Considering everything that's happening right now, Robbie Elias wasn't sure if it was the right time to release the music video for "Ghost of You."
"This is a difficult and chaotic time," the Miami singer-songwriter admits. "Should I release it during a pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests?"
Ultimately, Elias felt music's power to uplift was something the world could use right now, so he went ahead with the release.
"I realized as an artist it's important to put out positive things. With the messages I've received, I'm glad I did," Elias tells New Times.
In the Latin music industry, Elias stood out thanks to the '90's R&B and soul influences in his vocal delivery — the singer wears his love for Boyz II Men and Mariah Carey on his sleeves. "Ghost of You," which Elias wrote a year ago, was initially conceived as a somber piano track, but when producer Pen to Platinum suggested a more modern sound, Elias was happy to get out of his comfort zone.
"He was influenced by electronic hip-hop grooves. This was exactly where the song needed to go. It's so much more modern pop than anything I had done in the past," the artist says.
Elias says the lyrics were inspired by the repercussions of his ending an eight-year relationship. Elias says that when he wrote the song, he was at an exceptionally dark point in his life. Dealing with addiction and feelings of insecurity, Elias hoped to articulate the pain and growth in "Ghost of You."
"It was important for me to be transparent with my audience, especially with my LGBTQ audience."
Elias hasn't always been this vocal about being a member of the LGBTQ+ community. When he entered the music business at age 18, Elias received his first break as a songwriter for the Puerto Rican singer Chayanne on the song "El Hombre Que Fui," before moving on to sing backing vocals for Marc Anthony. Elias says that as a young gay man he was advised to stay in the closet unless he wanted his career to suffer as a consequence.
"At one point in my career, people told me not to be openly gay," he admits. "I haven't really ever talked about this, but in the Latin market, there's a male-driven songwriting circuit that is very difficult to break into as a gay man or as a woman. I don't think the prejudice is malicious, but I have been left out of songwriting meetings because they don't think I can connect."
But staying true to himself didn't hurt Elias' main gig as a backing singer. If the pandemic hadn't hit, he'd be touring Europe with Daddy Yankee as a backing vocalist. It's on those global tours that Elias has witnessed how far Latin music has come with non-Spanish-speaking audiences.
"We can be in Switzerland singing 'Despacito,' the biggest song in the world, and they're all singing along."
Still, this period of quarantine has allowed for other experiences. Last month, Elias was the first performer on South Florida Pride Collective's livestreaming extravaganza that presented a bill filled with local artists, drag performers, and experts on LGBTQ+ issues, all of whom assembled to raise money for COVID-19 relief.
"Pride events were canceled all over due to COVID. I'd been to Pride events before, and it's a real feeling of togetherness. To have it canceled was hard for a lot of people," says Elias. "So I went to my guitarist's house, went on Facebook Live, and we did a live acoustic performance."
That marked the first time Elias performed "Ghost of You" for the public. But the video, directed by John Thomas Bryson and John Diaz, is a different animal entirely. The slick four-minute clip was designed to brim with imagery, right down to the flowery production design.
"I wanted this video to be dark with symbolism," Elias says. "With the burning flowers, you're setting this living thing on fire like I did with my relationship. The butterflies on projection screens show my metamorphosis."