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Photo courtesy of NMG

Mario Announces First Album in Almost 10 Years, Talks New Music and the State of R&B [INTERVIEW]

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.

Mario returns with "Drowning," the first single off his forthcoming album, Dancing Shadows.

Grammy Award-nominated, platinum recording artist Mario just released "Drowning," the latest single and visual off his long-awaited fifth studio album, Dancing Shadows.

It's an album he notes as his most powerful, passionate, and personal offering to date," Mario told Okayplayer in a recent interview"I called it 'Dancing Shadows' because I'm illuminating parts of myself that I never have before."

Though he presents himself under a new, more personal lens with this release, "Drowning" feels like a sonic testament to what the singer-songwriter is known for: his signature sound— the recognizable falsetto and smooth vocals that defined the voice behind hits “Let Me Love You” and “Just a Friend”— the voice behind an era of R&B.

Now, Mario has returned with the same formula that spawned his past success— making timeless music that tells his story while safeguarding the elements of the ever-changing genre.

Having released his last full-length project, D.N.A in 2009, Mario reflected on the nearly decade-long period between that album and the unveiling of his new content. "It doesn't feel like [10 years]," he said. "I've recorded so much music in between, but this project, I would say, is kind of like the coagulation of my thoughts and emotions." 

When speaking on his musical influences, Mario mentioned his interest in pulling from the blueprints of staple soul, and R&B artists, but also rock, and pop stars.

"I've always loved all types of music," he said. "I'm a huge fan of Freddie Mercury, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Boys II Men, Joe," he said. "You'll hear all of these influences on the album."

READ: PJ Morton Talks Authenticity, Appropriation, and Finding the Soul In Everything

The landscape of R&B has changed within the last 15 years, but Mario doesn't deem the shift as wholly positive or negative.

"I feel like R&B's in a space where it's being rediscovered," he said. "A lot of artists are coming out now and expressing R&B in a way that's more connected to the culture. It's not just about love, it's about what's going on in the world. And my album reflects that same approach."

He continued, "Certainly, the bar has definitely lowered, as far as not just the voice itself, but as far as the music production, as far as the content. I think as a whole, the landscape of R&B has changed. I want to be one of the artists to help it come back to culturally relevant music where it's not just about love... I talk about growing up in Baltimore. That's something that's been very instrumental in my growth, I talk about having a good time and how we need to turn our darkness into light. I have music that I feel like will live the test of time because the music is relevant to everyday human experience."

Emerging on the scene in 2002, Mario's career came to form at a pivotal time. It was the start of the new millennium,  right before the advent of social media and during the shift of R&B sounds.

"I call it the Digital Crusade," he laughed. "When I first came out, going to shows was the thing. Fans coming to see you live was all there was— or seeing you in the streets or at interviews or radio stations. But now you can go on social media... I definitely think it's a beautiful time for culture, music, and creativity— for us to influence the creative landscape from our own interpersonal perspectives."

But throughout all the changing tides of his genre and industry, what Mario affirms is his faith in his craft declaring, "I've always thought I made timeless music."

Watch Mario's new video, "Drowning" below and look out for the release of Mario's upcoming album, Dancing Shadows in the fall: