Kanye West’s “Yeezus”

It’s been more than a week since hip hop icon Kanye West released his sixth studio album, Yeezus. Around the same time, Kanye’s daughter, aptly named “North” West, was born. Though the coincidence of his album release and his newborn’s birth have nothing to do with one another, there is some strange significance. West recorded his new album, Yeezus, sporadically between last summer and over a mere 15-day period in Paris this year, which indicates that West might’ve had some apprehension making music while caring for girlfriend Kim Kardashian. In addition, Yeezus was neither promoted commercially nor did it advertise a lead single, much like electronic duo Daft Punk for their recently acclaimed comeback record Random Access Memories. Interestingly, Daft Punk also became some of the many unconventional producers and guests on Yeezus, which included Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, Chief Keef, Kid Cudi, TNGHT, Travis $cott, Frank Ocean, King L, and music mogul Rick Rubin. Although some rumored musicians, such as Skrillex and Odd Future, didn’t appear on Yeezus, the aforementioned guests and producers still make up an extraordinary group of experienced virtuosos, some of whom have worked with West in the past, particularly on 2010’s universally lauded My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. On Yeezus, West delves deeper into the musical darkness and lyrical genius that Twisted Fantasy brought forth in 2010. Early reports suggested that Yeezus would be his “darkest disc yet.” Fans were most likely worried about the troubling news of a Kanye West album much different from his other LPs, despite West’s widespread recognition, media gravitation, and mesmerizing artistic integrity. However, because Kanye is also a mastermind at making music and a persevering collaborator, Yeezus has trascended expectations as another great Kanye West record and one of this year’s best hip hop albums.

Moody, abrasive, and unrelentingly provocative, Yeezus is not only Kanye West’s best work to date, but also a haunting, modern example of racism, materialism, sexuality, pop culture, and the perils of fame. Musically, Yeezus incorporates a much more raw sound, using acid house synthesizers, industrial music, Jamaican dancehall, and experimental post-punk. Artistically, Kanye applied a much more minimal approach to create Yeezus, its album cover being a regular CD packaging with bright red tape on the exterior. Though it was a surprise to many, the cover represents Kanye’s raw emotion, which he successfully displays throughout the album’s 40-minute length. Lyrically, West comes off angrier, more explicit, and much more sexually perverse than before. On “New Slaves,” the first unofficial single off of Yeezus, West extrapolates racial tension and misogyny in both a vivid and controversial way. Yeezus’ lyrics and music became even more startling when West performed both “New Slaves” and “Black Skinhead” on the Saturday Night Live season finale. As Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter described when working on the album, Kanye was “rapping – even screaming primally,” especially on “Black Skinhead.” Fortunately, “Black Skinhead” is a powerful and breathtaking foot stomper,  encompassing tribal drums and those raw, primal screams Bangalter described.

The rest of Yeezus is equally as edgy and unlike anything Kanye has made before. Take the album’s third track, “I Am a God,” which, frankly, speaks for itself. It may be the most controversially titled Kanye song, but in a way, it’s a bit amusing, considering that Kanye has perhaps the biggest ego in the hip hop industry. It’s already enough that the rapper named his own album Yeezus,” comparing himself to the Biblical figure (a la John Lennon), and that the only official guest on the track listing is God. But what most mistake as shock value and blasphemy is actually Kanye’s own self-deprecation of being a celebrity, somebody who is bigger and better in modern day society, but is self-obsessed and dangerous. He even boasts his braggadocio on the classic line, “Hurry up with my damn crossants!” However, twice on the song we hear those primal screams again from “Black Skinhead,” only louder and scarier. These booming shrieks evoke Kanye’s illustration of a supreme celebrity, like himself, descending into madness. Maybe that explains his apprehension over the birth of his daughter, but it seems too odd to call it a “mid-life crisis” just yet because Kanye’s energy never wavers, both live and on Yeezus.

Throughout the album, he continues to push his vanity and musical influences over the edge. Some examples include the funky, acid house thrill ride opener “On Sight,” and the bleak, ambient “Hold My Liquor,” which features Atlanta rapper Chief Keef and Justin Vernon. The Bon Iver vocalist also stars on the overtly sexual track, “I’m in It,” alongside Jamaican musician Assassin. While both of their lyrics are incomprehensible, Kanye’s verses are wry and witty, but occasionally go into contentious territory especially on lines like “eatin’ Asian p***y, all I need was sweet and sour sauce.” Several female fans and non-Kanye West fans have described “I’m In It” as misogynistic and emotionally traumatizing. But really, misogyny is just the bizarre art of being a hip hop artist. The only difference with West is that you can’t take something like “I’m In It” too seriously.

