Since first crashing onto the scene in the mid−2010s, multi-platinum-selling singer/songwriter/producer blackbear has continually turned heads and defied all expectation, effortlessly mixing his hedonistic hell-raising and maniac humor with deeply heartfelt emotion. Delivering an outrageously catchy hybrid of pop and hip-hop and alt-R&B, the L.A.-based artist has put out five studio albums in the last five years alone, including 2017’s gold-certified digital druglord and 2019’s magnum opus ANONYMOUS (a #36 hit on the Billboard 200). Hyper-creative and massively prolific, he’s also collaborated with the likes of Pharrell Williams and Linkin Park, and brought his top-notch songwriting skills to Justin Bieber’s six-times-platinum single “Boyfriend.” And in his unflinching honesty about his own demons and depression, blackbear creates a powerful sense of solidarity—ultimately moving forward with his longtime mission of “inspiring everyone to be more unapologetic about who they are.”
Less than a year after releasing ANONYMOUS, blackbear returns with a new body of work that pushes his brilliantly warped artistry even further. The first glimpse at his latest metamorphosis, the fantastically zeitgeisty anthem “hot girl bummer” dropped in August 2019, reaching #5 at Top 40 radio and earning platinum certification from the RIAA—eventually emerging as blackbear’s most successful smash since 2017’s double-platinum “do re mi.” In the making of his new material, blackbear changed up his process by heading into his home studio with just one other producer, his frequent collaborator Andrew Goldstein. “I wanted to clear the chatter and noise of a bunch of people in a room all telling me what they thought everything should sound like,” says blackbear. “Emotionally and creatively, it just felt like the right thing to do.”
With Goldstein lending his sharply honed pop sensibilities, the initial output from those sessions also includes blackbear’s early−2020 single “me & ur ghost.” In a bold departure from the tongue-in-cheek free-for-all of “hot girl bummer,” the track unfolds with a tender vulnerability that’s doubly intensified by its dreamy textures and melancholy melody. “With ‘me & ur ghost’ I wanted to look at the aftermath or a relationship, where it feels like there’s some kind of ghost following you around—these little tiny memories that you can’t get ever rid of,” blackbear explains. And on “Queen of Broken Hearts,” blackbear embraces his feminine side and offers a moving reflection on gender fluidity. “I don’t really see any need for gender roles, and I truly do feel more like the queen than the king,” he says. “I think males should be allowed to feel pretty too—I personally fucking love the way it feels when I put heels on. And I want to be open about that, because maybe it’ll empower that kid who gets bullied at school for painting his nails or having long hair. I’d love for that song to help them to say ‘Fuck you,’ and keep on trying to find their place in the world.”
Born Matthew Musto, blackbear first discovered his wildly original artistic voice as a kid growing up in Daytona Beach. In tenth grade he dropped out of high school to tour with his punk band, and later shifted his focus to working on solo material and penning songs for other artists. As he built up his catalog and amassed a major following on SoundCloud—fast becoming one of the first recording artists ever to monetize streaming on the platform—blackbear made his full-length debut with 2015’s Deadroses. Released via his own record label, the still-thriving Beartrap Sound, Deadroses features his platinum-selling single “Idfc.” In addition to putting out his sophomore album Help that same year, blackbear soon teamed up with singer/songwriter/producer Mike Posner to form the hip-hop duo mansionz, whose self-titled album landed in March 2017. Just one month later, his third album digital druglord debuted at #14 on the Billboard 200, boosted by the breakout success of “do re mi.” As a remix of “do re mi” featuring Gucci Mane climbed to #26 on Top 40 radio, blackbear delivered his fourth full-length cybersex in fall 2017, enlisting heavyweights like 2 Chainz, Rick Ross, and Ne-Yo for the album’s star-studded tracklist.
Arriving in April 2019, ANONYMOUS marked a serious turning point for blackbear, who brought a soul-baring sensitivity to his songwriting for the very first time. “There were hints in my earlier albums of who I really was, but I had a wall up,” he notes. Partly inspired by a devastating breakup, the 18-track album finds blackbear engaging in intense self-examination, all while threading his songs with the magnetic melodies and undeniable hooks that have long defined his sound. And in another artistic milestone, blackbear joined forces with 19-year-old photographer/filmmaker Aidan Cullen to create The ANONYMOUS Saga: a short narrative film centered on three of the album’s tracks, adding a stunning visual and dramatic element to his brutally raw storytelling.
As blackbear reveals, his unflagging creativity has much to do with a profound shift in lifestyle over the past few years, prompted by his struggle with chronic pancreatitis (a notoriously painful disease). “I try to keep my stress down because whenever I have an attack, it puts me out of being creative for a week or two,” he says. “I’ve learned that the more I just deal with things as they come, the better my quality of life is—and that directly affects the quality of my music too.” Showing no signs of slowing down, he’s recently joined in a series of exciting collaborations, including Marshmello’s epic 2019 single “Tongue Tied” (also featuring Yungblud). He’s also set to join Halsey for a run of dates on her North American tour this summer, bringing his explosive live performance to an entirely new audience. “Touring is such a huge part of my life, and I have my hands in almost every single aspect of it,” he says. “I’m really passionate about listening to fans and giving them what they want, and I’m always watching to see what they stream the most so I can make sure to include those songs in the setlist.”
As part of his outsize commitment to his fans, blackbear endlessly strives for total candor and lack of calculation when it comes to creating new music. “I don’t really go into the studio thinking, ‘Today I’m gonna try to cure depression,’ because that’s way too big of a fight for one person,” he says. “Instead I just try to do something to help with my own depression—or stress or anxiety, or whatever I’m going through. I’ve learned to trust the whole process, and trust that if a song is therapeutic to me in some way, then hopefully it’ll do some kind of good for other people too.”