We Can is available at:
March 14th, 2016
R&B; Soul; Gospel
San Francisco, California
CONTRASTS and contradictions are aspects of this job that ensure…
no two days are the same. Yesterday, I was reviewing a local Country music band: The exceptional, South of the City. In their early stages, the band is recruiting a new member: Following the resignation of their bass player. That said- in spite of some upheaval- the band sound remarkably assured and solid. Reminding me of The Shires; the band has a definite future and wonderful sound. Today, I am investigating an artist who is worlds apart. A YouTube sensation that has a loyal and devoted fanbase: My featured artist is among the most talked-about young artists in the U.S. Before I come to him, I wanted to look at artists of San Francisco; the young Soul-cum-R&B artists around the world- looking at personal mantras and attitudes to life. When we think about Californian music; our minds naturally drift to Los Angeles. Perhaps geographical ignorance- a lot of people would struggle to name more than one part of California- there is an exceptional and varied scene in the state. I have reviewed many L.A.-based artists, but for today, I get to travel to San Francisco. If you think about some of the bands that emanate from San Francisco- and the Bay Area in this case- you have Counting Crows and The Donnas; En Vogue and Night Ranger. In fact, if you break it down further- into North, South and East Bay- then you get a full impression of just HOW many legendary acts started out here. Dead Kennedys, Chris Isaak; Faith No More and Steve Miller Band: Some of North Bay’s finest. Hope to the South Bay and you will find everyone from Doobie Brothers to Smash Mouth. It is clear San Francisco has a golden and notable history (with regards producing musicians). In the last year, bands Night School, Talkies and King Woman are among a list of hotly-tipped acts. Whether you favour Shoegaze and Experimental genres; ‘60s Pop or melodic Indie: You are catered for and some! Backing these bands are some wonderful venues like Bimbo’s 365 Club and Great American Music Hall; The Chapel and Fillmore Auditorium. Every year, new bands are springing up with promise: New bars/clubs emerge to home, said musicians. San Francisco is a growing hotbed for musical treasure. While there are some terrific bands in the area- I have just touched the tip- you cannot ignore the best of the solo market. Whether you have heard of Kendra McKinley and Jordannah Elizabeth: They are two (of San Francisco’s) best female singer-songwriters. For the boys, few can rival the impact and ability of Jeremy Passion. Promoting messages of purity and faith- within a vocal that is smooth, luxurious and soulful- you have a musician that fits perfectly into the city. Compared with L.A., say; San Francisco seems to have that immense breadth and diversity. Los Angeles has some great bands and solo acts: Few that have the same sound/sensation as Jeremy Passion. Whether it is the diverse cultures and neighbourhoods; the way of life (or something else): Passion is one of the brightest musicians coming from San Francisco.
Before I raise a couple of points; let me introduce my featured artist:
“Jeremy Passion Manongdo is a singer/songwriter/producer known for his soulful, melodic voice, and delivers his music with messages on love, life and faith. Born and raised in San Francisco, California, he grew up with an immense appreciation and love for music. At age 4, he taught himself to play piano and, at 15, started songwriting. By the following year he was self-taught on the guitar and developed his talents into his signature style today.
Considered a “YouTube sensation” to his fans and musical peers, he is acknowledged as a pioneer of the acoustic R&B /soul movement on the internet. Passion was one of the first Asian-Americans to go viral online with his famous original songs “Lemonade” and “Well Done,” and his acoustic covers of “So Sick” and “Cater 2 U” featuring Melvin Gutierrez, aka, MelvinSings. His subscriber base has exceeded 287,000 followers and has over 37 million channel views.
Passion is an avid traveler as he has toured across North America and internationally in more than a dozen countries. He has performed with artists including Colbie Caillat, Kirk Franklin, Tori Kelly, Bobby Valentino, Jo Koy, Ernie Halter, Alain Clark and Goapele, among others. In addition to his writing and vocal talents, he is also an up-and-coming producer, creating tracks for Taboo (Black Eyed Peas), Slim (112), Megan Rochelle and more.
Along from his love for music, Passion has a heart for people. After doing volunteer work in Ghana in 2007, he was inspired to kick off The Empty Suitcase Project in Tanzania — a music and arts project with the mission to provide kids with an opportunity to find their own creative passions. Passion hopes to take The Empty Suitcase Project to the Philippines in the near future.
The essence of Passion’s “Music with a Message” is to inspire through personal stories about family, faith and relationships. He values maintaining who he is as a creative artist, even if it means swimming against the mainstream current. Passion believes that music is an international language and has the power to change things. He says,
“IF YOU’RE A SINGER, ARTIST, DANCER OR PAINTER, AND YOU GET ‘VIEWS’ FOR DOING SOMETHING YOU REALLY ENJOY DOING, USE IT TO HELP OTHERS, TO NOURISH, ENCOURAGE AND INSPIRE OTHER PEOPLE.”
In late 2011, Jeremy Passion teamed up with producer Jesse Barrera (formerly from San Diego-based band, My American Heart) and independently released his first full-length album “For More Than a Feeling,” along with a concept EP entitled “Pixelated.” “For More Than a Feeling” reached No. 4 on the iTunes R&B/Soul charts, and “Pixelated” — dedicated to long-distance relationships — reached the No. 9 spot.
Currently, Jeremy Passion is in the process of writing and producing his sophomore LP set to release in 2016.”
Jeremy Passion has a huge band of followers behind him: Perhaps not a shock when you listen to its music and experience its majesty. I am not sure about the wider world on this point: In the U.K., we are seeing a lot of R&B/Soul artists being embraced and celebrated. I feel there is a general fatigue towards ‘heavier’ music: The public is looking for something more subtle and engaging. Sure, Rock/Indie/Alternative artists are always going to have their supporters: The market share (these artists just to have) seems to be relaxing a little. More and more, the soulful and beautiful are coming into the spotlight. In the U.K., artists like Amy Winehouse left a huge impression on the music world. Not just because of her voice: That whiskey-soaked and heartbreaking weapon of wonder. Winehouse was a singer that could captivate without shouting and immense instrumentation: The way she delivered the words was enough to buckle the knees. In the U.S., musicians like Leon Bridges are doing the same thing- perhaps not to the same degree. In a world that is becoming increasingly tempestuous and foreboding: People are looking for music that provides comfort, direction and safety. I am not suggesting we are looking for a musical religion: Sermons and sanctity that takes our mind away from the horrors unfolding. I am suggesting there is a favouring of more subtle music: Sounds that pack emotion but allow us to reflect and think deeply. Whilst there is some derision towards mainstream music- not as good as it used to be; few acts sticking in the mind- our new musicians are ensuring there is plenty of optimism and belief. Jeremy Passion is clearly hitting all the right notes. We Can– his latest single- is just shy of 29,000 YouTube views- amazing considering it was released 12 days ago! Passion is an artist that believes travel broadens the mind. There is no point staying rooted and wondering about the wider world: Getting out there and seeing it is the only way to do things. You cannot really understand people- in a wider sense- unless you travel and explore. Everything would be distinct and abstract: Engage with communities and let the world show you what it can offer. As such, the music Passion produces casts your mind around the world: It instills wanderlust and huge passion. I am very impressed by Jeremy Passion as an artist. He is backed by wonderful teams- I know Urban Soul have been taking care of his digital campaign- and there is a lot of faith in the young American. People can become very rooted in their hometowns. I feel we all get a bit ‘safe’ and get stuck in ruts. It is great having pride in where you come from: If you travel the world; it will still be here when you get back. I, myself, have not been abroad for 15 years- financial constraints have dictated this- and I yearn to see the globe- Australia is top of my ‘to-do’ countries. Jeremy Passion encourages listeners to go and see the world and find just what is waiting. As an artist, he has performed across the world and has no plans of stopping. Passion’s crowd-funded sophomore album will be unveiled in the coming months. Following from his debut, For More Than a Feeling, there is a lot of excitement and anticipation. It is not just Passion’s mantra- travel broadening the mind- that impresses me. His official website (and social media pages) are engaging, full and informative. Passion is not an artist who keeps things hidden- so many musicians reveal little personal insight- ensuring he connects with his fans. I hate the fact so many artists provide scant biographical information: It makes them seem distant and stubborn. We do not need to know EVERYTHING about a band/act: Giving some personality/background away is not stripping you bare and exposing yourself. Passion understands- as should every musician out there- that by knowing about the musician: It is easier to connect with the music and appreciate it in new ways. We Can is another wonderful release from a young musician who is going to be a globe-straddling mega-star of the future.
