The Mercury Lounge in new York City quickly grew over capacity, filled with people of all ages, races and styles, all there for the debut of the twenty-seven year old, singer, rapper, songwriter, activist and artist, Michael Blume.
Blume strutted out wearing sunglasses and a glamorous gold necklace over a black cape-like outfit, his hair in a high ponytail that bounced atop his otherwise shaven head as he bounced around stage. Backing him was a vibrant and stylish ten piece Neo Soul band consisting of guitar, bass, drums, horns and backing vocals. Blume's voice draws buttery runs from Aretha Franklin but also scats like Stevie Wonder and raps with trap-like rhythms and tones.
The reason Blume doesn’t have a singular demographic is because his music does not come from a singular place, and he doesn’t have a singular message to get across. Musically, Blume pulls from hip-hop, jazz, R&B, Neo Soul and electronica. Lyrically, Blume exhibits a passion for capturing a range of issues, from materialism to gay rights to civil rights.
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Hailing from Montclair, New Jersey, Blume excelled in school and went to Yale for undergrad, majoring in Latin American studies and living in Brazil, becoming fluent in Spanish and Portuguese. He was planning on sticking to a life of academia until his last year of school, when he joined a prestigious, all male, a cappella group called the Whiffenpoofs. Started at Yale in 1909, the Whiffenpoofs are the oldest and best known a cappella group in the collegiate circuit. While with the Whiffenpoofs, Blume toured the world, performing in 35 countries, and it was then he had a realization.
“I love singing and I love traveling, this is what I need to be doing. I had what I describe as a ‘second coming out.' But what would the world say, how would my parents react?”
He had already come out as gay, and felt similar apprehensions when he came out as an artist. Blume moved to New York City to pursue a career as an artist, keeping his a cappella roots apparent in his rich backing vocal arrangements, but making music that comes from all eras and regions.
Blume’s music has a commercial feel, especially on his electronically inspired songs like “Colors” and “Manufactured Love,” the songs that served as his breakout into the music industry. Blume and his producer Brady Watt ndase gospel vocals in front of staple R&B and Neo Soul sounds in an electronic way in “Manufactured Love,” a song about broken relationships between parents and their children. When Blume released the song to Soundcloud in July of 2015, he did not have a manager. Soon after the release, an A&R from Apple Music reached out to Blume, encouraging him to distribute the song. Apple Music featured “Manufactured Love” on the cover of iTunes, and the song ended up on Spotify’s “Fresh Finds” playlist, and then its viral chart. His second release was “Colors,” in October 2015. Like “Manufactured Love,” “Colors” has an electronic feel fused with R&B and Neo Soul, behind Blume’s smooth runs and deep sultry tone. Blume is currently working on a music video for the track, which will be released in the month of March.
“Colors is about faith in myself. I wrote the song when I first moved to New York, and a lot of shit was going on, a lot of colors were bleeding from my head, but somehow they made a perfect picture. I do believe that everything going on was meant to be a part of my journey.”
Though he loves and admires a lot of the male, commercial, hip-hop artists like Drake, D’Angelo and Kendrick Lamar, his style lends itself to what he believes is a hip-hop focus that's “too explicitly on gender and sexuality and power dynamics between men and woman, and I want to combat that.”
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After performing “Fundamentalism,” bringing up ideas of hate, referencing the racial injustices that have been repeatedly occurring in the U.S., Blume instructs audiences to pull up the news and discuss an article after the show.
As a white man speaking about issues of race relations, Blume is aware of where he stands.
“I have gotten criticisms, and I expect to keep getting criticisms. I consider myself an ally of communities of color, and I think that any time I am silent on racial injustice, I am acting as an oppressor. Activism is active. I can use my white privilege actively in my allyship. I am open and encourage dialogue and feedback, positive or negative on my work. I think I have a lot to learn on being the best ally I can be. I’m not patting myself on the back for what I’m doing, and I’m trying my best to do my part. I think I have to do a part, I’m not just gonna ignore it. I’m not just gonna not talk about it.”
Besides being an ally of communities of color, Blume is also an inspiration for the LGTBQ community. An anthemic song that has the potential to be the next “Same Love,” Blume told us his song “How High” is a “reflection of catching up on love…predefined traditional romantic love,” that he never experienced. When all of his friends started crushing and going to the middle school dance with girls, he started to fall behind. And now he is asking, Will you wait for me?
Blume has many songs recorded, and is carefully planning their releases in a way that presents him in a cohesive, respectful manner. He hopes to have another single out by the end of March, and another one in April, leading to his EP release in July.
"I got no rules bitch // I got no rules."
This is a very fitting motto for Blume, an artist that is difficult to categorize but deserves recognition. Holistically, Blume is a vulnerable, flamboyant, woke artist with a heart wrenching story to tell. Right now with only two songs out, it is necessary to see Blume live to understand him. He is being tactful with presenting his brand. If he released a song where he was rapping, he would have been a white rapper. If he had released a song scatting over his Neo Soul backing band, he would have been a Neo Soul artist. Blume is and does all of these things but he is not a trend.