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Daya Makes A Savvy Bid For EDM Stardom

The pop star carves out her own path for success on ‘Sit Still, Look Pretty’

This has been a good year for EDM’s pop fortunes. The late 2000s saw the genre’s first big push into the mainstream, courtesy of David Guetta, Flo Rida, and The Black Eyed Peas, with a second class in the early 2010s led by the likes of Calvin Harris and Zedd. That tide eventually began to ebb, as previously successful acts struggled to follow up their initial success, and some, like Swedish House Mafia, chose to recede from the spotlight altogether. But this year, a slower, more house-influenced variation on the style found a home on the charts, with DJ Snake and The Chainsmokers becoming major stars and reestablishing EDM’s Top 40 dominance. Not to be left out of the fun, Daya, an 18-year-old Pittsburgh-born singer, takes her shot at a starring role in the new EDM pop boom with her debut, Sit Still, Look Pretty.

Daya first saw success last year with her enjoyable but forgettable single “Hide Away” — this was no “All About That Bass” or “The Way.” Not long after that initial hit, she caught the attention of The Chainsmokers, who collaborated with her on this summer’s Top 10 smash “Don’t Let Me Down.” The soft, club-ready synthpop song proved to be a turning point for The Chainsmokers’s career evolution, and provided an advantageous launching pad for the young singer’s career. This month, “Don’t Let Me Down” finally began slipping down the charts after many weeks of inescapable radio play. The next move belongs to Daya.

Still not yet signed to a major label, she’s made a shrewd debut with Sit Still, Look Pretty. The album’s 14 tracks revolve solely around boys — a rotating cast of teenage blockheads to fuel Daya’s many kiss-off anthems. Without Disney Channel affiliation or an awkwardly young social media following, Daya can sing a word like “shit” without any PR consequences. That helps make the album’s singular lyrical focus feel charming rather than cloying. These songs don’t center on school life, rebelling against parents, or even platonic friendship; the album exists sans any other marker of teenage life. It’s an unusual but effective tactic.

The musical side of the album counterbalances that lyrical narrowness with sonic breadth. The album’s first half is essentially post–Yours Truly Ariana Grande; these songs feel slightly nostalgic, but they lack the instrumental cues to give the music proper context. But where Grande had songwriting credits from Babyface and even grabbed The Dap-Kings for a track at one point, Daya seems fine sticking with decent pop facsimiles. In the album’s second half, though, she seems to realize that her best future lies in EDM. “Words” is Major Lazer lite for those that thought “Lean On” was too thrilling, and “Got the Feeling” forms its own bizarrely chill, trop-house vibe. The album’s second half proves Daya’s collaboration with The Chainsmokers wasn’t a fluke and suggests a career worth following. Sit Still, Look Pretty wisely plants few stakes in the ground as Daya gets ready to ride the bigger waves of EDM.