Review Summary: The worst of both worlds
To all the music journalists and bloggers collectively shi
tting their pants over the new Avicii record: what the hell happened to your judgement of artistic integrity? I mean, there’s something to be said for the fact that True
arguably can be construed as a “fun” record (as if other “fun” records haven’t come out yet this year), but saying that the album is good because it can be played loudly at the mainstage of Ultra or Electric Zoo is hardly legitimate. And because countless writers will no doubt immediately counter that point with the assertion that it’s the first true EDM crossover hit and sets a precedent for all electronic albums in the future, I feel the need to bring up the crux of this review right here: are you fucking serious?
Apart from the point that electronic albums have succeeded previously in penetrating the pop charts (from this year alone, read: Disclosure hitting #2 on the UK pop charts, the omnipresence of “Get Lucky,” and the pitch-shifted goodness of “YOU CAN DO THE HARLEM SHAKE”), there’s a reason people haven’t tried to mix the EDM machine with country-pop. Namely: it sucks
. Case in point: lead single “Wake Me Up,” which takes all the inoffensive parts from country (vague drawl, acoustic guitar, subtle backing band) and hammers it into a shape which can fit into Avicii’s sets.
Which wouldn’t necessarily be such a bad thing - hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone successfully melded country and electronic within the next few years - except the production values are sloppy and amateur. I don’t claim to be an expert in the field of electronic creation, but even I can pick out faulty elements. Going back to “Wake Me Up” for a moment: substandard supersaw synths abound, that goddamn “whooshing” effect so popular among the likes of Swedish House Mafia and Zedd happens about twenty times too many over the course of the three-and-a-half minute song, and there’s even a bass drop pre-supersaw sections. Much the same happens on “Hey Brother,” which starts out as a cheesy, cookie-cutter country-pop tune and eventually transitions into a faux-arena-filling house song with a lazy, mechanical horn line and simplistic, boring chords.
I guess it’s kind of admirable that Avicii’s tried so hard to instill some sense of variety in the album, and at times it sort of works. “Addicted To You” is a foot-stompingly catchy soul/pop hybrid, and it’s one of the best tracks on the album as a result. Granted, most of its success relies on an excellently smoky voice covering Avicii’s mediocre production and song structure, but it’s important to note that something actually works
on the album. Unfortunately, no matter whether the album’s treading the territory of disco, funk, Eurotrash, or whatever Avicii’s throwing at the wall to see if it sticks, there’s always more than a hint of cheesy, trite prog-house that haunts the whole thing. Potential piano-driven success “You Make Me” is ruined by yet another saw-toothed main section which does absolutely nothing to separate itself from anything Beatport craps out on a weekly basis, and already weak disco number “Lay Me Down” is tarnished by much the same problem.
If there’s any sort of success on True
, it’s that Avicii’s learned to ape what’s worked in classic progressive house anthems. Anthemic closer “Edom” builds up wonderfully without overstaying its welcome with yet another shi
tty Avicii chorus, and it’s surprisingly quite a nice piano-driven raver’s dream. Meanwhile, “Hope There’s Someone,” while admittedly just about as stereotypical prog-house-y as it gets, is still fun in a way the rest of the album can’t claim to be. However, all in all the album is a failed attempt at broadening the palates of the “EDM generation” in America. At its worst, the country-pop-cum-Avicii is shameful and horrific, with only a tenuous grasp of either of its influences, and at its best, the album doesn’t do much more than replicate what’s already been done. As surprising as it may be that a Swede finely schooled in the art of posing in denim and flannel didn’t succeed at recreating a quintessentially American-sounding album, True
is a monolithically ho-hum endeavor - crossover brilliance, this is not.