Following the release of his new album in loving memory, we take stock of the career highlights of blackbear — all of which put forth a strong argument that this is his scene, and we’re all just living in it.
Until as an individual he receives the praise he deserves in the alternative world, we’re going to continue to make the case for the authenticity and artistry of blackbear. While it would be understandable for some to think of his dalliance back into pop punk as trend-hopping, blackbear’s alternative roots haven’t just been conjured up to propel the success of his latest album, in loving memory, which in its rawest form was released as a tribute to his birth father. You can trace them all the way back to when he first began making music, from Third Eye Blind covers to Palisades features (it’s interesting to note that a year before he co-wrote ‘Boyfriend’ for Justin Bieber, he was dropping a Christmas song with Tyler Carter, who at the time was a member of Woe, Is Me). For those new to the secret history of blackbear, here’s a friendly beginner’s guide to his discography.
‘NYLA’, ANONYMOUS (2019)
One of blackbear’s earliest singles, ‘NYLA’ was re-recorded for a release as the closing track to his 2019 studio album, ANONYMOUS. While the inclusion gave the track a second life (and fans something to stream on Spotify), that doesn’t discount the weight it carried upon its first release, aiding blackbear to become one of the first independent artists to monetise streaming on SoundCloud based on his popularity and ending up in Netflix’s 2015 documentary Hot Girls Wanted. In addition to the success he’d had writing for and working with throwback artists like Justin Bieber, Big Time Rush and Relient K, the traction that the single gained had validated his change in direction from the heavily-emo influenced days of his earlier band Polaroid, although he continued to collaborate and write with artists outside of the pop/hip hop genres.
‘idfc’, deadroses (2015)
One of his most streamed songs to date, ‘idfc’ sent blackbear to the top 20 in the Billboard charts, cementing his reputation with a single that has now gone triple platinum. The song itself tells the story of the universal experience of having feelings for someone and being fucking terrified about it, and it seems that although it was made seven plus years ago, it hasn’t stopped resonating. You can check out the acoustic version, featured on companion EP dead, here.
‘sometimes i want 2 die’, cashmere noose (2016)
We can partially credit blackbear’s success to the fact that he’s never been shy to release music, with two EPs dropping within months of each other in 2016 – drink bleach and cashmere noose. While there were singles that gained more streams than ‘sometimes i want 2 die’, the track is a throwback to blackbear’s earliest roots – it’s darker than what you would expect from an RnB musician, because blackbear not only took influence from his mentors in hip hop but the bands that had influenced him growing up from the rock and alternative scene. The same year, he was in the studio with Linkin Park, noting retrospectively that it “blows [his] mind” that he had the experience to work with the late Chester Bennington on Linkin Park’s last album One More Light.
‘nobody knows’, Mansionz (2017)
One of his primary collaborators and closest friends, blackbear teamed up with Mike Posner to form a duo under the moniker of mansionz, who are set to start working on a follow-up record later this year. There are tracks on the album that, while bops, lack substance (see: ‘Rich White Girls’ and ‘STFU’), and then there are songs like ‘Nobody Knows’. It’s hard to imagine that the same pairing that wrote the lyric “shut the fuck up right now and let me be me” about a relationship also wrote this, one of the rawest drops you could find in either blackbear or Posner’s history. If you don’t believe us, listen yourself.
‘if i could i would feel nothing’, digital druglord (2017)
The album digital druglord was written by blackbear during a stay in the hospital, following his diagnosis with chronic pancreatitis brought on by excessive alcohol use. While once he was writing about using drugs recreationally, he now has to take them for medical reasons, leading to his decision to represent this battle on the visuals for the album. Front to back the best album of blackbear’s career, digital druglord takes no prisoners as blackbear blazes a trail through Hollywood bullshit, struggles with addiction and the gut-wrenching agony of waking up alone.
‘Tongue Tied’, Marshmello x YUNGBLUD x blackbear (2019)
YUNGBLUD is no stranger to a collab, and isn’t afraid to step outside his current posting as the poster child for modern rock. Meanwhile, blackbear and Marshmello notoriously teased a collaboration back in 2017 that never came out, but made up for it with ‘Tongue Tied’, which also came about because YUNGBLUD and blackbear had been fans of each other’s music. Heralding in a new era of alternative rising back up in the mainstream, ‘Tongue Tied’ was only the start of artists like Machine Gun Kelly working with the likes of YUNGBLUD and The Used to contribute to a resurgence of the familiar sound we know and love.
‘hot girl bummer’, everything means nothing (2020)
Alongside ‘idfc’ and digital druglord’s ‘do re mi’, ‘hot girl bummer’ is one of blackbear’s biggest singles. Released earlier but forming part of his album everything means nothing, ‘hot girl bummer’ became an anthem that rained on the “hot girl summer” parade, calling bullshit on the party we all feel like we’re missing out on that we’d go to and want to get the fuck out of in the first place. Speaking to Apple Music, blackbear stated: “The whole idea is I’m out in Hollywood, I’m at a club, I’m in the corner, and this kind of sucks.” Given its success and one billion streams on Spotify, it seems that we all feel pretty much the same way.
‘toxic energy’, in loving memory (2022)
Following his EP misery lake last year is blackbear’s latest studio album, in loving memory. Dedicated to his birth father, the album traces blackbear all the way back to the kid he was a decade ago, writing emo songs and listening to Third Eye Blind, idolising Bayside and headbanging to The Used. Paying tribute to the founders of our scene, the record incorporates features from The Used’s Bert McCracken (‘toxic energy’), New Found Glory’s Jordan Pundik (‘nothing matters’) and Bayside (‘poltergeist’). On in loving memory, blackbear’s identity and influences come back full circle, reconciling who he was at his career’s inception with the artist and person that he is today.