Icon for Hire is an independent band out of Decatur, Illinois that began their music career in 2007. Although there have been member changes throughout the years, Icon for Hire is now a two person show with singer Ariel Bloomer and singer/guitarist (and husband) Shawn Jump who originally started the group.
Some former members are Joshua Davis (bass guitar 2007-2009) and Adam Kronshagen (drums 2007-2016). With their latest album being released just days ago, I thought it a good time to review them. I have attended a few of their concerts, photographed their shows and loved their music. I was an instant fan.
Ariel (pronounced R-E-L) was born in Lund, Sweden. Besides singing with Icon for Hire, she has a YouTube channel. She is germaphobic, which makes touring hard for her, but her fans are more important to her than her discomfort. She also wrote a book in 2018 titled Turn Your Pain into Art.
Shawn not only plays the guitar but produces the band’s tracks; he loves to play with sound mixing and electronic instruments. Ariel and Shawn both love their fans and enjoy being around them.
Ariel’s love of music was born out of deep admiration for her older sister who sang and listened to a lot of rock and pop music while they grew up. She wanted to be just like her. Ariel aspired to be a rock singer while her sister went in another career direction.
In time, Ariel had the vision for a rock band and at 18 founded what became the group Icon For Hire. They played their first show six months after they came together. Because of how serious they were about their passion, they were sure they would make a career out of music.
The band started out locally with their first show having over 200 people in attendance. Most were friends and family, but they all purchased a ticket and the band soon realized that ticket sales mean a great deal in the music industry. They were headlining even as a young band and signed to a label after only being together two years. The social network of the time was Myspace and offered a lot of options for musicians so the band utilized this platform. This is where someone heard them and passed them on to a record label.
Their sound is a blend of rock, pop, and hip-hop. Because they have a message to their songs, they are sometimes categorized as a Christian band but are not confined to that genre. Just because a song has a sense of purpose, and that purpose is for good, doesn’t make it a Christian song.
Ariel and Shawn want all people to hear their music and their message is for all humankind.
Icon for Hire started touring and opening for some well-known bands around 2010. Soon, they were headlining and touring on their own, including in Europe, and realized that their live shows and social media were the biggest way to get new fans. From the start of their career, they showed a great deal of respect for their fans and appreciated the loyalty given to them. Ariel and Shawn know that without satisfying your fans with great music and songs they would be nowhere.
They enjoy doing meet and greets after the show is over to find out what their fans like or dislike about their music. The duo is very humble and don’t understand why they are so popular. They are very comfortable with the fan base they have and don’t have the hunger for more fame. They just let is come naturally.
Their albums include Scripted (2011), Icon for Hire (2013), You Can’t Kill Us (2016), Still Can’t Kill Us Acoustic (2018), and Amorphous (2021). The album You Can’t Kill Us (2016) was generously funded through a Kickstarter campaign where fans raised $127,200. To show just how faithful and committed their fans are their latest album Amorphous was also funded by a Kickstarter campaign with 3,214 backers pledging $263,082 to help bring this project to life.
Their new 14 track Amorphous album premiered on February 19, 2021, and is full of great music and passionate lyrics. The tunes are a combination of hip-hop meets electronica. While the only members of Icon for Hire are Ariel and Shawn, they are able to come up with a wonderful mix of voice and music with something for everyone. The album starts off with a prelude to my favorite song of the album, “Brittle,” which feels a lot like their earlier albums. The passion and intensity of Ariel’s vocals and lyrics are emphasized with the background music causing the song to really hit.
Next is “Curse or Cure,” one of the singles they released to promote the album. It’s about second-guessing yourself and the world second-guessing you. They did an amazing job depicting that lyrically as Ariel didn’t try to answer it for you but just help show you aren’t alone in those struggles of self-doubt. “Enemies” was an unexpected treat for me. The ‘spooky vibe’ fits with the rest of the songs as sometimes it is best to keep your enemies close. In this case, her enemies were more mental than physical and focuses on coming to terms with your mental illness and accepting it instead of trying to repress it.
The next song is where the Rock and Roll Thug comes out of Ariel. “Panic Attacks” is a very hip-hop central track where she goes off with each verse, mixed with the chorus feeling like something you would listen to try calming down during a panic attack. I think she was trying to make a song in the style of someone actually having a panic attack, even feeling apologetic at the end. It really shows how in tune Ariel is with her emotions.
Their messages are about self-love, mental health, the disenfranchised misfits, and freaks of the world in their song “Seeds”. While I wasn’t initially a big fan of this track, ironically it grew me.
Ariel’s “Background Sad” is more pop than anything as it has some sweet gentle moments where you learn what is in her heart, but is also about her coming to terms with what she is feeling and wondering if she’s always going to be this way.
“Last One Standing” is the song that made me hyped for this album. It is about overcoming the things that are trying to bring you down and standing tall after it, which is also emphasized in “Waste My Hate,” where Ariel seems more confident in her next battle. This song reminds me of the song “Nerves” off their self-titled album.
It is followed by “Sticks & Stones” where it feels like after everything that has been thrown at her, she is not letting it affect her anymore and using all of her struggled to build her throne. This song is probably my least favorite of the album; although it fits the narrative, the chorus really kills it for me. She is looking back at all her battles now that the dust is settled and being proud of how far she has come.
The closing song “Only A Story” is a piano ballad with a powerful vocal performance. The title of this song is fitting and brings the whole album full circle. From her being “Brittle” in the first song, to what has been affecting her, wondering if this is all that there is, to overcoming it and shining on, this is a song about what people will remember when she is gone.
Icon for Hire fans have come to expect great lyrics and messages from them and they will not be disappointed with this album. It truly feels like a new start for them.