Smile Politely

Too much to hold down

If you thought nothing could top Big Freedia closing out Pygmalion in 2012, then Major Lazer is going to rock your world. From bubble butts and daggering, Major Lazer has never shied away from stepping over the line into crazy caricature-like cartoon comedy in the music (and videos), and that fun translates into the live shows as well. Once you hear Diplo’s “sound,” you will start recognize Diplo just as surely as you can hear Prince’s or Timbaland’s personal styles in their productions—his beats, his style, his brand of fun guarantees a live show you won’t soon forget.

Major Lazer began as a collaboration with Switch, but since that original pairing dissolved a few years ago, it has become more a vehicle for an ever-evolving rotation of collaborations. The latest iteration involves Jillionaire and Walshy Fire for the live shows and track production with an assorted array of musicians and rappers that only serves as a testament to his pull. Diplo—and Major Lazer—is hot right now and filling Free the Universe with tracks with Santigold, Peaches, Bruno Mars, Tyga, Flux Pavilion, Wyclef Jean, and Ezra Koenig is a brilliant way to get non-electronic fans to give Major Lazer a listen.

Whether Major Lazer is labeled as reggae, moombahton, trap, or future dancehall here or there, at its core, it is electronic and accessible. Just like reggae, it’s going to have many styles or rhythms so if one track is too much, the next one is going to be even more so—this is a Major Lazer show, people, and it’s going to be insane. But using the core of reggae/dancehall music, it makes the electronic an easier sell to folks who might not otherwise pick to see a Major Lazer show. Someone once said that if you book a jazz or hip hop night, you’ll have to find fans of that music to come out, but if you play reggae, it’s more universally appealing to a broad audience. Major Lazer brings that universal reggae appeal and transforms it by fusing different styles of music together with reggae and then takes it over the top—whether it’s with suggestive subject matter or crazy dubstep-style drops or just plain old booty.

But all those genre labels…they are simply describing the roots and the beats and the style of music. There are so many different artists collaborating on Free the Universe (and other Major Lazer tracks) that when combined with a broad over-arching genre label like reggae that has a ton of variants—especially when an artist’s particular specialty is used as the multiplier—the results can be remarkably divergent. “Jah No Partial” with Flux Pavilion (a dubstep act) is straight-up dubstep-style reggae track with just a taste of dnb sprinkled in there for fun. “Get Free” with Amber Coffmann from the Dirty Projectors (a personal favorite) is a sweet, lilting electronic island lullabye. “Bubble Butt” with Bruno Mars (pop), Tyga (rapper), and Mystic (rapper) is a fun, booty (emphasis on booty) bass track with multiple rappers joining in on call to shake your bubble butt.

For me, it’s hard to label Major Lazer as a single genre or sound, I’d rather just say it sounds like Diplo because that’s what it sounds like to me. It’s fun, upbeat, infectious, ridiculous, over-the-top, and the tracks will worm their way into your brain. I can’t think of a better act to close out Pygmalion 2013. People who aren’t down for electronic music will be drawn in by the comforting familiarity of reggae and then blown away by the party Major Lazer brings.

For most folks, all that will matter is that you (a) will enjoy the music and (b) will want to dance and (c) will probably end up seeing a lot people attempting to “twerk.” Judge not, dear reader: this is the one case in which twerking is actually appropriate—at a Major Lazer show. Diplo’s Twitter feed is pretty much just an endless stream of retweets of ladies “expressing themselves.” And let’s face it, after all the Miley Cyrus hoopla recently, this will be an instance of seeing the source of her “inspiration,” rather than the crappy imitation that Miley tried to play off as her fresh new style.

The last time Diplo swung through Champaign-Urbana, he unintentionally created a bit of a local legend. Diplo played Canopy Club with Chiddy Bang in campus tour with the Axe One Night Only series. After the show, Diplo showed up at an after hours in Urbana and played a few tracks and hung out with some local folks. This story has been repeated so many times that I’m sure Diplo himself heard about it by now. Now, I’m not saying Diplo will show up at an after hours this time around, I’m just saying that everyone will WANT Diplo to show up at their after hours when they see this show.


Major Lazer will close out the Highdive Outdoor Annex on Saturday night for Pygmalion Music Festival. Get your tickets here to see them with about a dozen others on Saturday afternoon and into the evening.

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