Michael Blume rambles across the stage with an elegant, raw salvation, the music becoming a provisional atonement. He didn’t go through hardship to compromise his identity, artistic, gender or otherwise, fervently illustrated through his big and brassy brand of fiercely-crafted melodies and savage lyricism. “I got no rules, bish,” he bombards between horn blows on “I’m Not a Trend (No Rules),” a fearless and enslaving earworm, a savory primer to his forthcoming EP. The project, which also contains the icier downtempo “Lifting You,” in which he dares an “old teammate” to put themselves first ⎯⎯ “you gotta fuck with your own shine,” he sings, not in a bitter requirement to let go but one of warmth and love ⎯⎯ aims to be the hard-candied follow-up to 2016’s foolhardy When I Get It Right EP. “You can’t get anywhere if you don’t love the way you’re made,” he later instructs, the production inching along, sluggishly, with cathedral-dressed backing vocals glistening reverently behind him.
Blume’s early success (hundreds of thousands of streams so far on Spotify) is not a false alarm. His anthemic, deeply-relevant work feels larger than life, somehow chipping away at political and social unrest, which is resonating tenfold. “I’m Not a Trend” is especially germane to the world in 2017, particularly to his continued earnestness and willingness to be as transparent as possible. “‘This is Not a Trend’ is a memo to myself to continue to be who I am and to make the work I want to make regardless of what outside sources and forces may have to say about my project,” he talks candidly with B-Sides & Badlands, framing his story in simple but discerning terms. “It reminds me to ‘keep doing my heartfelt shit,’ and I think that the rest of the music I have coming out reflects that. Most of work has a raw, unfiltered point of view that I am proud of and I think connects to the messaging of ‘Trend.'”
“I dance how I dance / I pray how I pray,” he reminds the listener, spitting lyrics with the best in the business. While “Trend” gallops on the line of pop and hip-hop, emblazoned with a charming throwback soul intonation, the remainder of the EP suggests “a more chill R&B vibe,” he says. “That said, there definitely are other songs with horns and one of the things I have enjoyed in making this EP is bringing in my band to give it the live, real-player-vibe that my shows have.”
Borrowing glitter-pressed accessories from such icons as David Bowie, Elton John and Freddie Mercury (mingling with audacious and progressive boundary-pushing from Beyonce, Drake, Frank Ocean and Lady Gaga), Blume represents the new wave, one actively untied to and bounding away from tradition and stereotypes, and in turn, his songwriting is embedded with themes of Celebration of Individuality, Skepticism and Celebration of Tradition, Embracing of the Unknown and Sharing Yourself Without Fear. He remains clearheaded, too ⎯⎯ “I have recently adopted a regular meditation practice, and it’s truly changed my life. It really helps me feel centered and focus on doing one thing at a time,” he says ⎯⎯ and determined to flip the script. A frizzy spunk gleams in his eye, and it’s rather evident we are witnessing something great unfold.
Below, Blume discusses rules for his life, his fascination with costumes and crucial moments over the past year.
One of the most pointed lyrics in “I’m Not a Trend (No Rules)” reads: “Didn’t go through all my hardships to be bombarded by a bunch of people who ain’t even what they say they are.” What relationships or friendships have been important to your journey so far, for better or worse?
I am very lucky to have a community of friends and collaborators here in New York City who have supported me on my journey so far. I am big into Open Communication – this concept of always leaning into saying and sharing rather than not saying and not sharing. With Open Communication, I have navigated some tough situations with friends, business partners, and lovers, and I have also been able to quickly see the cats and dogs who are ain’t really what they say they are and ain’t really here for me. And that’s OK, too!
Do you have any rules or guidelines for how you live your life?
So many, and learning new ones everyday. Open Communication. Sex Positive. Mental Health Conscious. Love yourself first. Patience. Understand that my perspective is only my perspective and that my reality is only my perceived reality.
Back in September, you tweeted: “Each one of us is a dynamic force that change everyday.” What have been the biggest changes you’ve undergone?
I have become a lot more patient and a lot more understanding of how specific my perspective is to my experience. I think where I used to focus more on getting others to focus on my perspective and listen to what I have to say, I now am more interested in leading by example – i.e. showing my perspective with the intention of getting others to focus more on their realities and perspectives.
You also recently posted about the costumes you wear and pointed out that “THEY ARE COSTUMES.” When did “costumes” become so important to you?
I am deeply invested in the ideologies of social construction and intersectionality theory. I believe that each and every one of us exists at a unique crossroads of our experiences. For me, my crossroads sometimes has me wearing dresses and sometimes has me wearing baseball pants and a white T-shirt. Sometimes I am femme, sometimes I am masc. Sometimes I speak more like a New York Jew. Sometimes I speak more gay. Sometimes I use big words. Sometimes I don’t. All of these mannerisms, clothing, affects – they are all me. Or are they all things I have observed, decided I liked and tried on for myself? I guess both, right?
Do the costumes serve as an extension of you, or rather a mask of sorts?
Definitely an extension! This is a great question and an important thing to note. None of the costumes, ways or walking, being, talking… none of them are masks. There is nothing to hide. Rather, there is everything to share. And I can share different things every day, and it’s all me and that’s OK, because this idea of the “true me” or the “real me” or the “authentic” is silly. I change everyday. I am not a trend and neither are you.
Does change in style directly reflect your personal evolution?
This question for me is somewhat not applicable, because it suggests that personal evolution can be calibrated and noted and dictated and measured… and more and more I am learning that that is not the case. It’s all mostly in the grey; it’s all mostly a mess; it’s all mostly unclear and hard to put into this box or that box or say it’s this thing or that thing. For example, sometimes I feel some kind of way for the day, and so, I wear something that day that I never wear again. It may or may not reflect some deeper, long term personal evolution.
Sometimes, I feel some kind of way in a session, and I write a song in a voice or from a perspective that has never before been part of my perspective and may never be again. Other times, my general personal evolution may lead me to do certain things overall, but in general, I don’t like to say “OK, I have evolved to be this way, and so now my wardrobe or my music is going to be this.” Because it’s really for me all about each moment what I am feeling and what I want to do.
Does your streaming success factor into what you want to do and where you want to go next, in a business-artist sense?
The business-artist sense is definitely something I am constantly working on… it’s an area I am always wanting to grow in and learn more in. On the one hand, I try not to look at the numbers. I try to just make the music I want to make, put it out, and then make more music. That said, I live in New York City, the consumer capital of the world, and I am aware that my Art exists in a capitalistic society where growth, statistics and revenue matter. And so in that sense, I definitely am working to continue to grow and get more streams and more fans.
What revelatory moments have you had in the past year, in terms of growth and music-making?
Oh, I like this question. Honestly, I think overall I have learned to sink into patience. It takes a long time to have sustained success as an artist in the music industry, and I think I sometimes let my ambition get the best of me. And then, I get let down when things I wanted to happen don’t happen. It’s not that I am less ambitious now, but I am feeling more OK with the fact that things take time. I feel more confident in the value of my work, and so, I don’t need external sources to tell me “hey this is great” because I know that. That means that anything good that happens once the music is out is a bonus! And for me, theoretically, just making the work is enough.