Next time you see blackbear, call him bear. The artist, whose real name is Matthew Musto, thinks a slightly different name is in his future. “I’d really like to just be bear, but it’s hard with a name like that when it comes to Google and stuff,” he told me on a phone call in July. “Like how Puff Daddy became P. Diddy and then just Diddy. I want to try to just be bear, but we’ll see how it goes.” Considering when you google “blackbear” right now the first result is the artist’s homepage — even before an actual blackbear — I think a successful name change might be in his future. “We’ll see how the album does first,” he says with a chuckle.
The album in question is blackbear’s upcoming everything means nothing. It’s actually split into two parts — the first six songs have already been released and the back six will drop on Aug. 21. The album starts with blackbear’s monster hit “hot girl bummer,” which took over airwaves in late 2019, shot up to No. 11 on the Billboard chart, and currently has over 1 billion streams. It’s a song blackbear wrote a while ago when he was clubbing and enjoying his 20s while he still could, he claims.
But the song, in essence, is a parody-like take at social media and how it takes over our lives in a way that can be deeply unhealthy. “Social media rules our lives. It’s the first thing we check in the morning and it’s always there,” he said. With “hot girl bummer,” blackbear wanted to not just poke at that but also put a real and authentic twist on it, something you’ll find is a common thread when you listen to all of his music, but especially in everything means nothing.
Before blackbear was blackbear
Matthew Musto, who was born and raised in Florida, always felt like music was going to be his thing. “I knew early on that I wanted to do music, so of course I had a band in high school,” he said. The band, called Polaroid, landed a record deal with a small label out of Buffalo, NY, but it didn’t exactly work out. “Like with all high school bands, we broke up,” he shared. “Then I did a little bit of Christian alternative in there for a bit. Now it’s demonic emo,” he says with a laugh. I tell him it seems like a natural progression, which makes him laugh even more.
Before he got to the “demonic emo” music he claims he does now, he actually got a big break co-writing Justin Bieber’s hit song “Boyfriend,” which was released in March 2012. Alongside Mike Posner, Mason D. Levy, and Bieber, Musto (who was still going by his real name at the time) contributed to the song that debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 2012. It was a pretty slick gig for newcomer Musto. From then on, things only got bigger and better for the artist who would soon become known as blackbear.
Behind blackbear’s music
everything means nothing may be a collection of 12 songs split into two pieces, but the whole album tells a chronological story. “The songs are pretty much in order of how I wrote them,” he said. “We did some shuffling around with taking songs out and putting some in, but they’re really in order.” The first three tracks — “hot girl bummer,” “me & ur ghost,” and “queen of broken hearts” — actually came together in the span of three days, blackbear says with equal parts pride and disbelief. All three have already been popular with fans and led into another trio of songs that have already been released.
“i feel bad,” “i feel 2 much,” and “i felt that” hit the airwaves in June, and I asked blackbear how the releases have been going. Whereas many artists might stoically say it’s been great, blackbear has a bit of a different angle. “I like honesty, so I’m that guy who will go on Reddit and YouTube and read all the comments, both the good and the bad,” he said. Rather than just soak up all the positivity, he wants to know all the honesty, even if it’s something he doesn’t really want to hear. “I’m learning, and if those comments can help me be better, then I’ll listen to them. It’s balance.” Considering those three songs alone currently have about 5 million total streams on Spotify, I’m going to say on blackbear’s behalf that the releases were a success.
The remaining six songs on the album will arrive on Aug. 21 to complete everything means nothing and along with that will be another single. “We haven’t decided on it yet; it’s between a couple of options,” blackbear tells me before asking me which one I would pick. Deciding to give my honest opinion — because he values that so much — I told him I’d pick neither and instead go with “sobbing in cabo.”
“That’s my favorite too!” he says quite excitedly. He said that when he played that song for the label originally, they liked it but weren’t convinced it had single power. And while I can’t claim to understand the inner workings of the music industry, I told him I believe in the song even though I’m just one opinion. “Your opinion matters; it will help my case,” he said with a laugh.
He went on to tell me the story behind “sobbing in cabo,” which is quite literally about his current girlfriend calling him from Mexico crying because she’d had an issue with a previous boyfriend. “She called me crying and I sent her flowers. She was having a hard time and I just wanted to be there for her,” he said. Everything he did worked, because they’re currently together and very much in love. The two even have a brand-new baby named Midnight that blackbear’s been devoting a ton of time to while in COVID-19 quarantine.
The everything means nothing Era
In true blackbear fashion, the entirety of everything means nothing is unflinchingly raw and honest, something blackbear has built his art around. He’s open about mental health, the downfalls of social media, and real-life love. “Music is really therapeutic for me when it comes to depression and anxiety and if I can help other people by making this music, I’m going to do that,” he shared. He knows his fans value his openness and he knows when he gets real, they connect.
The new album also sees even more collaborations, something blackbear has done so much of (and done so well), including songs with Lauv and Trevor Daniel. They’re added to an impressive list of people blackbear has worked with, including some of his favorites like Ellie Goulding and Linkin Park. He has even more ambitions for future collabs though — Slipknot. “This answer varies based on who I’m listening to lately. I always say Red Hot Chili Peppers because it’s just a good answer, but also Slipknot. I keep thinking I want to get into heavier stuff,” he said. He has more collaborations coming up that aren’t included on the album that he’s really excited about too and just wrapped a collab with All Time Low, a band he’s a fan of.
everything means nothing also showcases blackbear’s keen sense of pop-punk vibes with the whole album taking on that quality of emo bands from the early aughts. “I like to make music like the pop-punk music I listened to. You know, like New Found Glory and Saves the Day. I actually played some of my stuff for Chris Conley from Saves the Day and got really good feedback,” he said. We reminisced about the big players in the emo scene from our high school days — he said he was most definitely going to pull up a Cartel playlist when we got off the phone — as we wrapped up our conversation.
I told blackbear there was one final thing I wanted to ask about and it had nothing to do with music — his fingernails. “There are a few people I’ve seen with social media dedicated to my fingers, which is strange but also cool?” he said in response. He’s a fan of painting his nails, something he’s done for years and considers his thing. “I’m sorry to say my nails are bare right now, though. I did them once while in quarantine, but it wasn’t the same. I miss my spot in Hollywood.” A quick scroll through blackbear’s Instagram — which is sparse but fun — will show you a variety of nail art and colors, and there’s one person he’s always quick to show a new set off to: fellow singer Rosalia. “I always show my nails to Rosalia when I get them done because she has the most amazing nails of anyone I know. I have to show them to her,” he said. Hopefully once COVID-19 fades and blackbear can get to the nail salon again, he’ll be able to get a celebratory set for everything means nothing and show them off to everyone — including Rosalia.
Check out blackbear’s latest music video to “queen of broken hearts” below: