Singer/Producer, Ben Schuller confronts how success can bring a false sense of invincibility in his new hit, “Cruising Altitude”. The official video begins normal enough; Ben puts his bag in the overhead compartment of his first-class flight and sits down to a glass of champagne. The mood is light as the other passengers sip their drinks and smoke cigars. There’s a feeling as if we’ve finally “made it,” but the quick cut to performance shots among plane wreckage make it clear this feeling won’t last for long. Ben delivers catchy pop melodies over feel good beats as we wonder when it will all come crashing down. Eventually we reach the climax, with Ben alone in the airplane as it rapidly descends to its inevitable end. But just before impact, the beat re-enters and the party is back on—a reminder of how easy it is to ignore our own self-destruction if it means returning to the comfortable mindset that nothing can go wrong.
The symbolism is strong; Ben uses first-class as a metaphor for telling ourselves that since we’ve made it to the top, we’re never coming down. The lyrics progressively poke holes in what seems to be the perfect picture. As people become more and more successful, it becomes easier and easier to gloss over real problems in order to maintain that feeling of success. Ben applies this to the turbulence that comes with trying to build a music career in today’s social media-obsessed world: “I thought all I needed to be happy was more clicks, more streams, more follows, etc. But when it all comes crashing down, it comes down hard.” The music industry is inherently unpredictable, even more so now that artists can blow up overnight based on one viral post. “The plane, and it’s crash later on, is meant to represent how fragile happiness can be if we build it on artificial things. But also to show how reckless I’ve been. Almost as if I’ve trained my mind to crave a lifestyle so much that I don’t even care if it’s wrecking me. I’ve just wanted to keep the party going.”
“Forget the writing on the wall, we were right before / The moment’s got me invincible, and I want some more, yeah I want some more”
Ben Schuller came up in the age of acoustic covers; while in school, he began building an online following for his simple piano/vocal reworkings of radio hits. Trading his small Michigan town for Nashville in 2014, he began to carve out his place as a pop-oriented electronic artist, mixing his festival-ready production with an emotive coffeeshop vocal style. As a solo artist and with his YouTube-based music group, NerdOut, Schuller’s blend of anthemic beats and bright melodies has been played over 500 million times across platforms and taken him to four continents. But with his current project, “New Roaring 20s,” he’s skipping the breakup songs and light-hearted pop tracks. The upcoming concept album takes a look at “the unique and often tragic social identity of our generation, while at the same time giving a deeply personal account of my own mental health struggles as an artist in the age of the Internet.” The record’s second single, “Cruising Altitude” is a prime example of his ability to blend complex subject matter with catchy beats and melodies that keep people coming back for more.
Watch “Cruising Altitude” on YouTube here.