Major Lazer, the alias for DJ and producer Diplo—currently joined by DJ Jillionaire, Walshy Fire, and DJ Boaz van de Beatz, often use an aviator sunglasses-wearing, military anime avatar on album covers and to visualize their brand. With the release of their latest album Peace is the Mission, the musical assault contained within—for better and often time’s worse—definitely matches the visual media.
Simultaneously a hypnotic assault on the ears and a disorientating endeavor, Peace is the Mission is like the spray gun from the Nintendo Contra games. Created with the intent of being a modern, EDM inspired take on Dancehall reggae, it only delivers this vibe some of the time. Most of the album feels like a corporately crafted attempt at jamming as many summer anthem pop hits as possible in one album.
However, hit or miss, Major Lazer commands your attention. Songs like “Too Original”—featuring Swedish singer/rapper Elliphant and Jamaican born singer Jovi Rockwell—“Blaze Up the Fire”, with up and coming reggae artists Chronnixx, blast the ear drums with a relentless frenetic pace. Peaks and valleys of beats and drops continue, each time adding a new volley to the arsenal of electronics.
The quiet moments of the album, and I mean that in a very relative way, provide a little more atmosphere… a little. The opening track “Be Together” featuring Wild Belle is a solid opener and one of the more well-balanced tracks on the album. “Powerful” featuring Ellie Goulding and Jamaican Reggae singer Tarrus Riley takes it down a notch to the point where the mellow groove of the song almost doesn’t fit within the pace of album. “Light it Up” featuring Nyla does a good job of holding cacophonic assault while sticking closer to the Dancehall feel.
Already a smash hit and destined to be one of those radio/club songs that etches itself into your brain next the words “summer of 2015”—“Lean On”, featuring the very busy DJ Snake and Danish singer MØ, nevertheless captures that glinting into the sun by a pool in Vegas three drinks deep feel—and for some, that is the epitome of their summer.
The only song not to have a guest on it is “Roll it Up” which starts out promising, but then drops what only can be described as—if a sketch comedy show, or a cartoon like Family Guy lampooned how ridiculous some beats are, this is the example they would use.
The calculatedly crafted “Night Riders”—a summer rap anthem attempt featuring scintillating production by Travis Scott, and verses by 2 Chainz and Pusha T is sure to provide a club in Miami another song to play into oblivion. Straight forward bass pounding are complemented by Jamaican singer Mad Cobra’s gargling, vocoder-laced contributions.
Dedicated fans will find Peace is the Mission fulfilling in every expectation. But make no mistake, this is mainstream Major Lazer. This is the end result of capitalizing on popularity. While you can’t really blame Diplo or his partners in within the Major Lazer conglomerate, one wonders if this marks the end of happy underground buffet of genres Major Lazer so successfully unleashed on previous works. When a DJ/producer gets his own cartoon—as Major Lazer will have later this year—using the word underground kind of gets left behind.
Let me be clear, this is not a bad album. Maybe the sound was only made for a literal dancehall and not headphone? Maybe to try and describe the music is to overthink it? It’s catchy, it’s loud, you can lose yourself in parts of it, and it has all the ingredients to conjure up summer chart climbing success. Still, if this is what to expect from Major Lazer in the future, I can’t avoid the hint of disappointment swirling in my head, or maybe that’s just a slight headache from the album, I’m still not sure.