Pop music’s love affair with EDM is nearing an all-time high. The fling began nearly a decade ago, with The Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” and Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance”; hit its stride with smashes from European DJs turned global pop stars David Guetta (“Titanium”), Calvin Harris (“Feel So Close”), and Swedish House Mafia; and entered new territory in the last year, as the likes of Diplo and Skrillex made arguably more noise on the Top 40 than in the DJ booth.
The French producer DJ Snake has been one of the most pronounced leaders in EDM’s continued pop dominance. His frenetic 2014 hit “Turn Down for What,” featuring Lil Jon, replaced the standard euphoric drop with a wilder, more distorted crescendo reminiscent of trap music. The song was a huge success for the producer, who until then was best known for a coproduction credit on Lady Gaga’s 2011 album Born This Way. His next move was unexpected: DJ Snake switched up his style, scoring hits with a laid-back remix of AlunaGeorge’s “You Know You Like It” and last year’s blockbuster Major Lazer/MØ collaboration “Lean On” — both of which presaged pop’s 2016 shift away from overheated EDM drops toward cooler temperatures and soothing house rhythms.
DJ Snake’s debut album, Encore, highlights the degree to which today’s EDM and pop conventions draw on his blueprint. There are flashes of contemporary trap with “Oh Me Oh My” (featuring Migos and Travis Scott) and weekend-ready R&B with Jeremih collaboration “The Half.” But the majority of the album focuses on the slow-tempo pop-house songs that have become DJ Snake’s signature style in the last two years. These songs run parallel to the tropical-house flowering of albums like Justin Bieber’s Purpose and Fifth Harmony’s 7/27 — music that’s more about the gentle comedown than the ecstasy of the dance floor. In DJ Snake’s hands, it is a welcome reprieve from years of pop songs portraying the club as the alpha and omega of modern existence.
While the album finds moments of aggressive high energy (“Sahara,” “Ocho Cinco”), its defining sound and lyrical content are far more subdued. The Justin Bieber collaboration “Let Me Love You” continues the pop star’s recent streak of morose pop; another album highlight, “Sober,” follows the same downer mood, with the relatively unknown singer JRY singing: “Tell me once more / Who’s your love for? / You never call me when you’re sober.” The song — rife with lyrical clichés — still captures the best parts of DJ Snake’s 2016 work in the way its emotional hook attaches to production that allows for more inward reflection. If there’s any remaining hope for love across dance floors, festival fields, and stadium seats, then Encore is ready to answer the call.