Aloe Blacc, All Love Everything (BMG, 2020)
A review by Robert Hann. Robert Hann grew up in a family of music lovers with diverse tastes and strong opinions. He is an orthodontist in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he lives with his wife and kids.
Aloe Blacc made his bones singing on Avicii’s ‘Wake Me Up.’ The song is undeniably catchy, it still gets regular airplay across multiple radio formats almost eight years after its release, and the video has over 2 billion YouTube views. No small feat for any song, much less one labeled ‘folktronica’ and with words written and recorded by Blacc in a day.
But that song is something of an outlier. Before and after the popularity that came with having a global smash hit, southern California native Blacc has spent years building a reputation as a heartfelt and uplifting singer-songwriter with soul, folk and hip hop influences. As far back as his second album, Good Things (Stones Throw Records, 2010), he generated much-deserved buzz and hits that charted in the UK and Europe. Songs like ‘I Need a Dollar,’ ‘Green Lights,’ and ‘Mama Hold My Hand’ signaled the development of a performer who had swirled his influences into sincere and vibrant new music. Exploring a more pop-forward sensibility yielded a Grammy nomination for his follow-up, Lift Your Spirit (Interscope, 2013).
Seven years later, cue All Love Everything. The earlier influences have not departed, but they have taken a back seat. This is a pop record.
While it can be difficult to connect with an entire album’s worth of pop songs, this is music by a talented artist who also happens to be a loving husband and devoted father. If you, too, are married and have kids, and if you are open to having a very right-now kind of pop music moment, then every song on this record will speak to you directly and has the ability to bring you real joy.
Top to bottom, it's wholeheartedly romantic in both senses of the word. ‘I Do,’ for example, will surely be the first song played at wedding vow renewals for years to come, just as it was for Blacc and his wife. And songs like 'Hold On Tight', 'Glory Days,' and 'Harvard' sweetly idealize family relationship dynamics, adversity, and chance encounters with strangers.
While the format and production touches are deliberately contemporary, the lyrics are decidedly unfashionable: “I read my little ones to sleep.” “I wanna wake up in the morning with a wedding ring.” “People say I’m blinded by faith.” “What does it for me? The way you look when we’re at home.”
Song for song, the album is an unabashedly buoyant series of celebrations of commitment, family, and our shared humanity. In that way the album is delightfully atypical of the pop idiom. This is not “ooh, baby baby baby.” This is “all I need is right here next to me: my family.” Listen, be glad of yours, and find yourself smiling.
Robert Hann: firstname.lastname@example.org