The singer readies his "Lift Your Spirit" album and prepares to open for Bruno Mars on the road.
Nearly two years before a Beats By Dre ad made broke his song "The Man," Aloe Blacc got some important feedback about it from none other than Dr. Dre himself.
"[Interscope Exec VP of A&R] Larry Jackson said, 'Dre wants to meet you. He loves 'I Need A Dollar,'" the singer recalls, naming his 2010 breakout single. "When I met him, I asked what he thought about my other songs, and he wasn't impressed by 'The Man.' It gutted me. I felt like I had disappointed him."
But Blacc, known mostly for singing and co-writing Avicci's hit "Wake Me Up" -— for now, at least -— took heed of one of Dre's tips: Look for inspiration from Marvin Gaye, whom the producer said could represent male ideas but still appeal to women. At the same time, Blacc had been trying to incorporate Elton John's "Your Song" into a song he was writing for his early-'00s hip-hop collaborator Emanon; after meeting with Dre, he paired it instead with his early "The Man" demo with help from Dre producer DJ Khalil.
Late last year, Beats co-founder and Interscope Geffen A&M chairman Jimmy Iovine heard the new version of "The Man," which is featured on Blacc's EP "Wake Me Up," took it to Beats VP of marketing Omar Johnson, and helped fast-track it as the theme to a series of Beats ads featuring Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Garnett and San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The latter spot was seen widely during the 49ers' Jan. 12 game against the Carolina Panthers, helping "The Man" vault to No. 7 on Digital Songs this week, with 139,000 copies sold, according to Nielsen Soundscan, a 191% gain. The song also leaps from No. 79 to No. 24 on this week's Hot 100.
"Wake Me Up," meanwhile, rocketed 195-32 on the Billboard 200, selling 6000, a 144% jump. Exploiting the new buzz, preorders for Aloe's major-label full-length debut, "Lift Your Spirit," due out March 25, launched over the weekend. Meanwhile, WHTZ New York just started spinning the song, and Aloe was recently named as supporting act for select stateside dates of Bruno Mars' continuing Moonshine Jungle world tour.
"Beats has the power to break artists on its own," says Steve Berman, Interscope vice chairman. "They have great A&R, and they're constantly doing incredibly creative things that make a statement."
Beats' Johnson has helped play an early role in breaking singles from Robin Thicke ("Blurred Lines"), Lady Gaga ("Do What U Want") and David Guetta ("Work Hard, Play Hard") in the past 12 months, and is currently airing a separate campaign featuring Pharrell's "Happy" that is largely responsible for that song's jump from No. 98 to No. 56 on this week's Hot 100 (it also enters Digital Songs at No. 26, with 66,000 copies, an 88% gain.) But Aloe Blacc is "the most crystalline example of what Beats can do," he says. "We can go to a label now and say we can be the driving force with a song."