The second half of Yeezus continues to stock up on complex lyrics, ingenious production, and a sound reminiscent of his previous albums. Kanye’s Auto-Tuned vocals on the 6-minute centerpiece “Blood on the Leaves” recall the Auto-Tuned songs and dark themes from his fourth record 808s and Heartbreak. The song also features unusually paired yet exemplary samples from R&B singer Nina Simone’s soulful “Strange Fruit” and trap duo TNGHT’s ardent “R U Ready.” “Guilt Trip” is another similar 808s track, comprising of video game synthesizers, Auto-Tune, and morose vocals from rapper Kid Cudi. “Send It Up” is another noisy, sexually graphic song that features raps from King L. Yeezus closer, “Bound 2,” sounds much like the Southern hip hop from his first three records, The College Dropout, Late Registration, and Graduation, respectively. In addition to the sound, Kanye’s themes of family and unrequited love appear on “Bound 2,” as well as a repetitive Jackson 5-sounding sample and R&B singer Charlie Wilson’s exquisite vocals. It might not be a great outlier on Yeezus, but it reminds us of Kanye’s softer side and nostalgia.

Yeezus is definitely nothing anyone has listened to before, speaking on behalf of critics and Kanye’s fans. It extends the boundaries of hip hop and rap and carefully integrates various music genres, thanks to its exemplary collaborations. Despite the album’s meager amount of material (only 10 tracks), there’s a lot leftover, according to producer Rick Rubin. This could mean that nobody is really ready for what Kanye will unleash. All we know is that the new father will always keep us on our toes and that he keeps the virtue of unpredictability intact.

Grade: A
Recommended: Yes
Top Tracks: “On Sight,” “Black Skinhead,” “I Am A God,” “New Slaves”

                       

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Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories”

Once again, Daft Punk reminds us that there is still magic within music. Ever since their small beginnings in the early 90s, the French electronic duo has demonstrated music’s allure in ways that have made them one of the most prominent groups in music today. They’ve created arresting visuals for their elaborate live performances, donned stylish robot costumes, collaborated with a few of the industry’s best musicians, and made some of the the most influential music in modern times. The integration of French house music and synth-pop developed Daft Punk’s first record, 1997’s Homework. From then on, they’ve transitioned into disco and electronic on their colorful follow-up, 2001’s Discovery, which was both commercially successful and produced some of the most memorable songs of the past two decades (“One More Time,” “Digital Love,” “Harder Better Faster Stronger”). Despite the huge setbacks of 2005’s lifeless Human After All, their surreal film debut Electroma, and their vapid contribution to the Tron: Legacy soundtrack, Daft Punk obtained a popular crowd of fans after releasing their dazzling, Grammy-winning live album Alive 2007. However, the two-man group remained reserved from the spotlight and weren’t heard from for a while.

The shape-shifting maestros behind the robot helmets, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, have always kept their idea of what music should sound like by incorporating distinct influences from diverse artists and making it their own. With the booming of technology in their earlier years, Daft Punk have mostly recorded and sampled with computers. However, with technology’s prominence in the music industry nowadays, it makes the whole idea of making real music seem obsolete, for Bangalter and Homem-Christo. That’s why the inseparable duo have accentuated the old-fashioned feel of music from the 1970s and 1980s into their highly anticipated new record Random Access Memories.

Most Daft Punk fans would expect the band to return to their EDM roots, but Random Access Memories is a slight departure from their club-friendly sound. Instead, RAM is a multi-dimensional record that revitalizes generations of jazz, funk, rock n’ roll, pop, electronic, and disco. Though this will most likely come as a surprise and as confusion from devoted fans, Daft Punk’s top-notch craft is nevertheless commendable. This time around, the two Frenchmen have recruited several unconventional collaborators for RAM (as shown on the Collaborators web series): Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers, singer/producer Pharrell Williams, Animal Collective’s Panda Bear, The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas, actor/musician Paul Williams, vocalist/DJ Todd Edwards, Italian record producer Giorgio Moroder, pianist Chilly Gonzales, and old friend DJ Falcon. With this variety of artists, Random Access Memories contains an electrifying and visceral sound. But despite all its praiseworthy production, it might just be Random Access Memories’ heavy marketing, glossy look, and promising songs that are getting everyone pumped for the new album.

