Album Review: Human Condition (2016) by John Bellion

Genre: Hip-hop/Contemporary R&B

I had never heard of Jon Bellion before, but I had heard one of his songs, “All Time Low,” without knowing who it was by. After further investigation of his work, I was surprised by Bellion’s range and diversity from the beginning of his album to the very last track. Throughout his 2016 album titled The Human Condition, hip-hop/R&B artist Jon Bellion does a lot of self-reflection and internal examination of his emotions. Bellion kicks off the album with the song “He Is The Same,” a piece reflecting on his determination to stay true to his roots and beginnings along his rise to fame. The hip-hop star still plays basketball, his assistant is his best friend, and he still deals with family problems. Essentially, Bellion is trying to prove that he is still a normal person, but his reference to the millions he has recently acquired beg to differ. Moving through the album to track #3, “All Time Low.” With over 234 million plays on Spotify, this is indubitably Bellion’s most famous and well-known song. I like Bellion’s use of the varying beats throughout the song; the changes in tempo and rhythm help to convey Bellion’s feeling of loneliness after a difficult break-up that he can’t seem to get over. Bellion returns to his theme of origins in “New York Soul – Pt. ii,” when he pays homage to his home state of New York, and more specifically, Brooklyn and Long Island. This song features Alec Benjamin, and both artists trade off with more of a rap feel throughout the song, initially spitting bars about life on the east coast versus west coast. By the end of the song, Bellion moves into a depiction of the dangers of pursuing money and fame. This idea of purity continually returns throughout Bellion’s work: clearly he is determined to stay away from a life of corruption. I really like the song “Overwhelming,” which is a track reminiscent of “All Time Low,” but with a completely different message.

Many of the musical motifs and patterns are present in both tracks. The synth is similar and the drum beats mirror each other; however, “Overwhelming” is a ballad of love. The speaker is overwhelmed by every aspect of their partner. My favorite part of the song is in the chorus, when Bellion launches into the essential phrase in the song, holding the word out across multiple notes: “O-o-o-o-overwhelming.” Track #11 on the album, “Morning in America,” highlights the problems we have with holding our personal issues in. The songs switch off between Bellion’s subdued lyrics and chorus with a sort of EDM/house beat feel. I like the musical variation in this song, as well as the message of acceptance: everyone has problems, and no one is perfect, so we have to accept our flaws and differences. The final song, “Hand of God – Outro” culminates the album, as Bellion puts his life “in the hands of God.” Personally I find it hard to relate to this song; however, I do have an appreciation for the end. After some research, I found that Bellion incorporated the 30-person choir that was present of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” into his own piece, which I thought was a creative revival of a classic song. Ultimately, I have a hard time dealing with some of Bellion’s lyrics, as at times I find them ambiguous and hard to relate to. Furthermore, I feel that Bellion is at once repetitive and hypocritical at once: he claims he is a normal person with extreme fame or someone at an “all time low” who is hopelessly in love. That being said, I very much enjoyed listening to Bellion’s album, which is filled with varied instrumentation and a range of musical themes and features.

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