For More Than a Feeling mixes Blues, Soul and R&B inside Pop cores. Greater Than He saw Passion unleash his inner-Stevie Wonder. That immensely passionate voice looks at faith and comparing himself with God (not in an arrogant way). Passion looks at himself and what God has given his life. By letting go of his pride and trusting in God; that is when things can improve and grow. Maybe enforced by love and personal struggle: Passion is becoming more mature and open in the face of things. That devotion to God and his trust- the direction and guidance he will provide- drives a song that packs a kick, mesmeric swing and memorability. Songs like Survive are defined by their strength-against-the-odds and luxuriant vocals- multi-tracked to the heavens- to ensure they stick in the mind. Every track (from the album) elicits some sort of emotional respond: The passion and strength of the performances burst from the speakers. Songs like Stephanie sees more ‘traditional’ subjects being broached: Putting trust in a girl; hoping his heart will be safe. Even during the love songs, Passion sound fresh and original: The sheer intensity he puts into the music elevates him above (his) peers. Throughout the album, you get a great blend of self-investigation- especially those conversations with God- and world-conquering ideals. The young singer has troubles and strife in his life: The way he tackles them shows maturity and a huge inspiration. Pairing faith and spiritual comfort with the need to inspire the people- get them to connect with their fellow man- makes For More Than a Feeling a superb album. Pixelated is an E.P. that shows consistency with For More Than a Feeling. Both records see that inimitable, passionate voice get inside the brain and soothe the soul. Whereas the album looks more faith-based concerns- talking about love and the wider world- Pixelated looks more at holding out for love- having faith that it will arrive if they believe. We Can continues where Passion left off but brings in fresh inspiration. The performance confidence has grown, here: Passion sounds at the height of his determination and power. Forgetting petty disagreements- whether Los Angeles or San Francisco is California’s finest city- it demonstrates that need to break out of narrow confines. You should have pride in your home but it is not the entire world: There is a lot more out there to see. We Can brings together his traditional themes- pushing the mind and experiencing the world- but is his most immediate and thought-provoking composition to date. With every release, Jeremy Passion becomes more exceptional and fully-formed. Whether it is the increased fan numbers and tour dates- honing his craft on the road- We Can is the deepest and most immediate song from the American.
