It’s been five years since Diplo and co. last released a full-length album, the brash and pop-centric Peace is the Mission. Since then, pop has become infatuated with the reggaeton and dancehall styles the group frequently dabble in. With Bad Bunny, J Balvin and Rosalía signalling a new wave of exciting Latinx acts, a new Major Lazer record theoretically arrives at the perfect time.
What the group have missed is that those acts are thriving because of their idiosyncrasies, not the trend surrounding them. Diplo was that shot of weirdness a decade ago. That weirdness was the reason acts like MIA and Beyoncé were using his production. Now, with all the production muscle the industry can offer, and a feature-heavy cast of eccentric voices from dancehall, reggae, pop and Afrobeats, Major Lazer have released a weirdly bland and faceless record.
There are bright moments, specifically on the J Balvin vehicle ‘Que Calor’, which is a slightly dumb dembow banger that revels in its own garishness. Dominican rapper El Alfa brings a speedy, charismatic verse that complement Balvin’s laid-back delivery.
It sounds nothing like the tired ballads ‘Trigger’ with Khalid, or ‘Hell and High Water’ with Alessia Cara, which tries to double the chart appeal with a post-chorus drop that hits with all the power and vague exoticness of a dusty vuvuzela.
Meanwhile, ‘Oh My Gawd’ is a pretty catchy butt song with Nicki Minaj and K4mo, but not hooky enough to still be relevant when clubs eventually open. The sequencing is very odd. Just a couple of minutes after listening to K4mo sing “I’ve never seen a bottom like this”, you’ve got Marcus Mumford crooning in your ear. His track ‘Lay Your Head on Me’ is an awkward country/EDM hybrid that plays to those who made Avicii’s ‘Wake Me Up’ their identity for a bit. That’s followed up by a Skip Marley track that’s clearly trying to get FIFA playlisting.
In the end, Music is the Weapon feels less like a celebration of global pop music and more a collection of focus group results. For a project that can make EDM so colourful and eccentric, it’s a disappointment.
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