Guest post from Hannah E Twitter.com/hlekren
Years ago, I heard Jon Bellion for the first time. “She wrote it on the bathroom wall in her favorite shade of lipstick. L-I-F-E.”
And now here we are with his debut album, The Human Condition, and the moment deserves to be marked. This is a chapter of Jon Bellion’s collection of work that begs for listeners to set aside some time, put away the distractions, phones, people, whatever might draw you away and just listen. Bellion has put out some incredible tracks through his career - he’s done wonderful things that I think are life-changing, industry changing, and just downright inspiring, but this is far beyond what I’ve come to expect from Jon Bellion’s beautiful mind. From “He is the Same” to “Hands of God” Jon has given us a an spectacular mix of pop and rap, along with a story backed by a chorus that could fill out an impressive Broadway show.
If you start the story of The Human Condition, it begins with “He is the Same” – a clear ending and starting point for Bellion. As he embarks on this next part of his life, this is a reminder of who he is at his core, despite all the other things evolving around him – an idea that echoes throughout the album.
There are a few themes woven through these tracks, all tying back into the title, making this project truly next level. He zooms in to himself, the individual, with tracks like “All Time Low” and “Maybe IDK” that pay attention to both earthly and spiritual struggles. He also pans out to look at humanity as a whole with tracks like “Fashion” – one of my personal favorites that really examines the way we feel the need to present and package ourselves in social situations. He even gives us a background to the story with “New York Soul II” a follow up to “New York Soul” which gave me such comfort after I moved to New York and was parted from friends and family, and then he pulls back even farther with “Morning in America” where he holds a mirror up to a broken country.
Love seems to be at the core here, so deftly portraying relationships from the absolute fun and light-heartedness of young love in “80s Films”, to that moment you’re desperate to stop playing games and realize something real is happening in “Woke the F*ck Up” and another favorite of mine – the one that hits infatuation head on in “Overwhelming.” “The Good in Me” is a tortured love that seems right but is out of reach. He has arguments for how relationships make us better with “Weight of the World,” a track that also ties into this greater idea here that people are what saves us. And of course “Guillotine” that is about those relationships that are strong and sweet through the good and bad.
Then there’s “iRobot” with that complete drain of emotion – an ironic track for an album called The Human Condition, but in actuality there’s a play on this very human grievance for love lost that ties into another echo through this album – our reliance on technology and submitting to our lives playing out through phone screens.
Finally, we have the outro – “Hand of God.” You don’t have to be religious to let this song be a hair-raising religious (whatever your belief is) experience. Because in this awe-inspiring track Bellion takes all that makes you human and lifts it up to let you know that there’s something bigger out there. This track also highlights what makes Jon Bellion not only a spectacular musician but also an extraordinary human – he draws on other people for strength, talent and support.
This album is riddled with mentions of family, loves, and friends, because we don’t go through this life alone. In this final track, Jon brings a chorus to wrap up his story, echoing the other lines through this album, through this life – “He is the same.” “Just like the 80s films we’ll hook up in the backseat and let my best friend drive.” “Overwhelming.” “Push me down the Hudson River and turn on the radio.” I can see the stage setting itself, starting with Jon, followed by those closest to him who’ve been with him every step of this journey, moving to those he’s called in, people who’ve supported him near and far, followed by the extras, the fans, and then everyone else who might have touched his life in any way, all to join in the same song. Because Jon Bellion might be the name on the album, he might be the heart and soul behind it, but if you listen closely you will find that it’s a labor of love from a whole group of people that Jon Bellion has brought together for the sake of music. As Bellion says “I am just a man.”
The Human Condition is larger and shines brighter than that first song I ever heard but Bellion is the same – he’s just trying to figure out L-I-F-E. He’s still trying to figure it out, we all are, but in this album he’s gotten closer, he’s pushed farther and dug deeper to bring us something that can relate to whatever we’re going through because we’re all human. L-I-F-E. It’s human condition to feel the need to figure it out, and Jon Bellion is here to bring us together so we don’t have to go through it alone.