Major Lazer are known their brilliant blend of Dancehall and typical EDM styles and the guise of being fronted by a cartoon general who is the Major Lazer. There’s a certain wittiness and self awareness behind it all that makes it so charming despite the blatant culture appropriation.
That being said one of the things Major Lazer’s last album ‘Free The Universe’ wasn’t was cohesive. They played hop-scotch across Caribbean dance styles globalising them for our consumption without much concern as to how one track would sound compared to another on the project. On their new album ‘Peace Is The Mission‘ they’re certainly still channelling those Dancehall influences in massive ways, yet they feel slightly more focused and as a result of that the humour has been toned down.
The approach to the way they mix Dancehall with EDM and pop has differed on this album in a lot of ways. The production values sound like they’ve been upped for a start; the subtleties on this album are a lot more profound with songs like ‘Blaze Up The Fire‘ constantly throwing in left hooks like the video game-esque 8-bit synth that randomly shows up about three quarters of the way through the track alongside the a surprisingly up-key chord progression.
It’s the general atmosphere on this album that feels like a great improvement. There’s a certain darkness and grittiness in a lot of these songs that make the coherency a lot more noticeable than before. This is evident in the more down tempo songs like the hit ‘Lean On Me‘ with DJ Snake and MO and the album opener ‘Be Together‘, which are both brooding dark tracks with a lot more of a pop sensibility than the bass-heavy-bang-your-head tracks we’re used to from Diplo.
That’s not to say that those sorts of tracks aren’t on here, the aforementioned ‘Blaze Up The Fire‘ will be sure to please fans that love his more danceable tracks. It’s just that there’s a lot more down hip-hop influenced song ‘Night Riders‘ with Travis Scott, Pusha T and 2 Chainz feels reasonably toned down yet focused allowing all the rappers to breathe and have their own space on the track.
Unfortunately this does mean that on the tracks where they’re not as sharp in atmosphere, they don’t have the humour to fall back onto they so they fall surprisingly short. This is evident on the track ‘Powerful‘ with Ellie Goulding where it just sounds so wishy washy throughout, especially with Goulding’s already testing vocals.
Long time fans should have nothing to complain about on this album. Major Lazer warmly embraces the sounds of pop, EDM and Dancehall in a way that’s not over the top or uninspired. They’ve sacrificed the witty charm and have replaced it with much more coherency and care. It’s both detrimental and beneficial for the way in which this album functions.