Though the conception of RAM started in 2008, the announcement of a new Daft Punk album was kept quiet, until collaborator Nile Rodgers revealed last year that one would be coming soon. Eventually, in the beginning of this year, Daft Punk left their label EMI Records for Columbia and promoted a mysterious image of what would eventually become RAM‘s album cover. Soon after, snippets of their instantly catchy lead single “Get Lucky” played in commercials during Saturday Night Live and, eventually, the announcement of the album’s title and an iTunes pre-order. Though Daft Punk are known for their obscurity, the heavy promotion for RAM sustained throughout March and April, appearing on billboards, television ads, and the aforementioned web series. Because the hype kept increasing, it seems as though this was a strategy for Daft Punk to intrigue fans, even though it could either hold them on or leave them hanging.

Personally, I think Random Access Memories is a huge step-up from its predecessors and worth listening to. However, some of the album’s elements might disappoint fans. To give an example, the first half of the idiosyncratic record is a bit underwhelming: Opener “Give Life Back to Music” builds up with Air-esque guitar riffs, but ultimately turns into a monotonous melody; “The Game of Love” and “Within” are morose, downtempo love ballads that have moments of keen emotionality but mostly do nothing with the rest; “Lose Yourself to Dance” has the potential to be memorable, especially with Pharrell William’s captivating falsetto, but drags on way too soon. However, two of RAM‘s standout tracks, “Giorgio by Moroder” and “Instant Crush,” save the first half from becoming tedious. The 9-minute “Giorgio by Moroder” is an epic, stellar clash of funky synthesizers that zoom in and out throughout until it ends with a rock-induced jam. In addition, the beginning contains a 2-minute commentary of the Italian producer, who references some of the album’s central themes of combining random-access memory technology and the human experience. “Instant Crush” features a mellow, vocoded Julian Casablancas and some guitar riffs and drum machines that reverberate a similar sound to Casablancas’ band The Strokes.

“Touch,” the Paul Williams-featured, psychedelic centerpiece to Random Access Memories, might the craziest, strangest, and most fascinating song in Daft Punk’s career, but its unusual sound is a bit risky. After the haunting vocals in the beginning, Paul Williams’ soft tenor makes it impossible to stop listening. However, “Touch” might catch off you guard, as it flickers with disco-influenced guitar wobbles, trumpets, vintage vocoders, and a children’s choir. But for some reason, its bewitching “Day in the Life” quality could make “Touch” an understated favorite off the album. RAM‘s second half is much steadier, smoother, and more lively than the rest of Random Access Memories: The star single “Get Lucky” features a timeless guitar-driven melody produced by Nile Rodgers and remarkable vocals from Pharrell Williams; The enthralling distorted guitars of “Fragments of Time” is almost like a sequel to Discovery‘s “Digital Love;” guest Panda Bear’s pitch-perfect vocals make “Doin It Right” an exceptional track; and the cinematic, 2001: A Space Odyssey vibe on album closer “Contact” ends Random Access Memories with an enlightening effect.

Daft Punk have been on a long journey with music with their many transformations. Their influential music and visual aesthetics have captivated audiences across the world, but Daft Punk have preserved the different sounds and rhythms of genre-bending music as well. Though the hype of Random Access Memories might’ve stunted people’s prediction of the album, the album demonstrates the fascinating notion that music has magic to it, a concept that has again reinforces Daft Punk one of the most influential groups in music history.

Grade: B+
Recommended: Yes
Suggested Tracks: “Giorgio by Moroder,” “Instant Crush,” “Get Lucky,” “Doin’ It Right”

Charli XCX’s “True Romance”

