After co-writing Eminem and Rihanna’s “The Monster” and Jason Derulo’s “Trumpets,” 25-year-old Jon Bellion has a hit of his own climbing the charts: “All Time Low,” a plaintive post breakup ballad with the heft of modern hip-hop. Billboard caught up with Bellion to discuss his move from songwriter to frontman and why “you can’t fake the funk” on pop radio.
Did you always rap and sing?
Rapping was a hobby; when I went to college, there were a ton of dudes rapping. I think that’s where I got my rapping chops up. I was sick of waiting for people to jump on hooks for songs I produced. So I tried singing myself, and I haven’t looked back.
You wrote “All Time Low” a while ago, right?
It was done two and a half years ago. Recently we spruced a little bit for radio purposes. The day I made it, it flew out so fast, I knew it was a smash record. So I fought with the label for about two and a half years to make sure it was the lead single. And now it’s the lead single, and now it’s going to be No. 18 at U.S. pop radio with no rhythmic thing or anything like that, top 20 most Shazam’d songs in the country, increased 100 percent on iTunes for nine weeks straight — it’s a testament to my sound. It proves to the label that I can call the shots. We’re one for one, I wasn’t wrong, so let’s keep going with what I think should be the single.
How did “All Time Low” come together?
I made it in like half a day. I had the idea, the drums were fire, I ended up finishing it and went to play basketball. “Hand of God” is the outro on my new album, and that took about eight months to finish with the choir and the string sections. “All Time Low” was finished in maybe eight hours.
Where did you get the idea for that hook?
It’s funny because sometimes when I make a beat, I’ll be working on the drums and I’ll be mumbling something. I’ll just do one word; it was “low” that day. I was like alright, I’m going to fill in a whole wordy chorus where the lows are that I’m mumbling. But I just ended up keeping the mumbled lows because I thought it was more catchy. I wrote the whole song backwards to reach the chorus.