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  • Opinion: Letโ€™s Have A Talk About Kygo


    When Kygo burst onto the scene in 2013-2014, tropical house was everything. Names like Thomas Jack, Robin Schulz, Felix Jaehn, Sam Feldt, Bakermat, and Matoma similarly rode the wave, but Kygo, with his brilliant melodies and ear for remix-worthy anthems, gained an early edge and has gone on to become a worldwide star with over 27 million monthly listeners on Spotify. He released his critically-acclaimed debut album, Cloud Nine, in 2016 with features from John Legend, James Vincent McMorrow, Maty Noyes, and Julia Michaels, among others.

    Heโ€™s played some of the biggest venues in the world, including the Hollywood Bowl and SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, the Ullevaal Stadion in his native Norway, and of course Coachella. He was the fastest artist to reach one billion total plays on Spotify in 2015 โ€” no one can deny his magnetism and talent.

    All of this is to say, he has every right to put out literally anything he wants. But itโ€™s been eight years and he has hardly evolved beyond that pretty melody and vocalist paradigm. And itโ€™s getting kind of boring.

    He has a new song out today with X Ambassadors, โ€œUndeniable,โ€ and it follows that exact formula. Some pretty melody, his little reverb vocal effects, some soft drums, that recognizable piano, and vocals from a pop star. Thatโ€™s not to say that the song isnโ€™t inherently good or well written, or even that itโ€™s poorly produced.

    Kygo says, โ€œSam and I had so much fun writing this one together in LA then performing it last month at Banc of California Stadium. Itโ€™s a special song to us and I hope everyone likes โ€œUndeniableโ€ as much as we do.โ€

    X Ambassadors lead singer/songwriter Sam Nelson Harris says, โ€œIโ€™ve always had an affinity for big-ass love songs but donโ€™t often end up writing them. This one came together so organically and quicklyโ€” it was such a treat to write it with Kash, Nick, Whethan and Kyrre. I honestly couldnโ€™t be more excited to sing it at all my friends weddings.โ€

    Clearly, both artists found joy in writing and creating the song together, and theyโ€™re proud of their work. As a listener, I would never deign to impose my own will on an artistโ€™s creativity. Weโ€™ve seen the same arguments made for Skrillex, Zedd, Porter Robinson, and others who have changed their sound, sometimes, perhaps, to the chagrin of fans. (This is not a comparison of Kygoโ€™s stagnation to the othersโ€™ evolvement, merely pointing out fan reactions to what an artist wants to make.)

    The difference between those examples and Kygo is that those other artists have evolved through new sounds, but they still sound like themselves. A couple perfect example of artists evolving and retaining the same sound are Flume and RL Grime. Both have an โ€œundeniable,โ€ to usurp the title from Kygoโ€™s latest single, sound but have evolved and grown over time.

    Yet, Kygo has remained complacent, putting out the same melodic, vocal ballads for years. And look, theyโ€™re working for him. He has been able to โ€œresurrectโ€ Donna Summer and Whitney Houston, and cover a classic from Tina Turner (which brings into discussion the topic of capitalizing off the back of black womenโ€™s work, but thatโ€™s for another time), has a 1.1bn play song with Selena Gomez, and multiple other hundred-million play songs. So clearly, fans enjoy his work.

    But isnโ€™t there something more beyond the usual? The familiar? The tried and true?

    Before I began writing this article, I wanted to challenge my own confirmation bias. I listened to his last two dozen or so singles. Some have variations in tempo, like โ€œThink About Youโ€ with Valerie Broussard; โ€œKem Kan Eg Ringeโ€ with Store P and Lars Vaular is a notable outlier. But even as heโ€™s teamed up with the likes of Miguel, Imagine Dragons, U2, Ellie Goulding, and OneRepublic, names that on their own sell out arenas, the result remains a predictable brand of ballad that heโ€™s become known for.

    Of course, Iโ€™m not naรฏve enough to believe that reactions to this opinion couldnโ€™t be boiled down to, โ€œWell if you think heโ€™s boring, then donโ€™t listen to him.โ€ And thatโ€™s valid. But I also believe that Kygo is incrediblyย talented, and after seven years of doing this job and cultivating talent, I canโ€™t help but mourn when I feel talent is squandered.

    This article was first published on Your EDM. Source: Opinion: Letโ€™s Have A Talk About Kygo


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