Throughout the last few years, European electro-pop music has sustained mainly because of the growth of young female singers, producers, and chart-hitters. These vibrant electro-pop performers, which include Swedish singer Robyn, Welsh singer-songwriter Marina + The Diamonds, and Norwegian DJ Annie, have obtained praise from critics and huge cult followings from both foreign and American pop fans. But in more recent events, another bright, young musician has also become part of the Euro-pop females: 20-year-old Charlotte Aitchison, known professionally as Charli XCX. Although she debuted unofficially in 2008 without much recognition, she eventually trascended her obscurity with her renowned synth-pop single “Nuclear Seasons” in 2011. Though the critical success of “Nuclear Seasons” skyrocketed in the indie music scene, as well as her feature on pop duo Icona Pop’s summer smash, “I Love It,” the release of her anticipated debut seemed ambiguous and unlikely. Fortunately, it wasn’t until this year, and one mixtape later, that her much-delayed, first major-label record, True Romance, debuted. Despite its original release date of April 2012 and its lengthy recording process (since 2010), True Romance is worth the wait; XCX’s debut is a passionate, powerful, and uplifting album, filled with catchy bubblegum-pop and R&B funk.

Unlike the discordance and disparity of Charli’s continuity, True Romance is refined and tweaked to the point of utmost perfection. At times, True Romance feels a bit lost and out of touch from reality, but XCX’s crystalizing vocals, explicit lyrics, and infectious beats steer clear from becoming too convoluted. Instead, they blend effortlessly and thoroughly into a colorful, mind-melting fantasy. Other than the instantly catchy opener “Nuclear Seasons,” True Romance is also filled with a palette of easily memorable tunes, such as the Gold Panda-sampled “You (Ha Ha Ha),” the blippy, electronic toe-tapper “Take My Hand,” and the seductive and soulful “Set Me Free (Feel My Pain).” In addition, True Romance can also be very sophisticated in sound and in lyrics, resulting in either a gratifying (“Stay Away,” “Grins,”) or a fairly disappointing outcome (“So Far Away,” “How Can I,” “Cloud Aura”). In some cases, certain songs are just plain and simple British electronic club-pop, such as the heavy synth jam “What I Like,” the buzzy “Black Roses,” or the breathy album closer “Lock You Up.”

From an artistic viewpoint, True Romance reverberates the moodiness of 1970s art pop with an early 90s feel. This amalgamation of periods in music also creates a slight nod towards XCX’s prominent line in Icona Pop’s “I Love It”: “You’re from the 70s/but I’m a 90s bitch.” Though True Romance evokes musical influences from the 70s, it mirrors more of a 90s pop album, hence the album’s thematic and euphonic juxtaposition between the past, the present, and the future. This type of retro vibe can be heard especially on one of True Romance‘s standout tracks, “You’re The One,” an oozy ballad, reminiscent of Whitney Houston and Christina Aguilera, both of whom are from the 70s and 90s, respectively. Other times, however, Charli XCX easily manipulates synth-pop by mixing hip hop and a universally panned feature from Brooke Candy in the album’s weakest track, “Cloud Aura.” Although “Cloud Aura” derives from XCX’s disjointed 2012 mixtape Super Ultra, its place in True Romance shows that the album isn’t perfect, but that its best songs make up for its flaws.   

Maybe it’s just awkward timing or her naiveté, but Charli XCX demonstrates the complex True Romance with grace and passionate ethos. Like the Quentin Tarantino movie it was inspired by, True Romance is a savvy spectacle of Euro-pop music and a great start for the young Charli XCX.   

Grade: B+
Recommended: Yes
Suggested Tracks: “Nuclear Seasons,” “You (Ha Ha Ha),” “Take My Hand,” “Set Me Free (Feel My Pain),” “You’re The One”

Phoenix’s “Bankrupt!”

Being one of the most popular bands in music currently must be a daunting experience. Especially if one of those bands were to win the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album, produce two #1 smash hits, venture on four world tours, and recently headline the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. In this case, that band would be French-based quartet Phoenix. Since their inception as a band, Phoenix has released five albums, including this year’s Bankrupt!. However, much like other famous indie-rock groups, they began with almost zero recognition. Their 2000 retro-funk debut United and 2004’s nonchalant follow-up Alphabetical played small parts in defining the early age of indie rock music, though it had little effect on the American radio charts. Luckily, two years later, the release of their indie breakout It’s Never Been Like That intrigued music listeners and critics alike. Even though Phoenix had somewhat found a place in the music industry, their obscurity hindered them from becoming the alt-rock, synth-pop outfit they are known as today. Fortunately, they got the huge breakthrough they deserved in 2009 with the release of their brilliant fourth record Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. Combining the elements of alternative lo-fi and electro-rock, Wolfgang was not only an unexpected commercial and critical success, but a Grammy-winning musical masterpiece. Their two awesome mega-hits, “Lisztomania” and “1901,” became the paradigms of Phoenix’s defining attributes as a rock band, which led them to perform both tunes on Saturday Night Live, as well as in commercials and many other venues. Four years later, the Versailles outfit releases Bankrupt!, another exceptional record but far different from its predecessor.

