by Ryan Croone II
Entering into a new world is to be reborn, become brand new, fresh. One can be content in their own world, unwilling to take on new experiences, while others enter new atmospheres effortlessly.
Music has the ability to assist you on your healing voyage, and South End singer-songwriter Unapologetically Jason’s new album To New Worlds does just that. It was like landing on a planet that I’d never encountered, yet it still seemed so familiar. It felt almost oxymoronic.
As I get older, I’m starting to realize that even though situations vary, they still tend to have commonalities, and Unapologetically Jason’s debut project, To New Worlds, is definitely something you’re gonna relate to if you’ve ever had to let something, or someone, go.
I was honored to have the opportunity to listen to this project early on and to sit and talk to Jason about his process, inspiration, and some of the challenges it took to build this formidable album.
I’m naturally skeptical about breakup music, so when I first listened to the album — which follows the arc of a heartbreak — it took me a minute to adjust to its uniqueness. But by the time I got to the interlude, “v. anywhere near you,” I was tuned in.
One of my favorite parts of experiencing this album are the brief interludes, actual voice memos (numbered with Roman numerals on the song list) that Jason recorded on his cellphone while his relationship was falling apart. Choosing to intersperse these raw interludes throughout the project was a subtle and complementary addition which helps steer the listener through his personal, and painful, journey.
“So everything that happens, all of the content that was created, besides the musical interludes, were all organic. It was just the process of the entire experience. So having those interludes was me walking to a park … TT minor right on Union … I would just sit and start recording myself talk.”
Jason adds that this approach was in contrast to the intentionality of the rest of the album.
“Now when it comes to putting it into an album, everything that you hear in terms of the flow of the album, in terms of the progression of the album, of course that is strategic. [The voice memos] are literally placed in certain places because you want to tell the full story. … And I was like, ‘Wait, there was more that I was doing in this process than just making music, right? So let’s include these little tidbits.’”
The result of adding these voice memos from when Jason’s relationship was falling apart brings an unusual sense of immediacy to the album, which is reliving, mourning, and trying to figure out the meaning of a relationship that is now over.
And all of this to the background of a variety of sound and rhythm. Having produced the majority of the tracks while also playing various instruments (notably guitar on “If You Leave” and “Awake”), Jason is able to maintain the authenticity of the sound he wants. In a lot of music I hear these days, there’s hella auto-tune and pitch correction, and while it gives them a sort of industry-like sound, that same type of vibe gets bland. While listening to songs on To New Worlds, like “I Couldn’t Sleep” or “Lighthouse Down,” I was able to hear imperfections in pitch, and yet, it was the antithesis of bland. Like his name, Unapologetically Jason was OK with getting his music to a place where it healed him, could potentially heal others, and that’s it.
Local producer and promoter Jordan Rodol produced “Dreams” and teamed up with Jason on “The Void.” These tracks are the emotional rock bottom of the album, and in a sense, its climax. Rich in atmosphere, these tracks haunt the listener before “Awake” seems to reground the experience. “Lighthouse Down,” the album’s most polished track, alludes to new life without a way back, and the concept album ends with the words “your serenity.” By that point, it’s unclear if Jason is speaking of his ex-lover, of himself, or of his listeners. And that is as it should be.
“The breakup is the room with all the different little things that I’m doing in my life. I might be focusing on the music, or I might be focusing on talking to a homie. … All these little different things that all go together …”
At first, I wasn’t completely sure what Jason meant by the “room,” but listening to the album, I slowly began to draw my own conclusions. Sometimes when people go through trauma, it seems they try to hide it in the closet and cover it up. I can honestly say I’m guilty of coping like that. In To New Worlds, Jason put the hurt on his shoulders, and instead of letting it weigh him down, he learned how to function within it. The room where the memories were stored was the same place where he went to convert them into this intriguing project. This concept album is about Jason healing and growing. It’s hyper-personal, and yet, somehow applies to the rest of us.
As I sat back with my guy Ari and we listened to and analyzed the tunes, we both realized neither of us could tell who the antagonist of the story was, or even who broke up with who. We both were swayed by our assumption that she broke up with him and that was the catalyst for him creating the album. However, as we let the album play again, it began to dawn on us it wasn’t quite like your good ol’ fashioned “she took my heart and stepped on it” type of R&B projects. It was way more applicable.
Once I realized that, the energy of the entire project literally started making me compare the songs to feelings I was having personally — not necessarily ones of having to let go of a girl that I love, but more so feelings of having to let go of certain things and situations that are better off left at a distance from my life. I had to catch myself, because I get so mixed up in the idea that in situations that require people to separate, it has to be someone’s fault. Listening to To New Worlds brought to my attention that sometimes it’s no one’s fault at all; it’s just that time for change. This revelation is a credit to how Jason steers clear of specifics and allows his listeners into the “room” where he heals himself with art.
You can listen to Unapologetically Jason’s “To New Worlds” here.
Editors’ Note: A previous version of this article had a photo incorrectly attributed to “Luka Asatiani.” This article was updated to correctly attribute the photo to “Kateryna Koltunova.”
Ryan Croone II is a young painter, singer, rapper, poet, and visionary from South King County. A graduate of Rainier Beach High School, he is an active community organizer on a mission to positively innovate within the area where he grew up. Ryan knows that even though the South End has taken a beating, there’s still hope.
📸 Featured Image: South End singer, songwriter, and producer Unapologetically Jason released his debut album “To New Worlds” last year. (Photo: Luka Asatiani)
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