Mat Musto is one of the greatest talents that you’re not listening to. A triple threat in the music industry, the singer, songwriter and producer—better known to his fans as Blackbear—touts an impressive (and mile long) résumé. Blackbear has co-written songs for Artist vs. Poet, Justin Bieber (“Boyfriend”) and Big Time Rush (“Windows Down”). He’s produced for G-Eazy (“These Things Happen,” “Remember You”) and has been featured on tracks by Machine Gun Kelly (“End of the Road”) and Mike Posner. Between Blackbear’s work with other artists and full schedule—he’s currently opening for Mod Sun’s 33-city Look Up tour—he manages to save a little creativity for his own projects.
Two thousand and fourteen saw the release of The Afterglow, Blackbear’s 18-minute EP, which centered on themes of depression, relationships and drug abuse. This year, on February 14, Blackbear released his debut LP, Deadroses. The album tackles many of the same themes as The Afterglow, but with a decidedly more upbeat sound. Scroll through for a track-by-track review of Deadroses.
Deadroses opens with “4U,” a blended synth-pop/hip-hop track about the end of a relationship. The lyrics express conflicted feelings through lines like “now I’m wishing that I never bowed to you,” and “I’m running out of time to hold you close, running out of time to be your man.” A perfect introduction, this song sets the tone for the rest of the album.
2. I Needed You
Next, the album moves into “I Needed You,” a re-imagined version of another Blackbear track of the same name. The original straddles the line between a love song and a song about sex, while this remix is decidedly about heartbreak. The production here is some of the album’s best, a mix of keys and rhythmic bass that give this track a relaxed vibe and allow Blackbear’s vocals to shine.
3. Ain’t Trippin
A mellow tune, “Ain’t Trippin” is reminiscent of early 2000s hip-hop/R&B mash-ups. Here, Blackbear rides the wave over tight production. However, this song’s strength is its catchy lyrics, telling the story of a man trying to win the affection of a woman.
4. 90210 (feat. G-Eazy)
Of the album’s ten tracks, “90210” is the most pop sounding. An upbeat, summery instrumental with punchy bass and drums balances the solemnity of the lyrics. After all, falling for a shallow girl comes with a special set of challenges, as evidenced by the line, “in all designer to remind you, you can’t buy her, just her clothes.” G-Eazy’s verse plays into the track’s theme and introduces some new blood near the album’s halfway point.
5. Ain’t Love
“Ain’t Love,” a song about sex, excels in production. The beat’s mid-tempo beginning is reminiscent of Kanye West’s “Love Lockdown.” At the song’s halfway point, the beat changes, creating a more traditional hip-hop sound. The track’s only downfall is the effect added to Blackbear’s voice. Instead of creating a sexy and mysterious vibe, the result is grating and seems misplaced.
“Idfc” best exemplifies a typical Blackbear song. Here, Blackbear’s talents have combined to craft a track about emotional detachment. The lyrics echo a relatable sentiment, making “Idfc” one of the best songs on Deadroses.
7. Waste Away (feat. Devon Baldwin)
The seventh track, “Waste Away,” revisits the theme of sex. This song exhibits a more typical R&B feel, featuring softer lyrical delivery. Devon Baldwin’s falsetto acts as the perfect accent to the production. Blackbear does some more voice-altering—which works here—with his lines fluctuating between regular, high and low pitches.
8. Dirty Laundry
Blackbear’s writing, singing and production skills come together again in “Dirty Laundry.” With its upbeat synth-pop meets hip-hop production, it’s the only song on Deadroses that has the feel of a banger. The hook, sung in a falsetto, is catchy. The track features Blackbear harmonizing with himself and effortlessly riding the wave during verses.
9. My Heart Is Lost
Another song about the end of a relationship, “My Heart Is Lost” is an alternative pop tune. The lyrics evoke images of young love and Californian summertime sunsets. The light and airy production—emphasized by lower bass notes—works well with Blackbear’s vocals. There’s a hint of EDM influence, with the chorus and last few seconds of the song featuring an array of electronic sounds.
The album’s title track, “Deadroses,” is the star of the album. The production here is top-notch—simultaneously ballad-like, dance inducing and hip-hop and EDM influenced. Blackbear’s writing is also at its best here, with simple and smooth, but emotional and thought provoking lyrics like “what’s the difference, Big Bang or collision? Love is blind, we had a vision though; now we’re dead roses.”
For Blackbear fans, Deadroses is the full-length album they’ve been waiting for. But for first-time listeners, this album is an introduction to Blackbear’s craft. Aside from Blackbear’s vocals, there is just enough of his own production work to gather an idea of his overall sound. Blackbear’s songwriting skills are front-and-center with Deadroses—an album where the lyrics are truly the star.
Deadroses is available for purchase on iTunes.
By: BreeAngela Hamilton