With Stereotype, Karl Wolf lays the boots to the idea that a pop record is purely a party music delivery system for people living the nightlife 24/7. On this, his fifth full length record, the multi-talented recording artist breaks the mold with a tight set of observational, self aware pop songs characterized by a seamless blend of R&B, disco, funk, hip hop and urban soul that showcase his musical talents and personal growth in equal measure.
Stereotype relies heavily on old school, ‘learned-the-hard-way-in-the-woodshed’ musical chops and Wolf’s wealth of experience as not only a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, but as a successful mixer and producer in his own right. “I was a huge fan of Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Prince and Lionel Ritchie, and late seventies/early eighties R&B and funk was, and still is, some of my favourite music, but I go to the clubs, I see what’s happening with modern pop and hip hop, so it’s an amalgamation of all of that.”
Beautifully arranged and featuring impeccable performances by Wolf on bass, drums, keyboards and vocals, Stereotype represents a new direction for the Lebanese-born, Montreal-based recording artist, one inspired by “a meeting with musical royalty,” he says, a sit down with Quincy Jones, songwriter Sideah Garrett and will.i.am during Dubai Music Week in 2013. “That was amazing. Talking with them about music and life really had an impact on what I wanted to write. Ever since then my approach to music has completely changed.” Quincy Jones’ advice was simple, Wolf continues: “Take from the past, live in the present, but create what defines you now.” Wolf took the advice to heart and on Stereotype serves up his most personally revealing and organically crafted record to date, which, given the strength and scope of the singer/songwriter/producer’s previous work, says a great deal.
In 2001, two songs Wolf co-wrote for Gabrielle Destroiosmaisons hit #1 on the Francophone BDS charts and ultimately garnered Wolf a L’ADISQ Award for Best Mix and Sound of the Year. In 2002, he took over the role of lead singer for the Montreal-based pop band, Sky and contributed substantially to the band’s third record, Picture Perfect. Wolf also worked closely with Sky’s Antoine Sicotte on Quebec’s hugely successful Star Académie as well as the show’s 2003 multi-platinum selling compilation record. As a solo artist Wolf has had Top 5 records in Japan, Lebanon, Egypt, The Czech Republic and the UAE and established himself as a talented entrepreneur; a fact recognized by his addition to ArabianBusiness.com’s Power 100 in 2009.
To date Wolf has released four solo records; Face Behind the Face (2006), Bite the Bullet (2007), Nightlife (2009) and Finally Free (2012). His reimagining of Toto’s ‘Africa’ from Bite the Bullet became a truly international sensation; selling in excess of 700,000 copies, receiving over 10,000,000 hits on YouTube, reaching #1 on MuchMusic, Adult Contemporary Radio and iTunes influential Pop chart and garnering Wolf a 2008 MTV Europe Music Award. Additionally, he’s toured extensively with high profile artists such as Akon, Flo Rida and T-Pain and written with the likes of Snoop Dog, Taio Cruz and Jay Sean.
Although Stereotype’s lead single ‘Magic Hotel’ signifies a return Wolf’s R&B roots, it’s a song that depends just as heavily on cutting edge, urban elements, featuring a rap and production by Timbaland and a rap feature by BK Brasco. Wolf also handpicked other featured artists for Stereotype; Fatman Scoop for the rip up the dance floor anthem ‘Let’s Get Rowdy’ and fellow Canadian artist, Classified, for ‘Grown Man.’
While Wolf produced and mixed the bulk of Stereotype, inviting other songwriters – notably longtime collaborator Show Stevens – as well as musicians and producers to work with him (including David Neale, Jim Beanz, Wizz Dumb, guitarist Devrim Eldelekli and horn arranger Eduardo Sanchez) was essential to realizing his vision of creating a genuinely modern, yet extremely organic sounding record, he says. “It’s always good to work with people whose talent you respect. On your own sometimes you can get lost at sea creatively and having other people in the mix can help you find land.”
Stereotype covers a lot of ground musically and emotionally, from straight up party songs like ‘Let the Music Play All Night’ to jazz shaded love songs like ‘Dreams.’ But the record also features highly personal offerings like ‘Wasted’ and ‘Everything To Me’ – tracks that though based largely on Wolf’s own experiences, are so universal that anyone with a pulse will find their own lives reflected in them on the first listen.
For Wolf, Stereotype is all about progressing personally and musically and representing himself as truly as possible as an artist and an individual. “I wrote a lot of songs for this record and then narrowed the list down to the tracks I felt truly said, ‘This is who I really am.’” Nowhere is more evident than on album closer ‘You’ve Got Me’ – a track that expresses Wolf’s recognition of how lucky he is to be making music for a living and his devotion to his family, who he credits with providing him with the opportunity to do so.
Put bluntly, Stereotype is the rarest of pop records, an album that’s as honest and compelling lyrically as it is musically, and on which every song – from party anthems to personal offerings – packs an emotional punch few artists could deliver so effectively.
Check out Karl's latest release, WOW!
1. Toronto Love
2. Imma Be OK
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