"My goal every day is to get uncomfortable and face things without drugs and alcohol and just have a healthier perspective," says the singer
R&B singer/songwriter Blackbear is direct in his views about social media.
“It’s a gift and a curse,” he said.
It’s the subject of “Pink Rolex,” the opening song on his latest album, “Anonymous.” He pairs mentions of Yves Saint Laurent and pretty people with “iced over” hearts and “icky” personalities.
“It's a great tool, but it can also be like, everyone needs a sense of emotional validation,” said Blackbear, who will perform on Friday at the Breakaway Music Festival.
Sure enough, earlier this week he was criticized on Twitter.Black bears, grizzlies, polar bears — don't miss out on Central Ohio's No. 1 place for bear coverage: Sign up for our daily newsletter
He announced his forthcoming single, “#hotgirlbummer,” a play on the popular “#hotgirlsummer” slogan, which has been circulating the internet on memes. But given that it originated with rapper Megan Thee Stallion’s song, “Hot Girl Summer,” people accused Blackbear, a white artist, of co-opting black culture.
“This song is not a parody & has nothing to do with the other song,” Blackbear wrote in a since-deleted tweet, captured by hotnewhiphop.com.
The week had already been a tough one. The 28-year-old — whose actual name is Matthew Tyler Musto — admitted he was in an “off” period; before his diagnosis of necrotizing pancreatitis in 2016, he may have used alcohol to cope. But after giving up drinking to benefit his health, he has been working on new ways to deal with anxiety and discomfort. It’s a topic he explores in the song “Drug Dealer.”
“Whatever will I do, whatever will I say / When you ain’t around no more to make everything OK?” he sings in what is essentially a love letter. But his crush is his crutch.
“Now, my goal every day is to get uncomfortable and face things without drugs and alcohol and just have a healthier perspective,” he said. “That’s the only way I’m going to grow as a human. And if I don’t do that, I’m just going to isolate (myself) and not help my situation or anyone else’s.”
Blackbear also said it helps when he can get out of his head and help someone. That can include writing songs and producing for other artists, including G-Eazy, Machine Gun Kelly and Linkin Park (Chester Bennington, who died in 2017, was his best friend). His greatest songwriting success was co-writing Justin Bieber’s No. 2 hit, “Boyfriend,” released in 2012.
But since 2015, Blackbear has released five solo albums, landing his first placement on the Billboard Hot 100 with the breakthrough song “Do Re Mi” in 2017.
“I go in and out,” he said of writing for others. “Right now, I’ve been making like three or four songs a day, and then there’ll be months where I don't make any. And when I’m making three or four songs a day, there’s so much extra that I can give them out. … It makes me super happy.”
To further assist other artists, Blackbear helped start a record label, Beartrap Sound. He plans to put in more work behind the scenes when he retires, which is a long way off, despite past comments about hanging it up in the near future.
“Every time I say stuff like that, I’m probably just having like some kind of existential crisis,” he said.
For Blackbear, lending a hand to others extends beyond writing music.
“I have a few friends I call (each week) just to say, ‘What’s new? What are you going through? What’s jamming you up?’” he said. “It ultimately helps me.”
Blackbear said such moments support his belief in something greater than himself. Although he doesn’t consider himself religious, God shows up in his music — even in a liquor store on the song “Swear to God” — and in at least one tattoo.
“I have faith in a higher power,” he said. “I just don't really know what she looks like. … I do pray. I’m going to be honest, I haven’t prayed in like two weeks or something, and that’s probably why my week is off.”
But music can be another form of healing.
“My main goal in life is to make people feel things,” he said. “If I’m the soundtrack to somebody’s sadness, that’s cool. But if I’m the soundtrack to somebody getting better, that’s the best.”