We Can opens with a gradual build and sense of intrigue. Finger-clicked beats and far-off electronics are a soothing and soft way into the song. Passion does not want to come across to bracing and strong in the early phases. What we get is a gentle and caressing sound that ensures the listener is engaged and curious. Given the song’s themes- travelling the world and getting out of the comfort zone- the introduction is almost a flight across the oceans. Breezy, itinerant and atmospheric: You take your mind across the world and drift into the beauty the song provides. We Can is a conversation between two friends. Passion’s subject is holding onto that rigid affection for L.A. Unwilling to accept the world beyond California- the heroine seems intent on remaining here forever- our hero explains there is a wider world out there. Maybe there is a lot of wonder in Los Angeles- a city that can provide inspiration and fulfillment- but it is not the be all and end all. Letting his voice glide with honey-rich tones- one of the most stand-out performances of his career- Passion ensures his words drive home and stick. The sun-kissed, laid-back groove emanated ensures every listener is entranced and fully relaxed. It is hard not to agree with Passion’s mandate. We all become too familiar and safe in our own little world. Often ignoring the planet at large: More of us need to get on a plane and see other countries/cultures. “Take my hand and come with me to another place” is sung with intention and immediacy. Trying to inspire the heroine- and get her mind away from stubbornness- you imagine the two running away and seeing strange new places. At the heart of We Can is that charming inter-state ribbing. Passion is dedicated to San Francisco and all it provides. His mate has affections and loyalty to Los Angeles. The humourous, teasing conversations add a playful cuteness to the track. Wanting to settle the debate with intelligence and wisdom: Our hero wants to expand the mind (of the heroine) and get her thinking more widely about her planet. In previous tracks- across his debut album and E.P. – Passion has worn his influences on his sleeve. Stevie Wonder is a voice you hear on a lot of the songs. Here, there is more individuality and personality than ever before. You get the ‘70s Soul flavours but they are less dominating and obvious. What we get is the young artist putting more of his own voice into the music. Whether particularly inspired by the song- that need to engage with the world- has compelled this transformation: It is encouraging to see this development and change. Harmonising, multi-tracked vocals augment the beauty and passion of the song. From Alaska to The Netherlands; across to Italy and Asia: The two can get away and witness the wonderful beauty out there. Money worries are addressed (“We don’t even have to fly first class”) and fears are allayed. Passion lets it be known that home will be there at the end of things: No matter how long they’re away for; Los Angeles will be waiting patiently. At times, Passion imbues elements of Michael Jackson’s early-career sound. It is impossible to ignore that velvety, enticing coo: Every word drips with a sensuality and seductiveness. Keeping the composition simple and uncomplicated: The song allows the vocal to reign high and get its messages across. Whether they are traveling to Spain or the far reaches of Asia: They will be safe with one another and happy at every stage. We Can ensures there are no worries and stresses at any stage. Rare to find a song that has endless positivity and uplift. It is that central voice that evokes the biggest reaction (in my view). Whether building in the background- that mini-choir of soul- or leading the charge: You are powerless to resist the incredible urgency of Passion’s delivery. If life is throwing up problems and obstacles then remember this: There are lands and nations that are yet to be explored. Our hero is not saying travel is a temporary fix that will take the mind off problems. He is exploring a notion that has existed for years: Traveling broadens the mind and makes you more conscious of the world as a whole. When you travel and see other cultures it changes life and can make the everyday seem very different. If you are stuck in L.A. and no nothing of the world beyond it: How can you ever understand how other people live and interact? So many thoughts and possibilities sit within the song: It is a track that compels the listener to assess their lives and make alterations. Towards the final stages, we see the duo board planes and explore the globe. Maybe these images are theorised and desired- trying to get a stubborn friend to come with him- but you’d like to think they made it. Whatever the circumstances and outcome: You cannot deny what a powerful and stunning song We Can is.
We Can is the lead-off song from Passion’s forthcoming album. Whether accompanying songs will tread the same ground- exploring the world and broadening the horizons- I am not sure. Traveling and gig demands have clearly affected Jeremy Passion. Touched by the cultures and people he has seen: Our hero knows the planet can provide so much beauty and possibility. A wonderful, polished production backs a stunning vocal and determined performance. Balancing soothing, tranquil soul with insistent R&B energy elicits a huge emotional response. I am a fairly new follower of Passion and will follow his career from now on. I can see progression and development with every release.
