Relative newcomer Bryce Hase gives us an idea of what healthy love might look like on "sOak'20"

For better or worse, when you hear alt-r&b, it's hard not to think of The Weeknd. While Abel Tesfaye didn't create the genre (that could be dated all the way back to the early 00s records by Bilal), The Weeknd certainly brought the 2010s version into mainstream attention, establishing the sonic template - post-dubstep bassweight, moody trip-hop-like vocals, and EDM-indebted beats - as well as establishing its lyrical themes, depression, alienation, drugs, and sex, sex, and more sex.

While The Weeknd's version of soulful Michael Jackson vocals and deep, lowdown production SOUNDS exquisite, it's not much of a stretch, or a judgement, to say that Tesfaye's idea of love and romance are unhealthy at best. It's a sonic encapsulation of one night stands, or after hours parties at some rock 'n roll bar or dingy nightclub. And like those afterparties, it feels great in the moment but leaves you feeling like hell, like chewed up bubblegum, after the fact.

It's enough to make you lament. Surely, there must be a way to have hot, hedonistic love and pleasure and NOT burn out all of your serotonin, at the same time? Luckily, Bryce Hase's here to offer us some hope with "sOak'20"



"Soaking up the view/You don't gotta work/I'ma put you first," begins Hase over some tectonic sub-bass and a glacial breakbeat. It sounds every bit as drug-addled as The Weeknd, but the lyrics read like a sweet note from a lover, maybe tucked into the bottom of a brown bag lunch. The only painkiller present on "sOak'20" would be oxytocin and maybe an analgesic over a fresh new heart tattoo on your bicep. Bryce Hase seems to be offering some hope for love, infatuation, commitment and red hot pleasure, all at the same time. Is this too much to hope for? Maybe society's turning away from hollow hookups and shallow superficiality over substance.

It's all well and good to dissect pop music, identifying themes and waxing sociological, but the content doesn't matter a lick without the sound. You'll never get the message if you can't stand the messenger. This is where "sOak'20" truly excels. Hase truly excels in alt r&b/post-dubstep production, bringing some of the freshest, most immediate sub-bass and beats We Are: The Guard have heard in a hot minute. It's such a good sign, as the genre's far from burned out. Here's to a new era of healthy, balanced, love and romance that's still hot AF.

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J. Simpson occupies the intersection between criticism, creativity, and academia. Based out of Portland, Or., he is the author of Forestpunk, an online journal/brand studying the traces of horror, supernatural, and the occult through music, fashion and culture. He plays in the dreamfolk band Meta-Pinnacle with his partner Lily H. Valentine, with whom he also co-founded Bitstar Productions, a visual arts collective focused on elevating Pop Culture to High Art.