This collection of songs are serviceable tracks that would fit well on any EDM-lovers playlist, but it lacks a certain something: experimentation.
There’s no denying that EDM, or Electronic Dance Music, has stormed the music industry and given artists of several different genres a reason to sell records again. From the artists that go out of their way to sing EDM (Britney Spears, Rihanna) to the artists that jump on EDM tracks to widen their audience (Kelly Rowland, Chris Brown) EDM has become an extremely accessible cash cow that many artists and producers are quick to milk, as it were. However, with any genre of music, there will always be three main categories: Those that dominate commercially, those that disappoint commercially and those that do neither. Enter Steve Aoki. The producer may have flown under the radar for a while, but he has worked with a lot of people with commercial exposure (Iggy Azalea, Kid Ink, Linkin Park, Diplo). This being his second album, it almost feels like he’s trying to create a quasi-concept album about the future in order to distance himself from the fodder. There’s no denying that most of these songs are beautifully serviceable and could make a dent on the charts, if given the chance. But that is all they are: perfectly serviceable songs with no distinguishing factors.
For some of the songs on this album, they work better than others simply because of the production. Take for example the title track. The distorted and pitched vocals do not make for the most appeasing listen, but they blend well with the synths and pulsating beat. “Rage the Night Away”, which features Waka Flocka Flame probably has the best breakdown I’ve heard in years. The lyrics are rather redundant (see: drinking, sex) but Steve doesn’t rest on his laurels. He manages to build a song that feels structured, yet free. With a stomping bass, warped synths, and a catchy chorus, it’s the best of the bunch. The Justin Timberlake-sounding backing vocals are a little distracting, but in a good way.
As for the rest of the album, it just either ends up being a hit or miss, depending on whether the feature feels at ease or not. For starters, the worst song on the album easily goes to “Back to Earth”. Fall out Boy sound out of their depth. Rather than create something original, the song ends up passing as a poor remix of a Fall out Boy classic. Patrick Stump just strains his vocals for the entire song, which only proves his inability to blend with the song rather than stick out like a sore thumb. Will.I.Am does a slightly better job vocally on “Born to Get Wild”, but it feels like something I’ve heard from his last album. If there is one thing Steve has to do when expanding his choice of collaborations, it’s expanding the production styles. It would have been a lot more interesting to hear MGK on “Free the Madness” had Aoki experimented with Trap or even House music. Instead, we’re served a soundtrack to a video game.
All is not lost, though. “Delirious (Boneless)” is probably the most catchy song you’ll ever hear from Steve Aoki. Kid Ink feels at home and brings enough personality so as to hold his own against Steve’s production. The song itself is rather rote, but it bumps pretty nicely. “Afroki” features some great vocals from Bonnie Mckee and Afrojack doesn’t disappoint in what feels like an organic collaboration, rather than album filler. Steve almost ditches the EDM for a second in the opening thirty seconds of “Get Me Outta Here”, his beautiful collaboration with Flux Pavilion, with a drum kit sample. The reason it works is simply because it diversifies in terms of production. Dubstep breaks, violins, and subtle vocals break the robotic flow of the album and adds some well needed variation to the album.
Overall, though, there is no denying that Steve Aoki is content with just doing EDM. There isn’t anything wrong with that, and I’m pretty sure Steve will go on to sell very well. If not, it won’t be a crime, but it doesn’t that Steve isn’t talented. He just needs to do something different. His contemporaries, such as David Guetta, Calvin Harris and Avicii, have realised that. When Steve does, he may just be unstoppable. Right now, though, he’s just a force to realise. Not necessarily to be reckoned with.