Blake Lewis first came to national attention as one of the most unique contestants ever to compete on American Idol, and long before that, as a teenager, he was well-known as “Bshorty” in Seattle’s a cappella, hip-hop, and rave scenes. But with the release of his ambitious and completely independent third album, Portrait of a Chameleon, Blake is taking things to a whole new level.
The follow-up to the critically acclaimed Audio Day Dream (which sold 350,000 copies and spawned the top 40 single “Break Anotha”) and Heartbreak on Vinyl (the title track of which went to #1 twice on Billboard’s dance charts), Portrait of a Chameleon is “fun, sexy, and positive. I’d call it ‘future pop,'” says Blake. “Across the album, I juxtapose so many different kinds of music. It’s very anthemic, and there’s an epic feel. The album metaphor has to do with finding our colors, as we are all chameleons. I’m standing out on the cover because I’ve found mine. I will always continue to stretch the boundaries of the human voice and create the music that colors my life.”
Using Blake’s own painstakingly handcrafted library of sampled mouth sounds (“beatboxing, sound effects, vocal scratching, the works”) as its foundation, Portrait of a Chameleon runs the gamut from the reggae-tinged Nick Hexum co-write “She Gives Me Her Love” to the horn-laden funky-freshness of “Disco in Space,” from the sexy slow-jam “Lost in Heaven” to the poignant life-on-the-fringe cautionary tale “Not Today,” the latter inspired by Blake’s mother, whom he considers his main inspiration. The album also features the hard-hitting, bass-in-your-face “Your Touch,” the soundtrack to 2013’s Microsoft Internet Explorer 10 campaign — which starred Blake, played on more than 19,000 theater screens across the U.S., received more than 1.2 billion impressions, and has already sold 130,000 copies worldwide.
But perhaps the centerpiece of Portrait is the ’80s-tastic pop epic “Retro Romance.” A sonic sequel of sorts to “Heartbreak on Vinyl,” the frothy, feelgood ode to a Jordache-clad dreamgirl with “Suzanne Somers thighs” sounds like a final-love-scene song on a John Hughes soundtrack — meaning, of course, that it sounds totally awesome. “Duran Duran, the Cure, Depeche Mode, Prince, and Michael Jackson were always playing when I was growing up, on CD or on vinyl,” Blake says fondly of his proud ’80s influences.
However, Portrait of a Chameleon — out on Blake’s on Audio Day Dream Records and distributed through InGrooves — still has a hypermodern feel, and Blake is looking ahead, hoping that his “future pop” will connect with fans of all ages. “So here we go/A chance to start again/The melody is calling me/There’s no time to pretend,” he boldly declares in the album’s opening track.
“I never wanted to stick to one style or stay in one place,” Blake stresses. “And I haven’t been more proud of anything in my life than this album.”
“Blake Lewis is such an amazing talent, and Portrait of a Chameleon really delivers on showcasing all his skill and artistry.” — Ken Jordan, The Crystal Method
“Blake is a super-soulful and creative dude. We had a lot of fun writing ‘She Gives Me Her Love.’ Great vocal and beats.” — Nick Hexum, 311