Photo Credit: Alexander Wessely
Being a teenager in Sweden ten years ago, I saw native household names like Avicii (may he rest in peace) and Swedish House Mafia take the EDM (Electric Dance Music) sound to global arenas. Dismissed at first by many – myself included – as “not real music,” I would soon find myself jumping up and down to the irresistible beats of tracks such as “Save the World” and “Don’t You Worry Child.” Computed sounds, yeah, but also lots of fun.
As Swedish House Mafia – consisting of the producer-DJ trio Steve Angello, Axwell, and Sebastian Ingrosso – now returns after a ten-year hiatus with what is actually their first proper album, and they are not shy to brag about their leading role in the EDM scene. “We haven’t come back to reclaim our title,” Angello told NME. “Because we’ve never lost it.” Why is it so much cooler when rising teenage stars and female rappers from suburbs hidden behind gentrified hipster quarters show some attitude than it is when privileged, 39-year-old men do it?
I really tried to like this, but as I’m re-imagining my room as a dance floor while absorbing the droning sounds of “Mafia” to “Redlight”, which samples the Police’s classic 1978 hit single “Roxanne”, I finally realize why the Swedish House Mafia never released an album in the first place. To put it simply, house music is not especially well-suited for the album format.
“House Is a Feeling” is the name of a 1992 Liquid track, but that feeling is based on escapism rather than meaningful reflection over life and its problems. Therefore, it’s hard to connect with house albums on an emotional level, and how professional the Weeknd, Ty Dolla $ign, A$AP Rocky, or 070 Shake might be, they can’t do anything about that. The Weeknd’s feature on “Moth to a Flame” is the obvious stand-out track here because it sounds like a track that could have been on one of his albums rather than something that would feature on a Swedish House Mafia record. When the group tries to fuse house with hip hop together with A$AP Rocky’s on “Frankenstein”, the record completely loses its direction and though the song itself is not a catastrophe, it makes zero sense in this context.
Paradise Again works best on the second side, as the group’s getting rid of their cameos to concentrate on what they’re actually good at – house music. Here, the record plays like a great Tomorrowland set, where Steve, Axwell, and Sebastian belong. But then again, no headphones in the world could mediate an EDM festival experience like that, and if I’m even going to listen to this album again, I will make sure to do it while sharing the dancefloor with thousands of young folks attempting to cleanse their troubled minds with something substance-free and soulless, just enjoying life for the sake of a great beat.
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