Aloe Blacc's 'Lift Your Spirit': What the Critics Are Saying

12:22 PM PST 03/11/2014 by Kyle Jaeger

The soulful singer of Avicii's "Wake Me Up" seizes the spotlight in his major-label debut.

Co-writer and lead vocalist of Avicii's chart-topping single, "Wake Me Up," Aloe Blacc is poised to break out with his third solo album, Lift Your Spirit, which includes the singer's softer spin on the EDM hit, plus a diverse arrangement of musical styles and social themes. The Interscope album, released March 11, marks his major-label debut, with guest producers DJ Khalil and Pharrell Williams contributing to tracks.

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"What I want to do with music is make people happy," Blacc told Billboard of his album. "So every song, save for maybe one, is about something that could potentially lift your spirit." Whether the record stirs souls is yet to be determined, but at least Blacc can take some satisfaction in the lift of his single, "The Man," currently No. 13, on the Hot 100 chart.

Read a sampling of what the critics are saying about Lift Your Spirit:

The New York Times' Jon Pareles writes that Blacc moves "from hip-hop bragging to thinking about poverty, women trouble and making a better world." Compared to the songs of struggles and setbacks in his 2010 album, Good Things, the artist "strives for positive thinking" in his latest work. Despite the "earthy vitality" of his singing, however, his album's production "is so thoroughly retro that Mr. Blacc only reminds a listener of whom he's emulating."

Blacc "will probably be enjoying some nice royalty checks for years to come" because of his Avicii collaboration, Rolling Stone's Cady Drell remarks, "but while every college student in the hemisphere surely recognizes his voice, not nearly as many fans know his name." In his major record debut, the singer "tries to change that with a set of hooky soul-pop tunes layered with folk-tinged acoustic elements. While the tracks are "plenty radio-friendly," they "never quite add up to a cohesive album."

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Lift Your Spirit "is an ecstatic mix of exultant '60s soul – big, bright, lots of horns – and slightly twangy, earnest folk," Washington Post's Sarah Godfrey writes. Blacc's lyrics are "smart" and "socially conscious without being preachy." Lauding the singer's dynamic appeal, Godfrey describes his work as "experimental enough to appeal to a young audience while incorporating enough nods to the past to charm an older crowd." And as an added bonus, "he has a strong, clear voice that immediately upgrades any song it touches."

For his major-label debut, Blacc delivers "a smooth R&B/pop collection from the playbooks of Sam Cooke, Bill Withers, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder," says USA Today's Edna Gundersen. "A few tracks feel restrained compared to 2010's bolder Good Things, butLift Your Spirit delivers on its promise," earning three out of four stars.

New York Daily News' Jim Farber gave Lift Your Spirit four stars, describing Blacc's work as having the "chesty thrust and masculine assurance of 1960s soul men such as Sam Moore and Otis Redding." Of his three solo albums, his latest "rates the best" with material that "plucks from '60s pop and '70s soul without plundering enough of it to become retro."

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