“Can you include emojis in your story? Just put one after everything I say.” Blackbear is joking, but not really.
It’s par for the course for
If you ask the duo how they met, they might spit back with FarmersOnly.com or PlentyOfFish.com. In reality, the guys got to know each other in the studio, when they co-wrote Justin Bieber’s smash hit “Boyfriend” back in 2011.
The two definitely had some musical chemistry — they describe their writing process as 95 precent screaming-at-the-top-of-your-lungs chaos, 5 percent moments of transcendence and spiritual enlightenment — and they started messing around with demos, shooting ideas back and forth over the internet.
It wasn’t until January 2016 that the collaboration really came to life. The guys met up in an isolated cabin in the woods (unless they're kidding about that, too) and worked on music for two weeks straight. The result is
Blackbear and Posner announced their new collaboration in a big way at the Grammys when they showed up with several bottles’ worth of bright green hair dye on top of their heads. The look is a nod to their radioactive-haired role model, Dennis Rodman. “We copied him,”
“Doing whatever they want” is not a hard task for them. When Posner and Blackbear get together, they’re like the two elementary school boys who can't sit next to each other because they'll spend the whole class goofing off. Blackbear says Posner is “an anxiety-ridden attention whore,” and Posner fires back that Blackbear is “full of himself and OCD about everything.”
At the same time, they have tattoos commemorating each other, and they feed off each other’s jokes as if they grew up together. On speakerphone from a New York hotel room, they alternate spewing bullshit, claiming that Shawn Mendes is passed out in the bathroom, that David Beckham wants to buy their album for $53 million, that Dan Marino wants to be the new third member of the band.
Their album reflects that same attitude, alternating between serious(ish) and fully jokey tracks. As a piece of work, though, it’s pretty good. Really good, actually. It’s well produced, and the music is catchy, both of which are to be expected from Blackbear and Posner. But more than that, the album is interesting. This isn’t a typical pop album, or a typical R&B album, or a typical display of slightly douchey bro comedy trying to pass itself off as “edgy.” It’s a little of all of those things, and a little of something else.
“The common theme is carelessness,” Blackbear says. “It’s the American dream gone wrong.” They definitely walk a fine line — some of the lyrics, such as the one about “[grabbing] the other bitch by the throat” in “White Linen,” cross it — but the attitude is, overall, refreshing.
“I’m Thinking About Horses” is a 6½-minute, stream-of-consciousness poem with minimal instrumental accompaniment, which begins with Posner contemplating the existence of God, then thinking about hitting up “every female [he knows] in a 15-mile radius.” Then, unexpectedly, the song veers away from sex to touch on Posner's dad, death and his own legacy. The track is self-aware about its misogyny, about its anxiety, about the end of life. For most of the song, Posner sounds genuinely worried about how he comes off and whether anyone will care about his music once he’s dying an unglamorous death in an old-age home.
In the R&B anthem “Nobody Knows,” the guys lament hating the things they love and feeling lost and misunderstood. “A Million Miles” slaps a hip-hop beat under an airy pop chorus and low-BPM rap verses. “Wicked” veers into EDM territory with an ’80s-inspired bass line and synth and an infectious, sing-along vocal track. Then there’s “Dennis Rodman,” a playful ode to the guy Mansionz model their DGAF attitude after, and “Strip Club,” a twinkling, innocent-sounding track about exactly what the name suggests.
With their first album just finished, the guys say it’s too early to think about the future. “I wouldn’t say we’ll definitely make more music together,” Posner says. “I could die. Our label could drop us. I could kill Blackbear.”
“Or I could kill Mike!” Blackbear interjects.
If any of that actually happened, they'd go out with Mansionz, which could easily become a cult classic. I’d rather see things work out for these two, though. The world is so serious these days; we could use some well-produced carelessness.