On Wolfgang, Phoenix sounds relaxed, fluid, and incredibly catchy. On Bankrupt!, Phoenix sounds much more ecstatic, but equally discordant and strained. It’s as though they are aware of their success and popularity, which, in this case, can be overwhelming, thus resulting in a tense and anxious (albeit appealing) record. Bankrupt! is heavy on synths and hooks and light on lyrics and introspection, which says something about Phoenix’s central focus on the album’s sound. Although Phoenix incorporates a diverse set of K-pop fusion, acoustic guitar riffs, and ethereal synthesizers, the result is slightly unsettling and manic, unlike Wolfgang‘s calm and composed rhythms.

Bankrupt! begins with the epic, heavily promoted crowd-pleaser “Entertainment,” which is one of Phoenix’s most mainstream songs to date. Despite “Entertainment”‘s lively Japanese-infused production, memorable resonance, and diverse remixes from Dinosaur Jr., Blood Orange, and Dirty Projectors, it contradicts itself with the self-conscious lyricism: The uplifting chorus builds up with grandeur, but ends with lead singer Thomas Mars’ confusing proclamation, “I’d rather be alone.” The fact that “Entertainment” sounds like a riveting live performance rebutes Mars’ solidarity, making the song an arguably adequate Bankrupt! tune, in terms of both lyrics and sound. Despite this semi-setback, the rest of Bankrupt!‘s first half encompasses the album’s best tracks — “The Real Thing,” “SOS In Bel Air,” “Trying to Be Cool” — and an overall enjoyable tone. “The Real Thing” and “SOS In Bel Air” share a simliar uptempo cadence, but each track contains some of Phoenix’s finest moments as musicians. “Trying to Be Cool” opens with a gentle guitar riff, followed by handclaps, electronic twirls, and mid-90s art pop. The themes of Bankrupt! — loneliness, anxiety, glamour, materialism, fashion, romanticism, and the cult of celebrity — are seen within these three standout tracks, as well in some of the second half of Bankrupt!.

Right smack in the middle of Phoenix’s fifth record is the 7-minute title track, which marks the endpoint of Bankrupt!‘s steady pacing. The title track, similar in length and ambition to Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix‘s vivacious “Love Like a Sunset,” and It’s Never Been Like That‘s “North,” bears the most diverse moments in Phoenix’s career, as well as their most unnerving. Beginning with a quiet, double-speed guitar riff and ambient electro noises, the title track stops short of 2 minutes with an echoing piano, followed by what seems like an undeclared “bass drop” and a cacophony of harpsichords, twinkly keyboard harmonies, and stuttering, strobe-light synthesizers. This moment in Bankrupt! isn’t their worst, but perhaps their most confusing, considering that Phoenix deviates from using heavy electronic in the majority of their songs. However, the chaotic beat stops suddenly again and fortunately turns into an enchanting, acoustic-filled dreamscape of elation, accompanied with Mars’ dreamy voice.

However, like the exclamation point in the album’s title, Bankrupt!‘s second half tends to overemphasize the utilization of synth-pop. But, it nevertheless maintains Phoenix’s sincerity and authenticity as a close-knit rock group. Following the title track is the sleazy sonic jive “Drakkar Noir,” which transitions gradually into the washed out, slow jam “Chloroform.” Both songs signify Phoenix’s French influence with a mix of seductiveness and electro lo-fi. Ostensibly, “Chloroform” sounds a little like a slowed-down version of “1901,” which makes sense, since both songs were paired together during Phoenix’s Coachella performance with R. Kelly’s famous hits “Ignition” and “I’m a Flirt.” “Don’t” is another exceptional Bankrupt! tune, but the tedious chorus makes the song seem a lot longer than it already sounds. Phoenix successfully attempts to use 60s-influenced rock and “sha-la-la-las” with late 80s-influenced shoegaze on the dazzling “Bourgeois.” Bankrupt! closer “Oblique City” is unfortunately the album’s weakest track. Unlike most of Phoenix’s epic album closers, such as Wolfgang’s spill-chilling “Armistice,” “Oblique City” deceptively reverberates recycled Phoenix material into a mediocre conclusion.

