You may have heard of blackbear. The image-conscious singer got quite popular during the latter half of 2017 after the release of his high-water mark single “do re mi,” which is actually a pretty good song. The rest of blackbear’s music is OK, I suppose. I would compare it to a well-baked loaf of white bread: Competent in execution, but bland and unsurprising. Despite his insipid but otherwise harmless music, blackbear manages to be actively insufferable due to his lyrics and persona.
Blackbear is proof that singing about drugs and sex does not automatically make you cool; this is a guy who is trying way, way, too hard. Blackbear evidently wants to occupy a role similar to that of The Weeknd, but due to his astounding lack of nuance and subtlety, his persona comes off as less of a tortured yet attractive rogue and more like the three-way love child of Adam Levine, one of those guys who comment on PornHub videos and a cigarette.
Blackbear has two lyrical modes, and both are hackneyed and lazy. One is the “revenge love” theme, where he has nothing to say that hasn’t been said a million times before by other “revenge love” songs (a theme that generally makes its way into his tweets, as we’ll soon see). The other mode is a clumsy attempt at imitating the braggadocious and materialistic aesthetic found in a good deal of hip hop/R&B, except with none of the humor, charm or self-awareness. The effect is cold and caustic, giving rise to songs devoid of personality with catchiness as the only redeeming factor. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this. Music can still be memorable even if it isn’t meaningful, but his lyrics and aesthetic suggest that he takes himself more seriously than he should.
Let’s play a game.
Below are six tweets, three of which are taken directly from blackbear’s official Twitter account, while the other three have been taken from Bryson Tiller parody accounts. The game is to guess whose are whose. In the interest of fairness all letters have been made lowercase, all “you”s have been changed to “u”s, all “to”s and “too”s have been changed to “2”s and all “for”s have been changed to “4”s.
“wasted so much time wishing i was good enough 4 u”
“i loved u at my worst u only love me cuz im at my best”
“don’t fight 4 their attention. if they really care, u shouldn’t have 2”
“worst part is i’ll never know”
“wasted hella time on u”
“they ain’t down 4 u like i am”
Correct answer: blackbear is the author of tweets 1, 2 and 4, while tweets 3, 5, 6 belong to an assortment of inspirational Bryson Tiller parody accounts. If you aced it, congratulations, because even after writing the quiz, I still couldn’t. A quick glance at blackbear’s Twitter page will make clear that these are not isolated examples — he really is just that goddamn corny.
What’s such a shame about blackbear is that he does actually possess some talent: He has a great voice and a knack for catchy melodies. His instrumentals are never particularly innovative, but they are well-crafted. The problem is both that his lyrics are intolerably vapid and that his public persona is inescapable, pervading every aspect of his music, from his inane song titles (e.g. “i hope ur whole life sux”) to his derivative and cloying lyrics (“Cause I have hella feelings for you / I act like I don't fucking care / ’Cause I'm so fucking scared,” etc). If he would drop his odious pose, his music would be tolerable, maybe even good. But given his general lack of self-awareness or tact, I find this situation unlikely. Until that happens, it’s impossible to listen to blackbear’s music without remembering that this is the same guy who tweets stuff like, “i think of u often hope u kno.”