in loving memory

in loving memory

For the prolific songwriter blackbear, emo, rap, and alt-R&B have always gone hand in hand—he’s played across those genres on his seemingly endless output (five studio albums, six EPs, one mixtape, some collaborative albums). But on his sixth full-length, he’s leaned, full force, into rock, finding influence in everything from pop punk (“i don’t love me”), ’90s alt-rock radio (“the idea”), Britpop (“dead inside”), and The Smiths (“broken world”). It all started in July 2021: That’s when blackbear (real name Matthew Musto) first remembers having the idea to make an alternative album. It was also the month his biological father passed away from “liver failure, organ failure, and heroin use. I wanted to make an album that was an ode to him,” he tells Apple Music. “I never really got to say goodbye, so I wanted to make an album of what I would say to him. Songs that might sound like love songs, they’re actually songs about my dad.” The album, executive produced by Travis Barker, is also meant to be a beacon of sorts for others going through the kind of difficult times he was navigating during its creation. “I was struggling with addiction so hard while making this album,” he says. “I hope it helps.” Below, blackbear walks Apple Music through in loving memory, track by track. “i don’t love me” “[‘i don’t love me’] was definitely written to be the intro track. It started with a guitar in my room. Me and [songwriter/producer] Andrew Goldstein were in my bedroom at home, and I have a little recording setup on my couch. I started playing the lead guitar, and I tracked it—I recorded all the vocals right then and there, just to the one guitar track. It was really eerie. The lyrics are about self-love: finding self-love and losing self-love. It’s a constant battle.” “dead inside” “Travis Barker executive produced the record, so he drummed on every single song, and he helped produce every single song. ‘dead inside’ was made pretty early on, like a month into recording the album. I made it with [songwriter] Joe Kirkland and Andrew Goldstein. We just wanted whatever a blackbear version of Blur’s ‘Song 2’ would be. We wanted an anthem for feeling like shit. That’s what it’s about.” “toxic energy” (feat. The Used) “I dropped in an interview that I wanted The Used and New Found Glory to be on my album before I even asked them. These guys were on posters on my wall. I actually wrote the parts for the people that we’re featuring because I feel like I know them better than they know themselves, in a way. I’ve studied them all my life. I wanted a version of Bert [McCracken] that only I could write because I didn’t really want a version that was today. I wanted a version that was 2000s.” “nothing matters” (feat. New Found Glory) “[New Found Glory singer] Jordan [Pundik] came up from San Diego. He took an Uber to Travis’ studio, and he was wearing a mask. He was so scared to get COVID. We were like, ‘Man, it’s OK—we’ve all been tested.’ He is like, ‘No, I’m going to keep my mask on.’ I think he recorded his part with the N95 mask on. These people are some of my best friends now. I text them all the time, just to send new ideas and see what they think. They send me their new songs, and I tell them what I think. It’s a beautiful relationship.” “gfy” (feat. Machine Gun Kelly) “[MGK] actually wrote his verse, and I was like, ‘I want the rapping Machine Gun Kelly. I want you to freaking give me the Eminem diss.’ He went in the studio and recorded it, and he sent it back. Then we rewrote it, and we recorded it again, and it was perfect. Every time I send him a verse, he makes me rewrite mine too. We’re always challenging each other.” “broken world” “We got that sound from a hammered dulcimer and old Juno synths, and we layered a 12-string guitar and four other guitars—we layered them like 20 times or like 100 times. It was a lot of work, but I was trying to embody The Smiths, my favorite band, and The Cure, my fourth-favorite band. I wanted to write a letter to my father that was like, ‘With all these problems [in the pandemic], where are you? I’m trying to be a man in this world, and you never taught me to be a man.’” “painkiller” “It’s about painkillers being the love of my life. When you’re addicted to drugs, you’re in a relationship with that drug. I know it seems really happy, but the concept is really dark. In the verses, I talk about being sick and taking sick days off of work because I’m in withdrawal. That’s what it was about.” “fuilu” “This one is the first song I wrote for the album, and I wrote it when I was on tour with Maroon 5 [in 2021]. I wrote at the back of my bus, probably [at], like, 5 in the morning. I woke up and I had this melody in my head, and I was like, ‘I’m going to make a song for my real dad.’ It was completely about my father.” “the idea” “The song is basically a love song, but it’s also twisted because you don’t know if this person loves you for you or for who you are and the car you drive, the places you shop, and the people you hang out with. It’s an ode to all ’90s alternative too. I’m a huge Third Eye Blind fan. I’ve worked with Third Eye Blind in the past. It was like trying to get that 311 [vibe] or just my version of a ‘Wonderwall.’” “poltergeist” (feat. Bayside) “The thing about Bayside is people who love Bayside think that Bayside is the best band that’s ever lived and will ever live. I’m one of those people. Meeting [Bayside singer] Anthony [Raneri] was just the best. It was supposed to be the heaviest song on the album. We used a lot of guitars, and I did a lot of finger-tapping on the bass in the verses, which was really difficult. Also, I’ve played bass on every blackbear song that’s ever existed. Bass is my thing, so this song on the bass was really fun to play. And it’s about a ghost, and it’s a nod to Raf Simons, my favorite fashion designer. He has a collection called Poltergeist.” “back in rehab” “I wrote this song with Mike Posner, Joe Kirkland, Andrew Goldstein, and Travis. This was a stacked song. We wanted to make a song that sounded like Weezer that talked about something real that’s going on in my life. I’m in and out of rehab. It was a perfect moment to make a song that rocks. We just wanted it to rock.” “hazel inside” “We wanted to end the album with something light and something about me being a dad now, learning from my father. Mike [Posner] was sitting with a guitar, watching my son run around, and he noticed that my son had hazel eyes. He just started singing the verses, and we started writing them. Then we got to the end, where I sing, ‘When I look in your eyes/I feel hazel inside.’ It was an aha moment. It was so beautiful. Mike really gave me a gift by giving that song to me—just writing that while we were in the room together.”

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