My introduction to Jeremy Passion came via Urban Soul: I have been a little slack getting this review together (unusual for me!). I am glad I got things organised and dedicated time to a wonderful young singer. I am never going to be engaged fully with messages of faith and belief (being an atheist). I admire Passion bringing faith into music as it is not often explored. It is those messages of mind-expanding travel that impress me the most. Listening to Passion makes me want to expand my horizons and see the wider world. Not only are you seduced by the wonderful lyrics- taking the imagination on a great trip- but the intense grip of the vocals. Passion ticks all the boxes and ensures his music strikes on all fronts. I am not sure what form the forthcoming album will take. If it is anything like his debut- the sounds and themes are likely to be similar- then his fans will be very satisfied and fulfilled. Passion is a musician that is drawing new fans by the week: New acolytes unearthing something tremendously fresh and beautiful. I am sure our hero will be traveling the globe promoting his new single: When the album is released, he is sure to discover new countries and people. Jeremy Passion has a love for people and wants his messages to connect and resonate. The U.S. musician performs volunteer work- he launched the Empty Suitcase Project in Tanzania; helping children find their own creative process- and is not going to stop there. I opened by looking at the music coming from San Francisco and R&B/Soul artists of the moment. Having spent too much time with L.A. artists- when it comes to U.S. music- I discovered another jewel in California. The state keeps on producing wonderful music and inspiring artists. There is a lot of attention expended to the bands and what they summon- always an obsession with their dollar- and not enough focus on solo acts. Over the past week, I have been ensconced in London and seeing what the capital’s musicians are up to. It is great promoting home-grown acts and putting them out there: Every once in a while, it is refreshing to come to the U.S. I know Jeremy Passion will have a busy year ahead. That much-anticipated sophomore album is in-the-works. Following from the much-lauded debut, For More Than a Feeling, there will be many eyes and ears trained in his direction. There is no question (Passion) is one of the most tantilising prospects in modern music. A young man who writes music FOR the people- not someone who pushes them away or becomes selfish- it is a rare thing to see. So many artists are obsessed with their own love lives and eliciting sympathy: When an artist does things differently, it can have a wonderful reaction. I am sure we will see some heartbreak and relationship quandary emerge- on his new album- but that is not the way Jeremy Passion does things. He is a young man who things more deeply and wants to promote positivity. Whether embracing spirituality or changing views: Getting the likes of you and me to go see the world and not be so rigid. Music has the power to change things- a philosophy that Passion himself expounds- and it is something we should all be aware of. Not enough musicians are utilising music to change views and affect change. There is that obsession with the self that is galling and endless; few artists are actually using music as a platform for change and improvement.
I know Jeremy Passion will inspire others and start a mini-revolution among the ranks. It is great/relatable hearing about love’s struggles- it is a currency that should not be scrapped- but where is the originality? Luckily, the San Francisco resident has a bit more wisdom and passion than your average musician: One of the reasons he has amassed such an army of followers. With his YouTube subscription numbers rising: 2016 is a year that will see the promising musician become a mainstream proposition. One of the reasons bands are heralded and highlighted- stealing the majority share of attention- is because of the money and market-share they have. Groups will always fill more venues and be the most profitable part of music. I feel there is too little focus put on the promising solo acts of the world. They might not command the same demand and profitability of bands: That is not to say they should be second-fiddle at all. What I find with regards solo acts- that bands do not possess to such a degree- is the range and variability of the sound. Not just confined to Rock, Indie and Pop: We have a wave of R&B, Soul and Folk artists emerging. Jeremy Passion is accruing support and patronage across San Francisco. In a wider sense, his music is being heard all around the world. I hope- when his new album is released- he gets time to come to the U.K. A lot of U.S. artists have come to Britain with the same views: We will get a few dates and that’s about it. The reality is a lot different: Crowds here want the artists to stay and keep on playing. The Vim Dicta are a perfect case in point. Assuming there would be scant demand in the U.K.: They arrived here with intentions of playing a small selection of dates. The band is here for the next few months at least- having already been here for many weeks. I feel Passion would experience a similar amount of love and affection. Whatever he has planned- and, however touring dates will shape up- there is clear opportunity for his music here. There are few U.K. acts that do things the way he does. Too many of our artists concentrate on insular themes and predictable subjects: Not enough are promoting positive messages and forcing audiences to think more clearly and deeply. If you have not heard We Can then make sure you remedy this. A song that looks at homegrown squabbles- inter-state rivalries and debate- that expands its horizon across the world. Not only do the lyrics stick in the mind; the vocals and compositions ooze beauty, soulfulness and something wonderfully rich. The fan numbers are climbing and the music gets stronger and stronger. With regards Jeremy Passion- and how far he can go- who knows…
JUST what he can accomplish.
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