|Album Review: Diplo and Skrillex – Jack Ü|
Skrillex and Diplo present Jack Ü
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New York City
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Prolific producers Diplo and Skrillex formed super DJ duo Jack Ü in 2013 and have been on a roll ever since with appearances at festivals like Burning Man and Coachella, the resurrection of Missy Elliott's flow on a "Take Ü There" remix and an announcement that they would be headlining this year's Mad Decent Boat Party. While they were at it, Skrillex and Diplo set out to perform a 24-hour live stream DJ set last Friday, Feb. 28. The set only lasted 18 hours due to police interference but luckily for us, the DJing was just a diversion for Jack Ü to pull a Yonce and surprise drop their album across all platforms.
So with high expectations (and the promise of the Kiesza-featured hit "Take Ü There"), two of the biggest names in electronic music released an LP together. Unfortunately, the result is not as strong as it should be. Sure, there are pure-genius, stand-out pop songs like the AlunaGeorge collaboration "To Ü" and the Justin Bieber-ed out "Where Are Ü Now", but overall the album feels like an unrealized stillborn, lacking consistency, flow and, at times, originality. (Plus the umlaut is starting to lose its novelty.) Very few of the LP's songs sound like geniune collaborations between Diplo and Skrillex while the rest read as Skrillex or Diplo tracks, but not quite mutual efforts.
The album kicks off with the uneventful, trippy, atmospheric introduction, "Don't Take Drugs Just Take Jack Ü", during which Diplo and Skrillex sound pretty stoned discussing music "going into your earholes."
Then the energy turns way up (probably a little too soon) reaching franticness on "Beats Knockin", a Skrillex-dominated wobble-fest with a dash of Diplo's trap touch. That formula repeats itself on "Febreze" featuring 2 Chainz swaggering as he raps, "Yeah, I'm the shit, I should have Febreze on me," over a thunderously aggressive beat.
"Holla Out" is similar too, but features more of Diplo's dancehall-centric electronics and reggae vocals usually reserved for his Major Lazer songs, which lead into Skrillex's heart-stopping beat choruses.
Meanwhile, "Mind" plays like a run-of-the-mill Diplo or Major Lazer tune. The song features vocals from Kai from Diplo's "Revolution" but takes a more trap-oriented approach than that song.
The album closes with "Where Are Ü Now", an electronic pop ballad featuring Justin Bieber. Bieber does a pretty good job at the helm, weighting the lyrics with melancholy heartbreak though the vocals could've worked with any number of other pop/R&B vocalists like Chris Brown, The Weeknd or Nick Jonas. After a slow build, the track takes off with a dancehall production that sounds eerily similar to that of Major Lazer's "All of You" featuring Ariana Grande.
The aforementioned songs are good–one or two might even be great–but they don't reach the Jack Ü project's full potential. That's where "Take Ü There" and "To Ü" come in. The former introduced the world to Jack Ü in a near-perfect pop song. Kiesza's sharp vocals pair splendidly with the track's hyped-up build. The comes the ground-shaking, impossible-to-resist drop before the song repeats itself, which no one minds because the song is so infectiously fun.
The album's AlunaGeorge collaboration "To Ü" is similarly alluring. Aluna Francis purrs about heartbreak's sorrow in her signature, soulful yet sexy tone. Traps build into a hip-hop-leaning Diplo beat at first, only to drive towards a wobbled-out, post-dubstep Skrillex beat after the next chorus.
Despite its shortfalls and inconsistencies, Skrillex and Diplo Present Jack Ü is a pretty solid electronic album. It hits all of the notes you would expect from this duo but regrettably does little else to impress. If anything shines through on the new LP it's that Diplo and Skrillex excel at making pop music. Hopefully they take that into account when they go into the studio next as Jack Ü.