Technology, and therefore creativity, has finally caught up with Bleu. And it’s at this juncture that the New England pop songwriter finds himself the happiest after a decade-plus of major label woes, independent releases and keeping his balance amid the ever-shifting industry tides.
Born William James McAuley III, Bleu worked the indie circuit from his home base in Boston for years with EPs, compilations and one full-length (Headroom). Local music awards and an opening slot for Ben Folds led to a major label deal and Bleu’s most well-known disc, 2003’s Redhead, landing songs on several films including the first Spider-Man. But that’s both the start and finish of Bleu’s mainstream story.
Last year’s A Watched Pot was the first proper Bleu release in half a decade and showcased stronger writing chops than anything he’d previously released. The development in song craft comes after working alongside other pop artists like Dan Wilson, Hanson, Glen Phillips, Rooney and others. Bleu’s simply a better songwriter than before, and his newly focused career gives him some impressive material to work with.
Back to that technology thing. Through the organic fundraising site Kickstarter.com, Bleu raised $40K for his latest project, Four, and immediately built a direct kinship with his fans by doing so. He speaks highly of the process in every interview he’s recently given, and there’s a musical freedom now that the fans have made it clear Bleu will be supported as an artist. No more waiting on a publicist or label schedule for your career hopes and dreams.
‘Singin’ in Tongues’ marches forward in this freedom with the most jubilant track of Bleu’s career to lead the procession. The opening countdown of “1, 2, 3, 4” announces the party and Bleu’s reminder not to worry marries well with the sheer fun of the pop/rock number. An homage to his favorite city, ‘B.O.S.T.O.N,’ should become a live favorite in the region, and the up-tempo energy works well as a one-two punch to start the disc.
Bleu’s biographical prose floods each track, whether speaking of relational realizations on ‘In Love With My Lover’ (“It makes me wonder why I never saw it before / I’m in love with my lover”), spiritual yearnings on ‘My Own Personal Jesus’ (“I wanna believe in something bigger than me / I wanna believe in some big mystery”), or the painful-yet-beautiful moments between lovers on ‘How Blue’ (“You made me feel the sharper things / And never tried to clip my wings”). Some tracks come off a bit too personal to identify with (‘B.O.S.T.O.N’), but the music typically covers such gaps.
Four isn’t a songwriting masterpiece, so don’t get me wrong. But it is a very solid pop affair from a seasoned musician connecting with his fans at a whole new level.