For the past three or so years the progressive/electro Zedd (aka Anton Zaslavski) has seen his career take off on an unreal trajectory. Since 2009 when he first started producing dance music, the German native and classically trained musician has found himself touring with and winning remix contests for artists such as Lady Gaga, P Diddy,The Black Eyed Peas, Fatboy Slim and of course, Skrillex. With that said, Zedd and his music have always stood strong on their own two feet and his debut full length album Clarity clarifies that fact to the entire world.
Zedd’s decision to release a full, ten track long album of exclusively original songs is a bold one; a move often eschewed by even dance’s most esteemed (ahem, Swedish House Mafia, ahem). While the majority of electronic and dance music artists have historically released singles and one-off remixes, Zedd’s full-length album, Clarity, is another step in the progression of electronic music. Zedd’s talent in production shines of course but the real meat of Clarity is found in the numerous vocal collaborations. On one hand the vocal performances give the album a large dose of soul and will make it appeal to a wider range of people. On the other hand the vocals seem to take out the bite and high energy that we are used to hearing from Zedd’s earlier work. There is still energy present but it is a different kind of energy. Many people will love it and some will not. Love it or not, Clarity represents a transition in Zedd’s career from being a talented rising star to being a bonafide world renowned electronic music artist on the same tier as names like deadmau5 and Kaskade.
The first track on the album, “Hourglass”, begins with the gentle yet constant ticking of a clock; perhaps a poetic reminder of an era bygone, replaced by digital technology (traditional instruments to DAW anyone?). LIZ’s vocal performance complements the the track’s themes of longing and restlessness, and makes for a great opener.
Listen to “Hourglass”
As the opener finishes out, the melody for “Shave It Up” comes in and we’re treated to the sound that made us such big Zedd fans in the first place; a classic example of the high octane electro that Zedd has made his bread and butter. And again following that, we’re treated to the smash hit “Spectrum”.
Title track, “Clarity” is my personal favorite on the entire album. It has an incredibly catchy melody and goose bump inducing vocals from Foxes. “Clarity” is the kind of anthem, we should be hearing for months to come.
Listen to “Clarity”
From there the Zedd shows off his production talent in combining elements of complextro and techno with the tracks “Codec” and “Stache”. The lack of vocals on these tracks emphasizes Zedd’s production talent. In terms of overall emotional intensity, these two tracks provide healthy breather before we are treated to the much anticipated collaboration between Lucky Date, Zedd and Ellie Goulding entitled “Fall Into The Sky.” Certified electro banger is about the best I can do to describe it. It is with tracks like this, that English singer-songwriter Ellie Goulding will continue to establish herself as the go-to dance vocalist of choice.
Listen to “Codec”
Listen to “Fall Into The Sky”
[audio:http://files.electrojams.com/House/Zedd/Clarity/1-08%20Fall%20Into%20the%20Sky%20%28feat.%20Ellie%20Goulding%29.mp3|titles=Fall Into The Sky]
The album comes to a climatic closing with the tracks “Follow You Down” and “Epos”. “Follow You Down” is quite simply a big room progressive addiction waiting to happen featuring Bright Lights’ incredible vocal performance. Zedd brings the journey to a close with “Epos”, a track fusing progressive and electro. Ending with the same ticking clock as in the beginning, it is a satisfying end to an enjoyable journey.
Listen to “Epos”
I may be going out on limb here but I would not be at all surprised to see Zedd get called up to the podium at the Grammy’s next Febuary; exactly where his mentor Skrillex was just a year before him. While the accolades and praise that are beginning to flood in are well and truly deserved, I can only wonder what direction he will take his career after this.
Don’t get me wrong here. Clarity is without a doubt masterfully executed and definitely one of the strongest releases (if not the strongest) in all of dance music this year. However, it is overwhelmingly vocally driven to the point that I wonder whether or not Zedd may be looking to buy into the mainstream dance music market currently dominated by DJs such as David Guetta and Calvin Harris. His decision to sign with Interscope (a very popular mainstream label) and the open secret that he has been working with Lady Gaga indicate to me that that is the direction he would like to push his music. By doing that he will likely lose a good deal of fans but will be guaranteed to make up for that in new ones. Personally, I think that Zedd and his style of production would be a breath of fresh air for pop dance music, a realm that has become predictable and stagnant in the past year.
I’m Xavier (or just X for short). I’m 20 and currently a sophomore in college. I’m originally from Hawaii but I’m currently living in the amazing city of Atlanta. I am first and foremost a fan of music but I also love to DJ, write about music and share it with others.