Jon Bellion is a singer songwriter hailing from Lake Grove, New York. When I first came across Bellion, I admit I did not know quite what to think. Heavily tattooed with perfectly stylized hair, Bellion easily resembles the female adolescent standard of beauty; dangerous on the outside, sweet and sensitive on the inside. Within that curated image however, lies an individual deserving of critical acclaim for his hard work and true talent.
Suspending disbelief long enough to dive into the actual music, I was careful to not jump into the position of “overly critical.” After all, the most lauded critic is still well below the worst artist. What are my qualifications to raise up or bring down someone desperately trying to be heard and to find like minded people to empathize with? None at all, besides being a person with strong opinions and an old Macbook, really.
Nonetheless, I admittedly did not like Bellion at first take. Between the heavy pandering to his fan-base in terms of appearance and musical content and the pop vibe that comes across stronger in his later works, Bellion is up there with N*SYNC and One Direction on the list of artists catering to the mainstream. But even saying that while looking at Bellion’s entire discography, he has always held strong onto his own individual core. He was more acoustic early on, as well as mixing in some hip-hop and electronic. Talking with my friends and colleagues about him, both male and female instantly recognized his name as well as his place in pop music history. While he may not be the number one crooner floating off the radio waves (never say never, stranger things have happened), Bellion has solidified himself in a position of authority and minor prestige.
Bellion initially rose to fame in 2013 when he wrote the chorus for the 2013 hit song “The Monster“ by Eminem feat. Rihanna. After that, he snagged two lengthy tours playing shows and building a name for himself. After four mixtapes, he was ready to release his first album this year.
It cannot be denied that Bellion has a sickeningly nice voice. He rides and flows over the beat, whether it be cotton candy pop, EDM, or hip-hop. The disappointing aspect of that is listening to his 2016 album The Human Condition, and bearing witness to Bellion’s prodigious use of auto-tune and tools of that ilk. It screams inauthentic in my eyes to blend a powerful voice like that in order to appeal to the many instead of the few. While his choice of song naming might not win any awards (lead singles being “All Time Low,” “Maybe IDK,” and “Woke the Fuck Up“), the actual content is easy on the ears. Incredibly catchy and rhythmic, Bellion has great studios and producers backing him.
With all this, Bellion’s music does not appeal to me due to the fact that I am not his targeted audience. Among those chosen by him, his producers, or whatever other sonic mastermind lurks in the dark corner of the studio, Bellion is wildly popular. That is my critique as well as my lament: I can’t relate to him because he chose to present himself in such a way that only those mirroring his minor Twitter trials and tribulations can relate to.
The Human Condition was released June 10th of this year. Pick it up off iTunes and give it a shot for yourself.
*Last minute edit and embarrassing confession: After writing this review I found myself repeatedly listening to “Woke the Fuck Up,” despite my feelings that it has a subjectively stupid name and sample in the hook. Its frustratingly catchy.