At a recent sold-out show in New York City, Michael Blume came out wearing sunglasses, a gold necklace, and a draping black outfit. He rocked a ponytail that bounced atop his otherwise-shaven head and performed to the accompaniment of a stylish ten-piece Neo-Soul band consisting of guitar, bass, drums, horns and backing vocals. The spectrum of influences onstage was reflected in the audience: all races, ages, and styles came out from the city and packed the house to watch Blume perform.
This much enthusiasm for an artist with only two songs released is rare, but Blume is no ordinary artist. After releasing "Manufactured Love" by himself in July 2015, the song found fans on its own, landing on both Spotify's "Fresh Finds" playlist and eventually claiming the #1 spot on its "Alternative R&B" charts. His second single, "Colors," was premiered by Hilly Dilly, and led him to be favorably compared to Frank Ocean by Pigeons & Planes. He is currently in studio finishing his forthcoming debut EP, which is set to be released in July.
Blume offers something for everyone: his music is inspired by hip-hop, jazz, R&B, Neo-Soul and electronica, with the avant-garde twists of a serious artist but the anthemic quality of a star. At his show, after performing "Fundamentalism," which references racial injustices in the United States, he sang "How High," a song with the paradigm-shifting potential of "Same Love": Blume discusses it as a "reflection of catching up on love...the predefined traditional romantic love" that he was never able to experience as a gay man growing up.
Born in Montclair, New Jersey, Blume excelled in school and attended Yale University. He majored in Latin American studies and lived in Brazil, becoming fluent in Spanish and Portugese. He was planning on a life of academia until his last year of school, when he joined a prestigious on-campus a cappella group. They toured the world, performing in 35 countries, when Blume had an epiphany.
"I love singing and I love traveling, and I realized this is what I need to be doing," He says. "I had what I describe as a 'second coming out.' But what would the world say, how would my parents react?"
Blume had already come out as gay, and felt similar apprehensions coming out as an artist. He moved to New York City to pursue his dream, keeping his a cappella roots apparent in his rich vocal arrangements. Shortly after, he found his style: juxtaposing his classical training with the buttery vocals runs of someone like Arethra Franklin, the in-the-pocket rhythms of hip-hop, with conscious lyrics that approach topics such as materialism, LBGTQ rights, and civil rights.
Blume ended his most recent show with the song "I Am Not A Trend," offering a refrain for the audience to repeat: "I got no rules bitch / I got no rules." This is a fitting motto for Blume, who is difficult to categorize but easily relatable. As Khaya Lee of Earmilk writes, "Holistically, Blume is a vulnerable, flamboyant artist with a heart-wrenching story to tell. If he released a song where he was rapping, he would have been a white rapper. If he had released a song scatting over his Neo-Soul backing band, he would have been a Neo-Soul artist. Blume is and does all of these things, but he is not a trend."