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R&B Artist Paul Partohap Talks about New Album and Why Love Is “What Makes Us Grow”

R&B Artist Paul Partohap Talks about New Album and Why Love Is "What Makes Us Grow"
R&B Artist Paul Partohap Talks about New Album and Why Love Is "What Makes Us Grow"

The Indonesian singer’s new album, LOVERs ATLAS, emphasises the special joy that comes from an enduring love — and why we should be thankful for it.

There is a fascinating duality about Paul Partohap‘s new studio album, LOVERs ATLAS. On one hand, the 10-track record, which was digitally released on 10th January, remains firm within the traditional R&B soundscape which finds its origin in Western culture. On the other hand, Partohap’s expression of love as presented in the album was heavily influenced by the Asian culture — to be more precise, the Indonesian beliefs and values — in which he grew up. LOVERs ATLAS is earnestly joyful and endearingly wholesome, as it celebrates a love that stands the test of time. 

The 30-year-old singer-songwriter, in a conversation with Indonesia Expat on 17th January, remarked that “the Asian culture, I find, places a great focus on romantic endurance, loyalty and fidelity.” Does this sound overly conservative for some people? Perhaps. Having said that, there is a special kind of joy to experience once love endures and rises above countless storms.

The key word here, according to Partohap, is “thankfulness“.

“Once we get past the euphoria of love, we often forget how to be thankful for it. After all, love is what makes us grow,” Partohap remarked. “As a human being, I feel like I have grown more decent and mature after I experienced such love from my closest ones — not to mention, the abundance of love I receive from my other half. Those are the things that made me who I am today.”

Romancing the R&B

It is arguably difficult to imagine what the Indonesian R&B scene would have looked like today if it were not for Partohap.

In the early 2020s, during which the genre suffered from lack of popularity in his home country, Partohap’s swoony “P.S. I LOVE YOU” became an unexpected, crossover hit which, ultimately, led to becoming the first R&B track by an Indonesian artist that reached 100-million play on the worldwide digital streaming platform Spotify. The track also contributed to his credibility as an artist as it later nabbed him an Anugerah Musik Indonesia (AMI) Award nomination for best soul/R&B artist.

The year 2023, in particular, was a new career peak for Partohap. In June, he was invited, for the first time in his career, to perform at the iconic Jakarta International Java Jazz Festival. His extended play (EP), LOVERs PLAYBOOK helped grow a solid fanbase for Partohap in not just Indonesia, but also Southeast Asia. As a cherry on top, he later dropped a recycled version of “P.S. I LOVE YOU” — this time featuring Malaysian R&B superstar, Yuna.

Such feats might have given Partohap the affirmation he needed to keep going. Nonetheless, he decided to remain humbled and keep his head down.

“Do I feel like I have been so impactful that I re-introduced traditional R&B sound to the new generation? I think I’m not there yet,” Partohap said, chuckling, “There are still so many things for me to learn and explore. Would I say that I could be that example for Gen Z? Well, I think there are plenty of seasoned artists out there that are more qualified to fit the bill.”

Having said that, it is apparent that Partohap’s take on R&B had resonated far and wide. “P.S. I LOVE YOU”, a case in point, does not incorporate the modernistic sound in the vein of his edgier, American contemporaries such as SZA and The Weeknd. Presented as a straightforward expression of love for his wife, the R&B ballad is also an old-school one as the artist leans heavily on bareboned, guitar-led arrangement. 

R&B might have originated from the United States, but Partohap divulged that it was the artists of Asian descent that later became his major influences.

“I would say music by Jeremy Passion, Jeff Bernat and Gabe Bondoc — ultimately, there is something distinctively Asian with their songwriting and storytelling. The same applies to me,” Partohap continued. “Even though I live overseas and have often been exposed to Western music, my storytelling style remains pretty much Asian. You know, it’s how we view love, how we view relationships, how we deal with friendships, how we deal with breakups and heartbreaks, and how we move on.”

LOVERs ATLAS Album Artwork
LOVERs ATLAS Album Artwork
A Fascination for Love

In LOVERs ATLAS, Partohap wished to “level up” his songwriting skills and reflect not only his personal love stories but also the love stories he heard from the people he had encountered on his then-podcast, also named P.S. I LOVE YOU. The album’s second track, an R&B-gospel fusion “HOME IS WHO YOU ARE”, is another personal ode to his wife. However, the eighth track, “GOODLUCK”, was inspired by the story of someone else’s heartbreak.

“Songwriting-wise, I found it challenging to channel heartbreak in my brain because I’m such a happy-go-lucky kind of guy. It’s really hard to write sad stuff because I would always try to find joy in everything,” Partohap quipped. “That’s why, the way I see it, there is always a sense or an element of joy — even in sad songs I wrote such as ‘GOODLUCK’.”

Funny enough, apart from “GOODLUCK”, the majority of LOVERs ATLAS is, indeed, exuberant, joyful and unapologetically lovey-dovey. Another example is the upbeat “BESTFRiEND” in which he describes the love from his friends akin to “summer to my winter heart”. Meanwhile, in “I GOT MINE”, Partohap gushes about how his beloved is consistently his “rock” and his “strength“.

Out of all the songs in LOVERs ATLAS, Partohap picked the closing track, “MADE 4 U” as the one that most expresses a sense of gratitude for love. As he said before, when it comes to love, the keyword will always be “thankfulness”.

“I used to think that gratitude is a weakness,” he divulged. “But once I talked with my fellow songwriters, I realised that gratitude and thankfulness are the things that you must hold on to. It doesn’t matter if the song is about heartbreak and moving on. Being thankful reflects how you see life itself.”

As of now, Partohap frequently splits his time between Jakarta, Indonesia and Hamburg, Germany. The singer-songwriter, who attended medical school at the Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf, believed that he still had miles to go. Nonetheless, especially in the year 2024, he was thinking of tapping more into the international markets. Even though he did not reveal specific details of his upcoming plans, he teased that this year could be a pivotal one for his musical endeavours.

“Opening myself up to perform overseas is definitely my main focus this year. On top of that, I still feel like I need to further solidify my foundations in Indonesia,” Partohap asserted.

Regardless of how the year 2024 will turn up, the concept of love will always be a “fascinating” muse for Partohap. It is a tale (and theme) as old as time, but even when he finds himself happily in love, he is still in awe of its power.

“I mean, even two people who grew up with the same parents could end up viewing love differently! And it’s such a beautiful thing when we have for ourselves the other half whose perspectives towards life couldn’t be more contrasting, yet we end up becoming two pieces that can complement each other, strengthen each other and round off each other. Love is so fascinating for me, personally, and there is so much to it to be examined and observed. It reinforced what I wish to talk about as an artist. What is love?” Partohap summed up.

Paul Partohap’s new album LOVERs ATLAS is available to stream.

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