When Jon Bellion was a kid growing up on Long Island his mom ruled the car stereo. As moms in possession of the car keys do. Luckily, Mama Bellion had a taste for classic radio and young Jon grew up absorbing the sounds of Elton John, Paul Simon, Hall & Oates, and Billy Joel — engaging melody makers whose literate songwriting spoke to the concerns and uncertainties of their generation. Later on in high school, Bellion discovered his own cast of melody-minded singer-songwriters, particularly Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard, Mumford & Sons’ Marcus Mumford, and Band of Horses’ Ben Bridwell — thoughtful, next gen troubadours with a knack for turning complicated emotions into indelible tunes.
Bellion’s love for pop melody and thoughtful lyricism is palpable on the songs he has meticulously written, recorded, and self-produced for his debut album The Human Condition, due from Capitol Records later this year. The album also reflects Bellion’s love for hip-hop, especially innovative artist-musician-producers like J Dilla, Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, and Timbaland. When Bellion was 10, his older brother brought home a Triton keyboard. Fascinated, Bellion began making beats and transferring them to cassettes that he sold to his classmates, using the proceeds to pay for better equipment.
That kid grew up to be a relentless perfectionist who ensures that every lyric and melody he writes and every beat he makes are deliberate. You can hear the obsession with his craft on The Human Condition, which is also the work of a remarkably versatile artist who can offer up everything from shimmering synth-pop on “All Time Low,” to funk-ified dance-R&B on “Guillotine,” to epic, EDM-meets-acoustic balladry on “Maybe IDK,” to driving, old-school hip hop on “New York Soul (Part ii)” (which finds Bellion showing off his skillful rapping). The music is a mash-up of styles and impossible to categorize, but it all converges in a grandiosely ambitious sound that also manages to be highly accessible — an effect Bellion likens to a Pixar movie.
“When I want to get inspired, I'll put a Pixar movie on silent and listen to Nas,” Bellion says. “So I’ll have ‘New York State of Mind’ blaring over these beautiful images from Finding Nemo. I feel like that's my sound, in a way. Or like if J Dilla scored a Pixar movie. The music has a relatable message delivered in an accessible package, but it’s sonically complex and artistically driven. I think that’s what Pixar’s movies do and that’s what my heroes have done.”