Though Bankrupt! may not be as stellar as Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, it still proves that Phoenix can make great sound and audiences dance at live performances. Phoenix’s outstanding members, which include the aforementioned Mars, bassist Deck d’Arcy, keyboardist Laurent Brancowitz, and guitarist Christian Mazzalai, are more determined than ever with Bankrupt!, though their ambition might have gotten caught up with the distress and apprehension over their recent success. In some cases, that kind of superstardom usually gets deep into the head of the band and ultimately steers them into the wrong direction. With Phoenix, superstardom has neither steered them into the wrong nor the right direction, but into a place of excited and anxious contemplation.

Grade: B+
Recommended: Yes
Suggested Tracks: “Entertainment,” “The Real Thing,” “SOS in Bel Air,” “Trying to Be Cool”

Major Lazer’s “Free the Universe”

Like fellow producer Flying Lotus, Los Angeles-based DJ Diplo has developed two split music identities. As a solo producer, he is known for his acclaimed collaborative album with Brit-Indian rapper M.I.A. and as the mastermind behind Usher’s oozy hit “Climax.” As the co-producer behind the side project Major Lazer, he and former partner Switch have obtained much more unique and diverse music stylings, which helped create their jubilant 2009 debut Guns Don’t Kill People…Lazers Do. Major Lazer’s sound incorporates Diplo’s repertoire of electronic house music with Jamaican dancehall and roots-reggage. Now a popular recording artist, Diplo has gained recognition from both his solo career and with Major Lazer. However, since his separation with Switch, Diplo has enlisted producers Jillionaire and Walshy Fire to co-produce Major Lazer songs and live performances. This year, the release of Major Lazer’s follow-up, Free The Universe, was highly anticipated, but incredibly delayed, which is unfortunate since it shows the discordance and disorganization of the electronic now-trio. What was essential for Free the Universe was not just the anticipation, but for it to be worthwhile.

Every song off of Free the Universe has at least more than three featured guests. They range from cohesive reggage artists and electro hip-hop singer Santigold to eye-rolling rappers and musicians, such as Bruno Mars, Tyga, and Ezra Koneig of Vampire Weekend. Though collaboration never hurt anyone, Major Lazer’s Free the Universe looks more desperate than promising to fill each song with diverse albeit random artists. Another disappointment is that there aren’t any real standout tracks, unlike the radio friendly “Pon De Floor,” the chaotic Spaghetti Western-themed “Hold the Line,” and the club friendly jam “Keep It Goin’ Louder” from Guns Don’t Kill People. The closest thing that comes to a standout track on Free the Universe is “Get Free,” a passionate, calypso-styled tune with a likable beat and Amber Coffman’s shrieking and bellowing vocals. It’s probably one of the only most “listenable” songs off of Free the Universe, considering that other tracks are predominantly underwhelming, such as the obnoxious “Bubble Butt,” the equally unpleasant “Jet Blue Jet,” and the mediocre “Reach for the Stars.” Another track with indifferent qualities is the Flux Pavilion collab “Jah No Partial,” which precariously blends heavy bass and dubstep with reggage and electro house to a mixed result.

The songs that come closest to the “standout track,” “Get Free,” are satisfactory but aren’t Guns Don’t Kill People material: The funky, Santigold-featured opener “You’re No Good,” has the potential to be as bewitching its Guns Don’t Kill People counterpart “Hold the Line,” but is missing the compelling musical and lyrical aspect; “Sweat,” Free the Universe‘s grooviest track, consists of funky key chinks, echoes of incomprehensible reggage singers, and a rapidly changing rhythm; and “Watch Out for This” is incredibly catchy, but again feeling like it’s missing the spark and silliness that made hits like “Pon De Floor.”

It’s hard to imagine the dismay Major Lazer fans must have felt, including me, when purchasing Free the Universe only to wish they had just listened to it on Spotify. Despite Major Lazer’s underwhelming second record, their recent ecstatic performance at Coachella might still bring hope for music listeners. But otherwise, Diplo has a lot of work to do before Major Lazer crashes and burns, leaving him wishing he hadn’t parted with Switch.

Grade: C
Recommended: No
Suggested Tracks: “You’re No Good,” “Get Free,” “Watch Out for This,” “Sweat”