XO’s Black Atlass Keeps Alternative R&B Alive Amongst Canadians With “Dream Awake”

Emerson Marshall
3 min readApr 21, 2020

Montreal R&B singer Black Atlass has released his second album since signing to The Weeknd’s record label XO.

Black Atlass, signed to XO Records.

The year is 2013. High-schooler Alex Fleming releases his first single “Paris”, unaware of the effect it would have on his future as a musician. The song had grabbed the attention of luxury retailers Louis Vuitton and Saint Laurent, which had requested they use the song in their brands’ campaigns. Five years after this, he writes “Sacrifices” with fellow Canadian R&B artist Jessie Reyez for the Fifty Shades Freed movie, propelling his career even further. He signs to XO records in the same year, continuing to work his way up the ladder of the Canadian music industry.

The year is now 2020. Atlass releases his second album Dream Awake, proving that Canadians have mastered the art of Alternative R&B.

Cover art for Black Atlass’ s 2020 album “Dream Awake”, courtesy of XO Records.

Much like his label mates over at XO Records (The Weeknd, Nav, Belly, 88Glam), Atlass is something of an enigma when it comes to his art. Only having produced two albums in his musical career of seven years, he remains mysterious and elusive. This is something that I’ve always found prominent in the Canadian R&B music scene. With that being said, leaving so much space between projects can leave an artists’ fans anticipating their next release. The expectations of their next piece of work becomes higher as a result. If it doesn’t meet certain standards, disappointment could follow. This is something I wasn’t able to find with Atlass’s Dream Awake.

Much like his project Pain & Pleasure, this album is built like a movie. He gives us “Never Enough” to start with — a slow and underwhelming ballad to gear the fans up for the remainder of the album. Black Atlass is very good at structuring his albums to give off a cinematic feel. Almost every song has a climax to it, followed by a section where he allows his soothing and angelic voice to carry you over to the next song. This technique isn’t done too much to the point where it’s redundant, but tasteful. It’s quite clear that transitioning between high intensity ballads and romantic yet groovy soul tunes are his strong suit.

Correlation is not a “be-all-end-all” factor for me when it comes an album. Yet, when it’s used I become more invested. Atlass did that for me with his only vocal collaboration halfway through the project on “By My Side” featuring SONIA.

French fashion model and singer SONIA (born Sonia Ben Ammar)

It’s suitable that the only artist to have been featured on the Montreal-born savanté’s album would have collaborated with Atlass’s mentor Abel Tesfaye, who we all know as The Weeknd — and that artist is SONIA. Having a modelling background in the past, SONIA started her singing career with her single “Joyride” with the help of not one, but two Canadian R&B artists The Weeknd and Massari. You can listen to her debut album SONIA with the link below.

The stand outs for me on Dream Awake would have to be “Drip”, “Never Enough”, “Do For Love” and “Lie To Me’’. If you’re a fan of the musical stylings of artists such as The Weeknd, The 1975 and Sam Smith, I would highly suggest you give this album a listen.

Atlass is scheduled to go on tour with The Weeknd for the European leg of his After Hours tour, starting with London on the 11th of October. Dates may be subject to change due to CO-VID 19.

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