Much like Meshell Ndgeocello, Aloe Blacc can’t be confined to one genre. While his catchy and soulful song, “I Need a Dollar,” has strangely taken the form of a pop hit and subsequently resulted in the artist being branded as a soul singer, Blacc is not simply a soul singer. In fact, he isn’t even simply a singer. Between Shine Through (2006) and Good Things (2010), and even currently, Blacc has been dabbling in a melange of musical styles. From bossa nova to hip-hop to future soul to adult contemporary, Blacc spreads his creative wings wide, soaring high and scoring high among critics.
Interestingly, he doesn’t make music to remain in figurative flight. “I don’t always make music for release,” he admits. One of the various projects he has stashed in his vault is an album composed entirely of acoustic covers of songs chosen by Parisian producers Roseaux. Of that project, only his cover of The Police’s “Walking on the Moon” has seen the light of day.
Blacc has “no plan” for the rest of those songs, but he does have schemes for other projects. In particular, some albums with his band, The Grand Scheme, will eventually be released. Their first album will most likely be a recording of live performances, he says, but studio-recorded albums will soon follow, he assures. The band gets its name from Blacc’s “grand scheme” to “be the voice of the unheard and tell the stories of the underrepresented through the music,” he says, while pushing for “equality and justice with the visibility and influence” he gains from the music. Elaborating upon some of the details this grand scheme might entail, Blacc says, “I think the most important thing that a government can do is make sure that its citizens have sufficient access to healthcare, education, nutritious food, and work. There are enough resources to make this happen for everyone in our country and in many other developing nations around the world. In order for this to happen, the entities in control of financial and natural resources need to be more compassionate and share with those in need.” To make these things happen through music is a grand scheme indeed.
In spite of the pain and suffering Blacc sees in the world and channels through his music, during his live performances he is rarely without a smile. Explaining this seeming discrepancy, he says, “The lyrics in the songs that I sing are not always bright and happy, but the music can tell a different story. Sometimes my expression matches the music and not the lyrics. I think the reason I smile is largely because I am having fun on stage and it is difficult to have any other expression in that state of mind.”
All in all, Blacc’s grand scheme doesn’t seem so farfetched. If music is so powerful that it can make the “heir of soul,” a man who uses suffering as his muse, smile, it can undoubtedly move the governments and institutions that Blacc sees as obstacles to peoples’ well-being. Perhaps this is why he experiments with so many genres. Because Blacc contributes to so many musical traditions, whether he is making music with his wife, Maya Jupiter, Exile or just for himself, his impact is wide. Possibly alluding to Shine Through, an album that features a pantheon of sounds, Aloe speculates that, “Perhaps in the past, my songs were all too diverse to tell a story about who I am.” That may be true, but based on his grand scheme, Blacc’s individual story probably doesn’t matter.
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