With Younger Skin, Manuel primarily focused on sharing his personal story and introducing his authentic self to a wider audience. However, Blue represents a shift in focus towards refining the production and establishing a unique sonic direction within the R&B genre.
Johnny Manuel expresses his pride in the growth he has experienced throughout the creation of Blue. He believes it’s just the beginning of his musical journey, marking a significant step forward in his career.
Blue commences with the track “Call It Off,” in which Manuel reflects on a deteriorating relationship. Despite the clear signs of trouble, a part of him is reluctant to let go. In the Laprete-produced song, he sings, “A part of me knows I’m better by myself / I wanna run but there’s nobody else who knows me this well / Though it’s like you use it all to break me down and give me hell.“
The EP also features tracks like “End of the Night” and “Molotov,” both of which offer irresistible grooves that are sure to set bodies swaying to the melodic production. “Molotov” serves as an ode to new beginnings, with Manuel singing in an airy falsetto, “High in the fire / Burn till I forget my mistakes.”
The closing track, “What Am I,” stands out with its piano-laden ballad style. Produced by T. Priestly, Manuel delves into self-reflection during a period of isolation, particularly after the end of a relationship. In this stirring ballad, he sings, “When you were my nights / You taught me how to love my feelings / So scared to love myself.”
Manuel describes the inspiration behind “What Am I” and the process of shaping his music as ever-evolving. He hadn’t yet discovered the precise sound he was looking for in his first solo ballad until T. Priestly captured it. The haunting piano-led minimalism with an edge allowed him to sing from a raw and vulnerable place.
An official video accompanies “What Am I,” which Manuel believes perfectly conveys the song’s emotional depth. The video explores the question of whether not having someone changes one’s sense of self. Manuel is alone in a space, investigating his ability to love himself wholly and independently of anyone else.
Blue serves as the follow-up to Manuel’s debut EP, Younger Skin, which featured tracks like “Out of Time.” The project was a means for Manuel to confront his past and the hold it still had on him. It facilitated a healing process necessary to move forward in his music career, emotionally rectifying the disservice done to him by individuals he trusted and looked up to in the industry.
Johnny Manuel was previously known as Lil’ Johnny and was signed to Warner Bros. Records as a teen. In 2001, he gained recognition for his appearance on The Brothers soundtrack with the song “Wheel of Fortune,” produced by Jazz Nixon.