Written by Mark Dawson—
Raphael presents a unique sound all his own in “Superstar”, the first single from his upcoming album, “The Dark of My Mind”.
Produced by Barb Morrison, best known for her work with Blondie and Rufus Wainwright, “Superstar” is a song Raphael wrote that combines clever lyrics and a unique flow of spoken-word rap with a hypnotizing electro pop and reggae groove. It tells the story of high school sweethearts. One leaves and becomes famous while the other stays home. When the superstar returns, everyone in town wants a piece of him while the one left behind simply wants the heart of his lover back. He wonders if the old flame remembers him and the love they once shared.
“While most of my tracks on ‘The Dark of My Mind’ live in deep, dark waters, ‘Superstar’ treads closer to shore,” explains Raphael. “It is playful, sexy, a little sad and yeah, a bit naughty.” Along with the single, Raphael is unleashing a party themed music video he shot in Miami with emerging young director Elia Athans.
“We all have superstars in our lives,” continues the out singer from his Manhattan apartment. “Guys or girls we idolize like they’re celebrities. They might be completely normal to everyone else but to you, they’re as appealing as any star on a magazine cover. You are their biggest fan.
“What makes a guy a superstar to me is a beautiful heart,” he says, before adding, with a laugh, “It wouldn’t hurt if he also has brown eyes.”
In his music, Raphael aims to bring back the love. According to the young singer, most songs today emphasize independence and an “I’m too cool” attitude towards romance. He misses the desperation and vulnerability in songs from the past where vocalists unapologetically gushed over someone and nothing else mattered.
“The Dark of My Mind” is a journey through modern love set to sexy, moody trip-hop and electro-pop sounds that are at times ethereal and dreamy and at other times flow over the listener with a wave of sexual urgency and romantic longing. “It’s about those things that you tuck in the back of your head and you don’t necessarily want to talk about or want people to see,“ explains Raphael.
The album’s title is taken from a lyric in ““Your Hair”, a song featured on the album. Other notable tracks on ‘The Dark of My Mind’ include “Boys Are Trouble” (a cautionary tale on the dangers of getting lost in sex and love) and “So Quiet”, where Raphael allows his vulnerable side to show. “We’ve all been in that space where we really like somebody and freeze when we find ourselves face-to-face with them.”
Raphael was born in New York and raised in Miami Beach, where he listened to ‘90s pop, Miami hip-hop, and Max Martin. “I love rap and there are certainly influences of it in my music.”
He describes his style of songwriting as a stream of consciousness. He writes when inspiration hits and the lyrics usually flow out all at once. He views his songs as a representation of himself as a person and artist.
It is why he doesn’t shy from using male pronouns in love songs. “I am grateful to have really supportive friends and family who have always encouraged me to be myself. I realize some are less fortunate which is why I hope my music offers them a space where they feel perfectly normal.”
Still, the album isn’t defined by Raphael’s sexuality. His goal isn’t to make statements with his music.
As depicted in the “Superstar” video, Raphael simply aims to show a world where gays mix with straights and it is no big deal.
“I get pretty specific in ‘Superstar’, describing everything that drives me crazy about the guy I’m after and how in the end, I realize the sexy stuff doesn’t matter because if I can’t have his heart, I have nothing. The song reveals a lot about me and how I approach relationships.”
“And it’s only the beginning of all the many layers I peel away at in “The Dark of The Mind.”
“Superstar” will be available on iTunes this month. Raphael’s debut album, “The Dark of The Mind”, releases in 2016. For more information, visit www.officialraphael.com.