London-born James Blake has gained popularity over the years, acquiring a number of titles, from singer, to song-writer, to producer. Blake has been recruited by many known artists, with an eclectic music palette, from Beyoncé to Bon Iver, Frank Ocean, and Jay Z. Having navigated his way from the dubstep scene in London, to the hip-hop and rap terrain in the States, Blake has come out with his own awe-inspiring albums throughout the years—and this year is no different.
On Oct. 14, Blake came out with his newest EP, “Before.” With synthetic and electronic beats, the Grammy winner’s UK Bass’ background is clear in this album. Alongside the catchy rhythms, Blake is raw, and open with his lyrics expressing his vulnerability in every way.
In the EP’s first song, “I Keep Calling,” the title is pretty self-explanatory.
“I keep calling your heart
Oh, let it ring if I'm falling too hard
I just wanna take part in anything you do
You caught me off guard” —an obvious tale of unrequited love, the song oozes rawness and desire, even if the subject of Blake’s affection does not return it, he’s willing to keep calling.
“Before” is quite possibly the best song of the EP, in my opinion, musically and lyrically speaking. Blake tells Apple Music that: “This is ultimately a love song, but it’s also about the larger relevance of someone in your life. What it means for who you are, or who you can be.” Ultimately, to allow someone to have this much of an influence on your life leads to some kind of pain, as he sings
“I must be in pain 'cause I've never needed anyone before.”
But with pain in love comes pleasure, because to feel this deeply at times makes you feel alive, and Blake perfectly conveys this in his song.
The penultimate track, “Do You Ever” draws on a person’s need to know whether or not their feelings are reciprocated in any way possible. Even the music gives a sort of anticipatory feeling of wanting to know the answer, but hesitating, for fear of hearing the inevitable rejection. In my opinion, this song can either showcase the beginning of a love story, or the end of one.
Really (Ah), do you ever think about me?
Really, if you're honest with me
I'd like to say it's two way (Really? Really?)
(Really, if you're honest with me) (Really?)
Do you ever think about me?
Either way, Blake seems to be holding onto something that may or may not be there.
“I'm not the sum of all my worries
And I'm not the sum of yours
I'm not the summer of 2015
But I can be the summer of now”
That is how the EP’s last song starts, as Blake sings about no longer fitting into previous ideals his loved one had of him, but wanting to give it a shot as the person he is now. “The lyrics are fairly biographical and tell a story about this forlorn, lovesick reflection—recalling this time of waiting in the lobby for someone and them never seeming to come down,” Blake tells Apple Music. “But it’s told with a bit of distance, from a new place, where you don’t just wait around forever for someone to love you.” It’s almost as if the artist comes to a realization by the end of the album, and we grow with him as he sings—from the desperation of the first track, demanding someone’s attention, to the moment of clarity at the end, realizing your worth in spite of your deep feelings.