By now, only YouTube commenters who are really late to the party should use the “underrated” tag to describe alternative pop sweetheart Jon Bellion. There is divided opinion on whether Grammy-related appeals are not premature for the man who has churned out the likes of “All Time Low” and “Simple and Sweet”, but there’s no gainsaying the fact that he enjoys a good following from coffee house goers, overthinkers and hopeless romantics.
On Friday November 9th, 2018, the singer-songwriter announced the release of a new body of work. “Glory Sound Prep”. Teased in October 2018, it is his second mainstream project, after “The Human Condition” (2016), and as previously touted, it features creative contributions from the legendary Quincy Jones, Travis Mendes and B-Keyz.
The sound on this album is not the type you listen to when you are processing a breakup, missing a former lover or enduring the pangs that come with long distance relationship. It’s that stroke-her-shoulder-slowly-while-her-head-is-on-your-laps, put-your-fingers-into-the-spaces-between-hers kind of music. It’s for rainy Julys, cold dry Novembers, young adults basking in the euphoria of new found love, as well as couples needing to evaluate their romance.
“Mah’s Joint” is an introspective tune about aging and making final memories with a dying parent (stay away if your tear ducts easily get triggered), “Blu” is an expression of desire to swim in a lover’s ocean, “Couples Retreat” chronicles an intense relationship with all its fights and it’s cute to hear Bellion sing “come say sorry with your body” across beats reminiscent of 80s funk music.
“The Internet” is a simple story of living up to social media expectations, “Conversations with My Wife” (the lead single from the album) sees Bellion choose eternal love over superstardom, “JT” is a track about moving up in the world with a play on words involving a country and a 70s classic film. “Stupid Deep” is another rumination on finding meaning and emotional prioritizing. In “Adult Swim” he seeks Tuamie’s help as he raps (yes, raps!) at a velocity that Logic would have been proud of while hinting at passing up Beyonce for a song he wrote amidst previous artistic decisions, and on “Let’s Begin” he winks at Hip Hop again with some self-aware bars, collaborating with B-Keyz and RZA from the legendary Wu Tang Clan to an effect that borders on decent delivery.
The album portrays Bellion as a man who is as good with his storytelling as he is with his vocals, but you just feel that the lyrical narration could be a lot more expansive. Away from changes caused by real life events, we have been treated to deeper storytelling and more rounded musicality from the same vocal chords before. The final product on this record appears to be missing a dimension: listen to “New York Soul II”, “Hand of God” or “Guillotine” from his previous full-length effort and you will almost wonder what is going on here.
“The Glory Sound Prep” is a good introduction to Bellion ‘s art for beginners, but adoring fans won’t be blown away, even if they will nod in appreciation. He’s yet to make a bad song, but he knows that there have been better ones.