Chances are you had never heard of Aloe Blacc until last summer. I’d venture to say that many are still unfamiliar with the man who’s voice elevated one of last year’s biggest hits. Blacc’s song “Wake Me Up” was refashioned by Avicii and became a number one hit in nearly 40 countries. If you watched any of the recent NFL playoff games, then you heard Aloe’s new single “The Man” in a series of ads for Beats by Dre. That track is from Aloe Blacc’s excellent new ep Wake Me Up.
A graduate of USC, Aloe Blacc (real name Egbert Nathaniel Dawkins III) is a So-Cal native of Panamanian parents, which I only bring up because Blacc’s musical identity is fluid and multicultural. And this style conscious, self managed artist is bound for something big. “The Man” opens the ep and highlights Blacc’s effortless segue from style to style as horns, a shuffling beat, and a big backing choir bolster the positivity inherent in the song.
The version of “Wake Me Up” included on the EP is acoustic. Violins and piano replace the synth-washes prominent on Avicii’s album. It becomes evident that the Swedish DJ/model merely added a few EDM bells and whistles to what was an already fully formed piece of music. That this version is more organic and Americana-esque illustrates Aloe’s ease in blurring genres. And while you’ve probably heard the original more that you’d want, hearing this made me appreciate the song in a whole new way.
“Love Is The Answer” is undeniably sexy, as dub-style horns and a sauntering groove propel this track that brings to mind some of the classic soul sides of the seventies. “Can’t Do This” sports a retro R&B feel and would sound great as a duet with Janelle Monae. And “Ticking Bomb” brings to mind a spiritual with terrific percussion and passion.
Despite two previous full length albums, this ep feels like a statement of intent. Confident, strong, and natural. There are no borders for Aloe and no boundaries as to where he can go from here.
Tim Johnstone is a former Virgin Records Label Rep and current award winning Program Director and on-air host at KRVB, which was awarded the FMQB AAA station of the year markets 50+. He also writes our weekly best-of-the-web Dossier, which you can find here on Dappered every Friday.