A transcendent celebration of R&B, soul, and crucial humanity
By Jonathan Pabico, Senior Columnist
Music extraordinaire Jon Batiste is known for his work in the Pixar film Soul, and as the enthusiastic piano sage from The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. As soon as his titular first track begins, Batiste transports viewers to an odyssey of style and charisma with his recent R&B album We Are. The playlist is a sublime art piece that takes listeners to a place of sophistication and comfort.
First and foremost, the collection is wondrously eclectic. Batiste takes his tracks to diverse avenues where he gleefully melds genres with playful melodies or passionate sultry. Every arrangement reflects his child-like eagerness, youthful energy, and most of all, his love for all things R&B.
For instance, the fast-paced rap, lively R&B, and electronic tones of “Whatchutalkinbout” is followed closely by the trickling piano riffs of jazz piece “Movement 11’.” The subversive variety and genre surprises make you excited for what else Batiste has up his creative sleeve.
Batiste also allows us to breathe during the short audio recording “Mavis” that unveils the value of freedom before moving on to the rest of the album. With experimental choices like these, he enables his beliefs to seep into our minds gracefully.
What Batiste does best aside from his music are the life lessons he passes on to his listeners. He uses lyrics like “room for us to grow” and “I pray that you help us not to fight / And to get along” from the track “Adulthood” to advocate for peace, respect, and being open to learn from each other. The song’s relaxing mood with Batiste’s soft vocals emphasize how vital it is to practice these qualities and embrace what it means to be a better person.
The playlist also addresses how much our lives can be affected by the world’s unresolved pain, sorrows, and hurts. The song fittingly titled “Sing” has lyrics like “When I’m down and I feel like giving up / And even the easy things feel rough / Don’t you know, I’ll sing.” However, the piece ironically uses uplifting harmonies, jaunty choruses, and enveloping falsettos.
Batiste proves how self-aware he is about the ways negative feelings within us can impede our passions. Yet, his lyricism for “Sing” or any other track also supports us in finding the strength to keep going.
The album leaves you with an immense feeling of hope and emotional power. Each track teaches us about the values that equate human goodness and staying aware of current issues. Batiste lends every note, lyric, and solo a zany playfulness that conveys how much fun he is having in his musical element. We Are is a palette of R&B delight that offers something special for anyone bold enough to be swept up by its soulful beats.