Jon Batiste Talks Writing a Prime Day Anthem and the Tupac CD He Wants in His Collection
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Somewhere inside a dressing room, Jon Batiste is sitting at a piano. The Grammy- and Oscar-winning artist plays a familiar melody, but then he gets an alert on his phone: Prime Day is coming up next month.
Of course, this is all part of Batiste’s latest music video campaign for Amazon’s annual shopping event for scoring discounted gear, which runs from July 12 to 13 this year. If you haven’t seen it, get ready for one talking blender, a catchy twist on Billy Ocean’s “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car,” and, yes, even a saxophone-playing teakettle.
“I learned of that midway through the process, and it just made it all the more better,” admits Batiste over the phone, calling from New York City. “I love that kind of stuff.”
The video delivers pure Eighties music video nostalgia, complete with a fog-covered dance floor, neon lights, and a song that nearly came together faster than a Prime membership can deliver a package to your doorstep.
“The other wild thing about this process that I loved — I’m used to just from working in TV and working in film — but we put this together in less than a week,” Batiste says.
“It was really a quick turnaround,” Batiste continues. “The musicians, and the orchestra, we had a small chamber orchestra in the studio — it’s layered in there. We had a horns section, all types of incredible musicians coming in and out over the course of a day-and-a-half putting it together, so it was just an incredible music experience.”
Though Batiste worked with several musicians around New York City on the campaign’s cover track, he explains “the majority of it was recorded in Power Station, which is this incredible studio on 53rd Street in New York.”
In the music video’s intro, Batiste runs down his wishlist of items he’s considering buying this year, from socks to piano polish. But what he’s really searching for this year is something that didn’t make it in the final cut: CDs to add to his collection. “There’s something special about having liner notes,” Batiste says.
That includes collaborations between Hazel Scott and Billie Holiday, any “lost tapes” by Nai Palm of Haitus Kaiyote, and a CD that features the clean version of Tupac’s “I Ain’t Mad at Cha.” (“It has a live band and a strings section,” Batiste explains. “It’s amazing when you listen to the live version; it’s also the clean version, so they may have decided for the clean version they wanted to do a different arrangement.”)
Buy Jon Batiste, 'We Are' $22.49
Batiste’s latest project for Prime Day arrives a few months after he won five Grammys in April, including Album of the Year for his critically acclaimed studio release We Are. Though Batiste is working on new music, the release date for the album’s follow-up is still up in the air for now.
“I’m always working,” Batiste tells Rolling Stone. “Constantly creating. I don’t stop. The creative process is a way of life for me, and I’m always processing the world through my creativity, whether it be writing or painting or dancing. But definitely mostly through music-making. And albums are kind of these incredible timestamps of where I am, and where my processing of things has led me.
“So I’m at a point where I feel there’s a body of work that could come of that,” Batiste adds, “but I don’t really think about it like I need to put out an album but more this inevitable journey that leads to an album. And it feels like that’s coming soon, but I don’t want to say — I just kind of let the creative process lead me there.”
Later this fall, Batiste will play both the Pilgrimage Music and Culture Festival and Roots N Blues Festival, and he’ll also premiere his much-anticipated American Symphony at Carnegie Hall alongside orchestrator Matt Wong and many of the musicians Batiste worked with for the Prime Day anthem. “The symphony is going to be this incredible 40-minute long … four movements — all types of different musicians coming together from all walks of life, and just redefining the symphonic experience.”
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