Blacc - Wake Me Up EP

Courtesy Interscope
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Written by Egbert Dawkins III, Elton John, Bernie Taupin, Sam Barsh, Daniel Seeff, and Khalil Abdul Rahman

Produced by DJ Khalil

Released October 2013 by Interscope

Pros

  • Confident, upbeat lyrics
  • Aloe Blacc's uniquely expressive, soulful vocals
  • Warm, engaging analog instrument production

Cons

  • No negatives on this record

To many mainstream pop music fans, American soul singer Aloe Blacc might seem like an overnight success.  However, Aloe Blacc, aka Egbert Dawkins III, has been the subject of extensive critical praise for the last decade.  His 2010 album Good Things was highly lauded and it generated the international top 10 pop hit "I Need a Dollar."  Aloe Blacc finally came to the attention of mainstream pop fans in the US as the voice of Avicii's breakthrough pop smash "Wake Me Up" which roared into the top 10 last summer.  However, many music fans still did not know his name because his featured vocal remained uncredited on the Avicii hit.  With the upbeat, self-assured anthem "The Man" everyone will get to know Aloe Blacc's name.  His confident, soulful vocals set him apart from anyone else currently riding high in pop charts.  "The Man" is a distinctive breath of fresh air.

"The Man" opens with a flurry of horns and strings while Aloe Blacc seems to be singing the opening of Elton John's legendary pop classic "Your Song."  He sings, "Well you can tell everybody, yeah you can tell everybody," before kicking into the confident "I'm the man," which is followed quickly by a hip hop beat.  It is an exciting opening to a powerful hit song.  The words of "The Man" proclaim that the singer has been through a number of personal tests, but he is standing strong and will be, "a king when kingdom comes."  The words supported by a celebratory soul production manage to sound powerful without drowning in conceit.  The song announces the arrival of a major talent that will not be denied.

At age 35, Aloe Blacc's unique voice is fully developed and mature.  There is a natural warmth of tone that wraps itself around the listener encouraging you to join in the musical celebration.  On his vocal contribution to "Wake Me Up" Aloe Blacc found a sweet spot between country music and R&B.  On "The Man" he confidently blends pop, hip hop, and R&B.  A lush production of analog instruments by DJ Khalil brings back echoes of late 1960s pop-soul by groups like the 5th Dimension.  When the backing chorus kicks in on the last third of "The Man," Aloe Blacc sounds like he is leading a triumphant union of past and present in song.

Although he is far from a new talent in the music industry, Aloe Blacc is an artist to treasure as we welcome him to the pop mainstream.  "The Man" values our musical past while sounding contemporary and leading into new musical directions.  It is part of a rising tide of upbeat, celebratory songs heading toward the top of mainstream pop charts.  Aloe Blacc's music has clear reference points, but taken together he does not comfortably fit into any particular genre while his songs can clearly be widely enjoyed among fans of an eclectic range of music.  It is time to "tell everybody" what a tremendously talented artist Aloe Blacc is and treasure his unique contributions.

 

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