Does the song “All Time Low” sound familiar? No, I’m not talking about the early 2000s punk rock band. Although their music will always get me to run a little faster on the treadmill, a new “All Time Low” has captured my attention. Jon Bellion’s hit single of the same name, from his album “The Human Condition,” topped the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 16 in early 2017 after its release in 2016.
Bellion performed in Atlanta as part of The Human Condition Part III Tour Sept. 13 at the Coca-Cola Roxy. Although Bellion is not yet considered a household name, his unexpected musical choices, skilled lyricism and charming voice has drawn a strong cult following.
When Bellion came on stage, the crowd of fanatic young adults rushed the stage, screaming in excitement. Rather than simply playing his records to the note, Bellion remixed his own songs so that no song was the same as its studio version.
A 26-year-old Long Island (N.Y.) native, Bellion has a dynamic voice; he can hit the highest and lowest pitches and shift from melodic harmonizing to fast-paced rap with smooth ease. Aside from these immense technical skills, his voice is charismatic, a blend of the classic and modern. The charming effect of his voice can be compared to a modern version of Frank Sinatra with some subtle hints of Kanye West, as Bellion often shifted from slow and soulful to fast and enunciated rap.
Bellion’s lyrics set him apart from other musicians today. The singer writes almost all of his own songs — his lyrics are beautifully simple and full of metaphors. Some of my favorite Bellion lyrics of come from one of the lesser known songs he performed at the concert, “iRobot”: “I was a human, breathing and thinking / Eating and drinking, philosophizing / I was a human, before you killed me / And ripped my heart out, I knew what love was.” Although the studio version of the song is more like a ballad, Bellion performed it live with a fast-paced, electronic twist.
Aside from his lyrical abilities, Bellion is also a talented piano and keyboard player. The singer often releases mesmerizing piano covers of his songs on his YouTube channel. Concertgoers got a taste of Bellion’s raw musical talents when he played a soft piano rendition of another of his most popular songs, “Human,” and dedicated it to a personal friend of his in need of healing. In addition, Bellion played the keyboard, and occasionally the drums, for the majority of the concert, showcasing the range of his musical ability.
The most notable aspect of Bellion’s work is his instrumentation. Bellion creates truly original music by using repetitive, unconventional sounds like the electronically modified “ye” that repeats throughout “Guillotine.” Although electronic instruments certainly add to that effect, the most extraordinary effect is the edited voices that create their own instrument-like sound, like high pitched “ye”s and low pitched “oh”s.
Right across the street from the new Atlanta Braves stadium, the Coca-Cola Roxy was almost an hour-long Uber ride from the Emory campus. When I finally arrived, I discovered a line of around 300 avid fans.
The venue was a single large room, resembling a vintage ballroom with chandeliers strung across the ceiling and a small stage at one end. Balconies lined the perimeter of the room, providing spacious seats for higher-paying concertgoers, while the remaining proletariat stood crammed up against the stage. Bellion paced the stage, giving equal attention to all sides of the crowd, but paid special attention to the people crowding the floor.
The show began with an hour-and-a-half long myriad opening acts, which included rappers Travis Mendes and Black Keys. Perhaps the best of the cast was Mendes, who began the line up. Mendes proved his place in Bellion’s crew with myriad catchy songs and a surprisingly vast vocal range. Although Bellion has had a regular group of rappers involved in composing and performing his songs, Mendes seems to be the most directly involved in Bellion’s work, having been a featured rapper on the singer’s popular song “Guillotine” and even accompanying Bellion on stage as backup vocals.
Bellion proved that he has a skilled singing voice and showcased his musical creativity throughout the show. Although I have always been a fan of Bellion’s work, his performance showed that he is not just another pop star hiding behind auto tune, but that he is genuinely talented vocally, musically and creatively.