Diplo’s collaborative music project Major Lazer released its second album this year to critical acclaim. Like many of Diplo’s previous Major Lazer releases, ‘Free The Universe’ is more of a compilation effort featuring artists of different genres (especially reggae). Diplo’s well-known for adapting genres to match his EDM style but it comes off more effortlessly than before on ‘Universe’. First single “Get Free” with Dirty Projectors’ Amber Coffman was widely successful mainly for its footage starring the DJ in various parts of Jamaica. The mix of culture in both the song itself and the video has become one of Diplo’s best signatures.
On the collaborations side, there’s vocalists like Wynter Gordon and Ms. Dynamite and then there’s rappers like Shaggy and Elephant Man. The odd pairings (see Santigold, Vybz Kartel, and HAIM’s “You’re No Good”) gives the album great direction throughout because it places them outside of their normal genre comfort zones. The amount of innovation on ‘Universe’ is also evident on the rock-infused “Jessica” featuring Vampire Weekend lead Ezra Koenig. The arrangement on “Jessica” continues the culture thread while staying contemporary, fitting right in with their latest album ‘Modern Vampires Of The City’.
To date, ‘Free The Universe’ has spawned eight singles catered to various markets. The album’s third single “Watch Out For This (Bumaye)” became an international dance hit, while fourth single “Bubble Butt” went on to crack into urban mainstream and top 40 radio – both unknown territories for the Grammy-nominated DJ. Although most of the singles didn’t chart well stateside, all eight held their own this year on the dance and electronic charts. With the rumors initially surrounding the troubled Major Lazer project commencing almost two years ago, the finished product – as a whole – is definitely Diplo’s best work to date.