Bel-Ami Puts the Muse in MUSE(IC)
So if you need much more than I can give ya
Here’s the chance to find what you seek
I hope you find the one who makes your heart dance and your soul sing
I hope he loves ya just like you needFind Love, Bel-Ami
“If you appreciate Soul music in its truest form, you’ll appreciate this album,” said Bel-Ami about his new solo record MUSE(IC).
And indeed, the sound in this album is so clear and unfiltered that if you close your eyes it feels like you’re in the exact same room as the musicians, listening to them riff off each other and explore new arrangements in the moment— and that’s kind of what happened.
Recorded in a basement in Jersey, Bel-Ami described the creation process as “effortless,” with preparation meeting opportunity at the perfect moment to create an album better than he had ever imagined.
MUSE(IC) was written by Bel-Ami and co-produced with Errick Lewis (Stevie Wonder, Jay-Z); it features contributions from Miles Robertson (Adele, One Republic) on keys, Bobby Wesley on guitars, Obed Calvaire (Mary J. Blige, Seal) on drums, and Matthew Hartnett (Lauryn Hill, Kirk Franklin) on horns. Between the musical composition and Bel-Ami’s rich voice, MUSE(IC) is just sublime.
Bel-Ami is a Houston native who was born into a musical family. Since his debut EP Know U he has headlined two indie tours, shared the stage with R&B greats, and fronted a recent EP from New York collective Herbivores.
His smooth, poetic music is influenced by such neo-soul greats as Bilal, D’Angelo, and Maxwell. He paid particular attention to the idea of influence and inspiration when recording this album, which pays homage to his muses. In a statement, Bel-Ami explains that artistic purpose and process were absolutely essential to the album’s formation:
“Without a ‘muse’, there is no art, there is no ‘MUSE(ic)’. Adding the suffix ‘ic’ typically forms an adjective, which means ‘of or pertaining to’ and as such, this project is pertaining to and inspired by my many muses.
I thought the most authentic way to record this album was to build the stairs as we climbed, so the bones of this project were recorded in a single live take, as we used each moment as a muse for the next.
We created freely and fully, prioritizing expression over arbitrary industry rules, while also paying homage to the greats who have planted these seeds of inspiration in me.
If you appreciate Soul music in its truest form, you’ll appreciate this album.”Bel-Ami
With an intro track that surely has roots in Bel-Ami’s church choir days, the first real song of the album, Sun Moon, begins MUSE(IC) on a note of light and love. Gospel-esque, there is a sense of worship in the song, though the object of devotion seems to be a person. He says “I’m enchanted by the thought of you,” and in a kind of prayer sings:
Shine your light, lift me high up in the mountains
shine your light, keep me on your path ways
kiss my life, leave your breath upon me
you neva eva go away
take my hands, lead me through your valleys.Sun Moon, Bel-Ami
The repetition of this chant throughout the song is powerful, and when he calls on the sun and moon to be guides and “keep you in the light” it is like an incantation. These lofty elements make Sun Moon a strong beginning to the album.
The following track, Healing, has a completely different but equally engaging sound. It is jazzy and cool. Bel-Ami creates an enticing rhythm by stacking short rhymes in fun and interesting ways, hitting certain monosyllabic words— might/ night/ light/ sight— with precision while drawing out others playfully—” I doOoOo be missing your touch.”
The titular track Muse(ic) is dreamy and water-like with a light melody, breathy voice, and lyrics that mention waves and drifting out to sea. Listening to it is like being underwater and looking up to see the sunlight reflecting and dancing off the surface.
Other notable songs include Raindrops, which is a sweet song about a relationship where Bel-Ami wants to protect and heal his partner. Finding Love is honest and heartbreaking.
So Far, despite its groovy vibe, concerns police brutality and systemic racism. In an Instagram post about So Far Bel-Ami succinctly wrote “the more I listen to this song the more I’m saddened by the circumstances that necessitate its existence. But that mf jams though!”
Times I wanna hide away so far
Talkin bout how we’ve come so far
All the while I cant go but so far
Been searching for a better way but so far
All my hope has faded so far.So Far, Bel-Ami
All of Bel-Ami’s songs are long, rhythmic, and lovingly accompanied by instrumentals. He takes his time to explore each topic and craft expressive verses.
Through his words you see how likeable he is. His lyrics paint the portrait of a man who is altruistic, supportive, and gives everything when he loves; it is clear why he goes by “Bel-Ami,” because in French these two words together mean “beautiful friend.”