Late last year, an article was published via DJ Mag which announced that once again Hardwell had been voted the ‘best’ DJ in the world. But let’s face it, DJ Mag is not necessarily one to take in to account the creative and boundary breaking skills that others possess. So it seemed all but laughable that Hardwell had been voted top of the (bias) polls, through the strength of his five previous mix tapes that have warranted worldwide attention. In this time he has founded his own record label Revealed Recordings, and has also been able to earn himself a pretty decent wage packet. But that is initially what DJ Mag seems to judge by – financial success and numbers. But hey, isn’t that the bleak reality of the music industry as a whole?
So we fast forward to 2015, and Hardwell finally drops his debut album United We Are – which one can only presume was a lost piece of dialogue said by Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back, or perhaps even a piece of dialogue from a future film in the saga, Star Wars – Attack Of The Grammar Nazis.
It is a fair shout that it is arguably going be the biggest electronic album of the year in some respects *shudder*, that is a no brainer. Millions of people worldwide will be buying copies of this and placing the CD in to their stereo – or downloading via the whatever means necessary. He has already released plenty of singles in the run up to the album including ‘Arcadia’, ‘Don’t Stop The Madness’, ‘Eclipse’, ‘Young Again’, and of course ‘Sally’, but on the strength of this – is it any good?
United We Are is the depressing epitome of what mainstream electronic music has become in 2015 – a soulless, plastic, predictable, formulaic, disposable entity with excruciatingly minimal substance.
In all fairness though, not all of the album is filled with tripe. So let us take a moment to not be too bias, and look at the plus side of United We Are. Take the chilled deep house groove of ‘Where Is Here Now’, and the ambient journey that closing song ‘Birds Fly’ takes you on. These are actually some decent tracks that warrant some approving songwriting merit where electronic music is concerned.
Hardwell is also a fairly decent producer and that is something that cannot be taken away from him. But he sure as hell isn’t the best by a long shot, far from it actually. Especially when you compare him to other artists who produce their own material within the realms of the electronic music landscape like Deadmau5, Death Grips, Clams Casino, Bjork, Grimes, and Flying Lotus. These lot make Hardwell seem like he has been making overly-compressed tunes with old demos of Dance eJay, which used to come free with a pack of Frosties.
Now… let us talk about the actual songs. Nearly every song comes with the same predictable formula. So predictable in fact that it makes Vlad‘s ‘Supersonic Electronic’ sound like a wild ride in to the unknown, with an anus-tightening clench fuelled by danger and excitement.
Nearly every song has a guest vocalist on it, but with some surprisingly notable names including Bright Lights, Fatman Scoop, Luciana, and the man who likes to sing his own name. Most of these vocals are merely trying to capture a feeling of overwhelming emotion to which the listener is supposed to connect with to make the song sound somewhat more meaningful and substantially driven. But alas, within all these ‘club bangers’ lays one particular crime against not just to electronic music, but possibly to songwriting in general… ‘Sally’.
Ahh yes, ‘Sally’. The biggest piece of oversaturated garbage to have emerged in (excuse the dirty term) EDM for a good while. In fact let us go one further – the biggest piece of shit to have emerged from electronic music in the past 15 years. Let’s start with the fact that singer Harrison is letting us all know that he has been fucking someone called Sally, and that her Dad is a bit of a dick. But wait… there’s more!
Hardwell is clearly trying to cross over in to the alternative market with the combined use of electronic music and… you guessed it, guitars! Just a few bar chords, kind of like the same level of guitar based creativity that Diplo managed to produce on the hideous song ‘Kokayne’ by Riff Raff. It is atrociously executed, but at least the guitarist can play bar chords in time – assuming that there was no major editing to put it together!
It is truly a horrible thought, but the sound of robot Johnny Five digitally masturbating would probably sound more interesting than this song.
Perhaps the most depressing thought of them all… is that this album stands testament to the sound of mainstream electronic music today. Seriously, what the fuck happened?!
Even if you go back to the heyday of mid to late 90s club music, regardless of if DJs and producers were one hit wonders, at least they actually made the song sound interesting and likeable to all ears as opposed to its designated public. Most of the songs from that period were exciting, and have such a playability factor about them that they will still get played to this day, and sound just as fresh and invigorating now as they did then.
But you know, this is 2015 – mainstream electronic music like what Hardwell has produced is merely but an audible reflection upon a materialistic, disposable, and robotic society which lacks substance, personality, and at times – culture.
It’s infuriating that an album like this will be able to generate so much money and make the cogs of the music industry go round and round, when really all that United We Are is, is in fact an incredibly mediocre and half-arsed effort in knob-twiddling and button pushing. To think there are so, so many electronic groups, DJs, and producers out there at the moment that work equally as hard, and get only 2% of the success that Hardwell does in the touch of a button, quite frankly makes this writer feel sick.
But what is the point in moaning about it? Hardwell doesn’t give two shits about the content of this article, he makes millions at the touch of a button. For that you gotta hand it to the guy, he could retire tomorrow and be happy with his success in such short time. Money talks after all, and that is just merely but the underlying theme to which we should be standing against. So I guess all of this seems irrelevant in a manner of speaking. But on the other hand, this is what a music critic does, they speak the truth from a personal perspective in a constructive manner, so your opinion on this probably won’t matter either! Fuck it, where’s the time machine so we can go back to the 90s?