"Free The Universe" works because of who is behind it. Diplo. To understand Diplo, and this album, you must first read this quote he gave at the recent IMS Engage Conference:
“I don’t have reservations about working with any artists,” Diplo told the room. “I don’t like my fans to control how my music sounds. I feel people are scared to put out a record unless it’s tried and tested. Critics are our biggest fear. I don’t really care anymore; I just do what I do. I never aimed to be a pop producer.”
This album covers the full spectrum of Major Lazer's ideals. Hard-hitting, up-lifting, party-starting festival anthems mixed with the right amount of Jamaican dance hall swag, like the track "Sweat". In contrast to "Sweat" is the soft spoken reggae track, "Jessica", which features the lead singer of Vampire Weekend and is a tribute THE Jessica Alba. Both feature well respected and established musicians in their own right, Laidback Luke in the former and Ezra Koenig in the latter. To provide a bit of clarity on the review, since Onlythebeat.com is a dance music website, I will be discussing selected tracks that I feel fit our mantra and that have not been previously released.
Diplo, read Major Lazer, just wants to make music. The best music he can possibly make. He knows based off past successes that he has the talent and the ear to make tracks that people will enjoy. They just might not know it yet. The breakdown of genres that occurs at live shows and on singles these days forces producers to be one step ahead of what was popular yesterday. This album seems like the 2013 score sheet to what Major Lazer represents at the moment.
One of the driving forces behind "Free The Universe" seems to be the desire to stay true to the Jamaican roots and influences that makes Major Lazer a world wide phenomenon. While all the more catering to Diplo's notorious party antics and skill at producing massive party tracks featuring some of the biggest names in mainstream music . See the "Bubble Butt" preview below.
The song "Jet Blue Jet" is a Major Lazer - Captain Certified - Flag Waver - Bounce Enducer - Beat Builder - Hand Raiser and all out general jam. It sets the tone. You know that Free the Universe is going to be a ride and the ship is about to blast off.
"Keep Cool" is an intense ride through either a drug addiction or a pretty awful relationship about to spiral out of control. The voice of Wynter Gordon over the drumline drums is hauntingly piercing. Everything that is positive is counteracted with something negative, lyrically. Hearing Shaggy again was a trip, I would like to see some more collaboration between him and Major Lazer.
There are also songs that are just fun. After seeing them in Seattle, I can give a first hand account of how much fun these songs truly are. "Mashup the Dance", is one of those tracks. The snare never stops, it sets the pace of the simple song. What a NOS burst is to street racing, "Mashup the Dance" is the NOS burst to Free the Universe. It is the song that when played at a show that reminds you what you are doing; you are at a party and it is about to erupt in chaos.
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The album comes to an end with two remixes of one the bigger tracks by Major Lazer, "Jah No Partial". The first one is done by Heros x Villans and the trap sound is fully laid down like they are hunting for a tiger. The snares, high-hats, and new drums are thrown over the lyrics in a way that alter the song enough to know it's a remix but not enough to drastically change the overall fell
The second remix is done by Skream, it is much more of a dubby version that the original. The only component of the original is the lyrics which are layered over new crunchy basslines that bounce back and forth between dubstep and reggae. The drops for the chorus literally made me say "Whoa" because it had so much force and surprise. The sounds push and pull you along with it, almost like you are trapped in a sea of people.
Overall, I give it a solid A-. There were a few tracks that made me wonder why they were there and some that just didn't appease my ears the way I was hoping they would. I am glad I didn't like everything. That means that someone out there is going to be inverted with me and like the tracks that I didn't, which makes me happy. Cheers to Diplo and all the Major Lazer crew. And if you buy it on iTunes you get a sweet digital booklet with lots of cool pictures.
Buy it here: smarturl.it/MLFreeTheUniverse