Jon Batiste, feted as a recording artist, TV personality, pianist, bandleader and activist, has released the new single “I Need You.” It will feature on his upcoming Verve album We Are, to be released worldwide on March 19.
The track is accompanied by a video directed by Alan Ferguson, whose credits include Camilla Cabello and Jay-Z. It’s choreographed by Emmy-nominated Jemel McWillams (John Legend, Janelle Monáe). “I Need You” admirably showcases Batiste’s remarkable vocal range and musicianship, and was written and produced in collaboration with songwriter Autumn Rowe and producer Kizzo.
“This song is a vibe cleanse,” enthuses the frontman. “After 2020, this is like a warm hug. Let’s bring the vibes back!” The track follows the release last summer of the title song as the first preview of the new album.
Batiste stars in the video as both leading man and bandleader, with references to Little Richard, James Brown, and the dances of the 1920s, 30s and 40s, plus hints of New Wave film. McWilliams’ choreography embraces swing and Harlem’s own Lindy Hop dance. The clip was given its broadcast premiere today by MTV Live, BET Soul, and mtvU.
We Are, which was completed in the middle of the first wave of the pandemic, is described as a combination of “the consciousness of Marvin Gaye, the grounded optimism of Stevie Wonder, the iconoclasm of Thelonious Monk and the swagger of Mannie Fresh.”
Batiste wrote and planned much of the album in a period of roughly a week, from his dressing room at The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, where he serves as musical director and bandleader. We Are was recorded in New York, Los Angeles and in his native New Orleans, in between sessions for Disney/Pixar’s 2020 hit film Soul. Batiste’s music, and his hands, were incorporated into the animation about a teacher who dreams of being a jazz pianist.
Mavis, Quincy et al
There are guest appearances on the album by a remarkable cast including Mavis Staples, Quincy Jones, Zadie Smith, PJ Morton, Trombone Shorty, St Augustine Marching 100, Jon’s father Michael Batiste, his grandfather David Gauthier and many others. Collaborators include POMO (Anderson.Paak), Ricky Reed (Lizzo), and Jahaan Sweet (Drake, Eminem), and others.
“I’m publicly known for some things already,” says Batiste. “But there’s so much more to know about me. It’s always been there. Now is the time to show the world my full artistry.
“We Are is a message of love for humanity, of humble reverence for our past, and of a hopeful future, in which we are the ones who can save us. The art reveals its motive to you. You just have to wait for the Spirit to tell you what it wants.”
We Are is released on March 19. Pre-order it here.