Release Date: Mar 11, 2014
Record label: Interscope
Genre(s): Pop, R&B, Pop/Rock, Contemporary R&B, Retro-Soul
Southern California indie-hop and soul sensation Aloe Blacc follows up his piano-pounding multi-million-selling hit “I Need a Dollar” with a major label debut filled with the sound of his smoky baritone voice, front and center. While the album’s first single, “The Man,” is nothing too unique to write home about, the stirring acoustic number “Wake Me Up,” the handsomely nervous “Ticking Bomb” and the sarcastic “Red Velvet Seat” offer brilliant, better options of Blacc’s observational lyricism and buoyant vocal tones. .
Like fellow retro-minded rapper-turned-singer Mayer Hawthorne, Aloe Blacc moved from the revered independent Stones Throw to a major label, but he did so after one of his singles -- 2010's "I Need a Dollar" -- went Top Ten in ten territories. Between the song's unlikely rise and an Interscope contract, Aloe co-wrote and fronted Avicii's peculiar folk-EDM hybrid "Wake Me Up," an even bigger hit. Thankfully, Lift Your Spirit doesn't attempt to capitalize on the success of the Avicii collaboration, unless the zero-percent EDM version of "Wake Me Up," placed third on the U.S.
Life must feel good for Aloe Blacc (born Egbert Nathaniel Dawkins III) in the post-Avicii era. After toiling away for nearly 20 years, the California native has had minor success — counting his hip-hop Emanon days and more notably the single "I Need A Dollar" off 2010's Good Things — but nothing like what "Wake Me Up" has done for his career. Lift Your Spirit finds Blacc with a bit of swagger in his step, and he acknowledges as much on single "The Man": "Go ahead and tell everybody/ I'm the man, I'm the man, I'm the man."His folksy-soul Bill Withers by way Sam Cooke vocals and lyricism are nothing new, but the project finds Blacc doing a soft reboot of sorts, as he introduces his sound to his new fan base.
Aloe Blacc is an artist with recognizable work, but not necessarily the most recognizable name. Anybody who has caught a glimpse of American television over the last five months has surely seen an advertisement for Beats by Dre featuring Kevin Garnett or Colin Kaepernick transforming a world of jeering fans and hecklers into a comforting chorus of “Go ahead and tell everybody / I’m the man, I’m the man, I’m the man.” The song is a hit, but it didn’t necessarily make Aloe Blacc a household name. The same can be said for his 2010 hit “I Need a Dollar”.
Aloe Blacc's major-label debut does what it promises: it lifts your spirit. The retro-pop singer – he of Wake Me Up, the song he voiced and co-wrote with Swedish DJ Avicii, as well as big 2011 hit I Need a Dollar – honours 70s soul here, the 12 tracks busy with hooks; moments of blues layered with acoustic folk. Sampling Elton John's Your Song, The Man combines gospel tones with hip-hop swagger, while the Pharrell-produced Love Is the Answer has an appealing Stevie Wonder groove and upbeat Here Today nods to Bill Withers.
Southern California soulman Aloe Blacc, who sang lead on Avicii's 2013 smash "Wake Me Up," will probably be enjoying some nice royalty checks for years to come – but while every college student in the hemisphere surely recognizes his voice, not nearly as many fans know his name. Blacc's major-label debut tries to change that with a set of hooky soul-pop tunes layered with folk-tinged acoustic elements. Highlights like the boisterous "Can You Do This" and an EDM-free mix of "Wake Me Up" (just in case anyone forgot he's that guy) are plenty radio-friendly, but the songs never quite add up to a cohesive album.
“I’ll be the quick relief to all your stressing,” Aloe Blacc sings in “The Man,” off his third album Lift Your Spirit. The retro-soul singer proves as much in a new Beats by Dre commercial. As Brooklyn Nets center Kevin Garnett stares out a tour bus window, the vehicle drives slowly past a seething crowd, a distressing sight given recent Marcus Smart headlines.
Retro soulman Aloe Blacc seems to have his sights set on the big time. After co-writing and lending his vocal to EDM producer Avicii's 2013 hit Wake Me Up, Blacc's third solo album sits firmly in poppy, ready-to-chart R&B territory. It's a valiant effort, but not particularly inspiring. The album brims over with perky optimism, with Blacc invoking listeners to "see through the eyes of a child" and "believe in love, the only thing we have that's true".
It seems hard to imagine that this is the same man who recorded 2006 debut album Shine Through. A rough and ready meshing of rap, R&B, Latin and anything else – from Tropicália to disco – it was an ambitious if messy album that pushed musical boundaries. If its follow up, 2010’s retro-soul Good Things, and accompanying mega-hit I Need A Dollar, were geared towards the pop market, their slick take on classic R&B also gained from more assured vocals and satisfyingly quirky production.
Aloe Blacc “Lift Your Spirit” (Interscope) 4 Stars Aloe Blacc finally got the breakthrough he deserved last year. The long-worthy soul singer shot to worldwide acclaim with his barreling vocal in the 3 million-selling song he co-wrote with Swedish DJ Avicii, “Wake Me Up.” The head-turning hit, which went No. 1 in 22 countries (Top Five in the U.S.), wasn’t just a commercial juggernaut.
After years of knocking around the music business, Aloe Blacc (born Egbert Nathaniel Dawkins III) found his place as a retro-style soul singer. In the 1990s and early 2000s, he was a rapper in the duo Emanon. His 2006 solo debut album, “Shine Through,” toyed with hip-hop hybrids, Latin rhythms ….