Matt’s (Final) Music Corner: “WE ARE” by Jon Batiste

Jon Batiste hits home with a crispy and airy tape of jazz and soul on “WE ARE.”


Matt Brady, Reporter

For the final addition of “Matt’s Music Corner,” we’re going to take a look at the new eighth studio album by soul singer Jon Batiste. Born in Louisiana, Jon Batiste developed a love for music early on in his life; he took classical piano lessons and transcribed music from video games such as Final Fantasy, Street Fighter, and Sonic the Hedgehog. As he got older, he was able to make a name of himself by working with huge industry acts such as Stevie Wonder, Prince, Lenny Kravitz, and Willie Nelson, having a bandleader spot on The Late Night with Steven Colbert, and releasing several studio albums across the span of his career. He’s been prolific with his work, releasing seven studio albums, and now his eighth, with the recent WE ARE.

The album opens with the jazzy and soulful “WE ARE.” A crispy drum beat plays over intertwining guitars and pianos as Jon sings, “The ghetto is full of stars. Watch them shine from afar. On days when it’s hard. And always.” The kick drum continues to raddle the speakers as the instrumentation kicks into full gear and a choir of heavenly voices accompanies Jon’s sweet voice; they sing, “We are the chosen ones. We are the golden ones. We’re never along, no, no, we’re never alone. The country is full of stars. But they’re in a war.” Halfway through the song, it takes an unexpected turn, as an unknown person counts in (“1,2, ready and”), and a marching band begins to play an energetic tune. The lyrics of the chorus stay the same, but a new choir enters, as they all cheer, “We are the golden ones (We’re never alone, no, no).”

The sugary jazz and soul elements don’t let up throughout the entirety of the album. Each song’s foundation is built from different layers of soul, either super uplifting or sad, or different layers of jazz, either big band or slow and cool. Songs that emphasize this are cuts like “BOYHOOD,” “CRY,” and “I NEED YOU.” In “BOYHOOD,” it has the soul and jazz elements, but it takes another direction with a bigger hip-hop influence. “CRY” is the most jazzy and soulful song on the album; it has the same instrumentation as before, bright guitars, airy pianos, and crispy drums, and Jon’s voice is creamy and smooth as ever. And in “I NEED YOU,” Jon once again dives into the hip-hop realm, but it’s more fleshed out and prevalent this time; it consists of crispy drums and ticking hi-hats, but it keeps its foundation of soul and jazz.

In an age of music dominated by mainstream rap and cheesy country music, few can cut themselves a new niche that stands up to the fads, but Jon Batiste is one of them. He hits the listener with old school soulful jazz mixed with elements of popular rap, either it be the bouncy drums, the staccato hi-hats, or rapping a bit himself. Jazz has been outcast to the underground, away from the top of the music charts. But this can be seen as a good thing; the jazz scene this day and age has been pushed to its limits; its musical composition has been challenged by musicians seeking to create something new and exciting. Musicians like Justin Brown, Joel Ross, Thundercat, and Jon Batiste have been doing this for a long time, and it may just now be paying off. Jon Batiste hits home with a crispy and airy tape of jazz and soul on “WE ARE.”

Rating: 7/10