“WE ARE” by Jon Batiste: An inspiring collection of soulful sound

Jon Batiste’s eighth studio album, “WE ARE”, was released on Mar. 19, 2021. On Apr. 3, 2022, it won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, the first of five awards that Batiste would win that night. Until then, I had never heard of “WE ARE”, so I decided to check it out. Having listened to it a few times now, I strongly believe that the album was well-deserving of the award.

In terms of sound, the main thing that stuck out to me about “WE ARE” was how no two songs were really alike. The opening track, also called “WE ARE”, is powerful and triumphant, featuring the marching band from Batiste’s high school and a children’s choir that gave the song a gospel feel. “I NEED YOU” is full of soul and has a lively piano beat that makes you want to get up and dance, while Batiste practically whispers on the much calmer “ADULTHOOD”. On “WHATCHUTALKINBOUT”, Batiste showcases his fast-paced rapping ability and clever wordplay with a beat that has a jazzy, funky feel to it, whereas “CRY” is almost depressing, with Batiste telling us throughout the track how much he wants to “cry, cry, cry.”

I also think the album had a lot of meaningful messages and uplifting lyrics in its songs. The chorus of “WE ARE” encourages community, hope, and pride with the repetition of “we are the chosen ones,” “we are the golden ones.” On “TELL THE TRUTH,” Batiste tells us to be happy with our lives and to be true to ourselves. “FREEDOM,” which was also nominated for Record of the Year, celebrates black freedom and power, and “I NEED YOU” reminds us that “in this world with a lot of problems, all we need is a little loving.”

The album also has three tracks that are more like interludes than actual songs, but I think they add a lot to the album, especially if you’re listening to it from start to finish. “MOVEMENT 11’” is a piano solo in between the tracks “BOY HOOD” and “ADULTHOOD”, so it could represent a transition between those two stages of Batiste’s life. “MAVIS” is a 20-second track featuring a woman (who I later learned was Mavis Staples, a singer and civil rights activist) talking about freedom, which leads perfectly into the next track, “FREEDOM”. Finally, “UNTIL”, the last track of the album, features a group of people drumming and chanting, along with a little boy repeatedly telling Batiste, “Jon, let’s go home.” I think this track aligns really well with the themes of community and loving one another that were in the other tracks on the album.

This album was full of life and authentic feeling, and I got the sense that it was made to bring people together. It was a lot of fun to listen to–each song had its own unique character, yet they fit together perfectly. With passionate sound and rousing lyrics, “WE ARE” is definitely an album that you should listen to.