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Jon Batiste’s “WE ARE”:
A Call for Love and Unity
A Conversation and Upcoming Look with the Artist
By Alejandra Orellana
Are you looking for new album releases this spring? Or perhaps you’re a fan of jazz, soul, or blues? You’ll find just the right amount of genre-defying music with Jon Batiste. Batiste is a Louisiana-born, multi-Grammy and Emmy-nominated recording artist, TV star, and activist. He is most known for his recent work on the soundtrack for Disney Pixar’s hit film “Soul” and his role as bandleader on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert since 2015.” His new studio album “WE ARE” is set to release March 19th under Verve Records.
So, what can be expected from WE ARE? Judging by his second single from his album, “I Need You” which has been available on streaming platforms since January, it will mesh the sounds of early 20th century Black social music with modern pop production and a touch of hip-hop storytelling. This body of work was created alongside songwriter Autumn Rowe and producer Kizzo and was recorded in New York, Los Angeles, and New Orleans, demonstrating the range of melodic inspiration along the way. It is a project dedicated to Batiste’s southern roots and heritage with features by Mavis Staples, Quincy Jones, Zadie Smith, PJ Morton, Trombone Shorty, St Augustine Marching 100, his father Michael Batiste, grandfather David Gauthier, and many more. According to Batiste, “WE ARE” is an album motivated by the message of “love and hope for humanity.” The feeling of community is important now more than ever amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and the push for social justice through movements like Black Lives Matter. Batiste says that using music to share communal feelings is the “oldest trick in the book,” and is one of the many reasons that his drive for creation still stands strong.
One of the aspects of Batiste’s artistry that is so special is his contribution to social advocacy through his music: “Music has always been a glue, a social glue, and if you get people together and you make people feel the same emotion at the same time, it’s a lot easier to have nuanced conversations and it’s a lot easier to have dialogue.” His single “Cry,” which has been available since February, is one example of how he incorporates social issues in his music. The lyrics to “Cry” are a reflection of the political and social turmoil that has been an ongoing struggle amongst marginalized communities, as well as highlighting the importance of mental health issues accompanied by these struggles.
Much of Batiste’s sound is rooted in his background of being born into the musical Batiste family. His days at Julliard only propelled his passion and skill in music, where he established his band “Stay Human” by performing around New York City’s subways and streets, which he titled “love riots.” His fluidity and multifacetedness as an artist has opened many doors for him, so tune into “WE ARE,” where Batiste is finally ready to display it to the world in full.
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