10 Songs, 43 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

After Daniel Caesar released his soul-baring debut album, Freudian, tracing his decision to leave home and the church at 17, he became one of R&B’s most promising poets, able to distill spiritual complexities into deceptively simple love songs. Then, he got lost in his own head. “I got pretty depressed,” he tells Apple Music, citing artistic pressure, social media, and the isolation of fame as factors. “For a while, I didn’t want to leave my house.” The thing that ultimately freed him from his creative rut was finding comfort in his own mortality. “Everything dies, everything changes—I had to embrace that,” he says. “To not be so scared of failure.”

CASE STUDY 01, his existential follow-up, is denser, headier, and riskier, confronting ideas like good and evil, life and death, loneliness, and God. “I’m drawn to touchy subjects,” he says. “They’re my favorite.” He found he kept circling back to themes of death and spirituality. “I’d been reading a lot about Judaism and Kabbalah and meditation. And I was raised religious, so it’s like my operating system,” he says. “But I also needed to free myself from that—to live.” Once he’d regained some creative confidence, he drafted a fantasy lineup of artists to work with on the new music—Pharrell, Brandy, John Mayer. “These are my heroes,” he says. “People who I never thought I’d ever collaborate with, until the opportunity came up and it was like, ‘Is this really real?’”

Even more surprising, perhaps, was the degree to which the studio sessions felt like true artistic exchanges. “There were obviously things I admired about these artists,” he says, “but I realized there were also things they admired about me.” Pharrell was drawn to Caesar’s palette of influences—a mix of gospel, R&B, rock, and soul—while Caesar hoped he’d absorb some of Pharrell’s signature playfulness. “I take myself very seriously,” he says, “and there’s something so childlike and fun about his music.” Similarly, Mayer, his all-time favorite artist, was interested in seeing how Caesar pieced lyrics together: “He liked what I say and how I say it.” “SUPERPOSITION” perfectly marries their mutual love of romantic, tuneful melodies and densely layered production. “I wanted a song that could’ve fit on [Mayer's 2006 album] Continuum,” Caesar says. “But, you know, right on the edge.”

EDITORS’ NOTES

After Daniel Caesar released his soul-baring debut album, Freudian, tracing his decision to leave home and the church at 17, he became one of R&B’s most promising poets, able to distill spiritual complexities into deceptively simple love songs. Then, he got lost in his own head. “I got pretty depressed,” he tells Apple Music, citing artistic pressure, social media, and the isolation of fame as factors. “For a while, I didn’t want to leave my house.” The thing that ultimately freed him from his creative rut was finding comfort in his own mortality. “Everything dies, everything changes—I had to embrace that,” he says. “To not be so scared of failure.”

CASE STUDY 01, his existential follow-up, is denser, headier, and riskier, confronting ideas like good and evil, life and death, loneliness, and God. “I’m drawn to touchy subjects,” he says. “They’re my favorite.” He found he kept circling back to themes of death and spirituality. “I’d been reading a lot about Judaism and Kabbalah and meditation. And I was raised religious, so it’s like my operating system,” he says. “But I also needed to free myself from that—to live.” Once he’d regained some creative confidence, he drafted a fantasy lineup of artists to work with on the new music—Pharrell, Brandy, John Mayer. “These are my heroes,” he says. “People who I never thought I’d ever collaborate with, until the opportunity came up and it was like, ‘Is this really real?’”

Even more surprising, perhaps, was the degree to which the studio sessions felt like true artistic exchanges. “There were obviously things I admired about these artists,” he says, “but I realized there were also things they admired about me.” Pharrell was drawn to Caesar’s palette of influences—a mix of gospel, R&B, rock, and soul—while Caesar hoped he’d absorb some of Pharrell’s signature playfulness. “I take myself very seriously,” he says, “and there’s something so childlike and fun about his music.” Similarly, Mayer, his all-time favorite artist, was interested in seeing how Caesar pieced lyrics together: “He liked what I say and how I say it.” “SUPERPOSITION” perfectly marries their mutual love of romantic, tuneful melodies and densely layered production. “I wanted a song that could’ve fit on [Mayer's 2006 album] Continuum,” Caesar says. “But, you know, right on the edge.”

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