Blackbear’s ‘cybersex’ Suffers From a Scarcity of Substance

He might not yet be a household name, but blackbear’s knack for creating seriously infectious ear-worms makes him quite the hot commodity in today’s musical landscape. In 2012, the then 21-year-old co-wrote “Boyfriend,” a Justin Bieber joint that had even the most anti-mainstream hipster chanting “swag, swag” and pumping their fists in closeted delight. Now 27, blackbear can’t stop creating content, but now he’s making a name for himself. The singer and rapper has collaborated with everyone from G-Eazy to Rivers Cuomo, gracing other artists’ songs with his signature flow and flourish. He even found himself supporting Fall Out Boy on their fall tour.

2017 has been a year of constant content for blackbear, first dropping the self-titled full-length debut from Mansions, the duo he formed with frequent collaborator Mike Posner, followed by the acoustic “Salt” EP and the “Digital Druglord” album. Just in time for Cyber Monday and, more immediately, his 27th birthday, blackbear adds to 2017’s already staggering output with “cybersex,” a head-bobbing cavalcade of collaborations designed to show off the singer and producer’s melodic chops. Unfortunately, aside from a few notable exceptions, what “cybersex” boasts in melody it lacks in actual substance.

At first glance, it looks like the guest list for “cybersex” features more depth than its actual track list, with features from Rick Ross (“glo_up”), T-Pain (“down 4 u”), Paul Wall and Riff Raff (“candayapple”), and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 2 Chainz features on opening cut “gucci linen,” a straight shot of braggadocio designed to get the party started and listeners’ heads bobbing. It works, too, proving that unlike the linens he drapes over his bed, blackbear isn’t about to be slept on.

Clearly blackbear came of age listening to late 2000s hip-hop, and “cybersex” pays tribute, starting with a collaboration with Cam’ron on “bright pink Tims.” “If you rock Yeezy then we can’t be friends,” blackbear sings. “playboy shit,” like everything else on the album, makes ample use of intoxicating hooks, but not much else.

Thankfully, substantive tracks like the Machine Gun Kelly-studded “e.z.” cut through the fog, with both rappers taking a long look at the temptations of sex and partying and how hard it can be to let go despite knowing that’s the right move. “Want you to want me for more than vacations/and cars that go fast/mansions, mounds of cocaine,” blackbear croons, and it’s easy to feel his dissatisfaction. Sure, he might be the apple of every woman’s eye, but it’s not for the right reasons.

Two other standouts from “cybersex,” an album that mostly stays anchored to the standard radio-ready trap fare, feature more outside-the-box thinking. First, there’s “Anxiety,” a track so refreshing it’s hard to imagine it staying out of the spotlight for very long. It’s a top 40 homage to emo introspection, almost evoking memories of Panic! At the Disco’s “Death of a bachelor.” “santa monica & la brea” takes that same introspection and gives it an even more ethereal twist, ending the album on a hopeful note for the rapper’s next, hopefully more forward-thinking, project.

cybersex” is available Nov. 27 on Apple Music.