Photo Credit: Johannes Lovund
EDM, perhaps more than any other genre, defined the commercial music of the 2010s. When you think about the biggest, most inescapable hits of the decade, you realize a majority of them belong to this genre – the late Avicii’s “Wake Me Up,” Major Lazer, DJ Snake, and MØ’s “Lean On” and – of course -, “Titanium” by David Guetta and Sia. In 2022, EDM finds itself on the periphery of the top 40. The traditional big hitters no longer carry the power they did just a few years ago. The Chainsmokers effectively surrendered their last hold on chart dominance with this year’s So Far So Good, while the second volume of Calvin Harris’s Funk Wav Bounces came and went without leaving a mark – unlike its well-received 2017 predecessor. It’s telling that one of the genre’s few commercial success stories this year – the uninspired “I’m Good” by David Guetta and Bebe Rexha – leans so heavily on a sample of an already-established and successful song; Eiffel 65’s “Blue.”
In response to EDM’s ongoing crisis, former hitmaker Kygo has joined the litany of producers choosing to play it safe and frankly dull, rather than attempt the innovation the genre so desperately requires. All of Thrill of The Chase’s fourteen tracks largely follow the same formula; understated EDM-pop songs filled with surface-level explorations of love and loss, sung by technically proficient but largely forgettable vocalists. Opener “Gone Are The Days” is emblematic of this, filled with flaccid sentiments (“You don’t know how, but you carry on”, “There’s no one here to save you from yourself”) sung by James Gillespie, whose vocal delivery recalls a lesser Ed Sheeran and certainly-a-lesser Sam Fender. “I’m smiling but I’m hurting” sings Zoe Weiss on “Love Me Now,” in one of the album’s least inspired moments – her voice so distorted it barely sounds human. Moments later, a very predictable beat drop comes in, failing to electrify the song in any meaningful way and eventually petering off.
That The Thrill of the Case ends up being largely unthrilling and inoffensive is no surprise, but it is particularly frustrating that there is not a single highlight track here. There are moments that should produce fireworks – or at least some momentary excitement – but, instead, all fall flat. Dagny can produce electropop perfection when given the necessary creative control (her absolutely euphoric track “Fools Gold” has been a staple of my running playlist ever since it came out over six years ago) but on “Lonely Together,” she’s submerged into an unremarkable sonic palette. The song aims to create an introvert anthem – similar to Carly Rae Jepsen’s delectable “Party For One” – but instead it consistently just misses the mark. One wonders whether Dagny would have been more likely to accomplish the task if left entirely to her own devices.
Joe Jonas-led DNCE – responsible for one of the 2010s most indelible, if entirely unserious, hits (“Cake By The Ocean”) – enter the fray on “Dancing Feet.” There are hints of the band’s usual infectious energy – bursts of sax swell and shrink throughout – but there still isn’t nearly enough that’s exciting or bold to make 72 exhausting repetitions of the word “feet” any less obnoxious. Plested-feature “The Way We Were,” meanwhile, features all of the English songwriter’s worst tendencies – oversinging and grating vocal affections – without compensating for it with any of the quintessential boy-band charm evident on his best solo releases like “The Least That I Could Do.”
The sheer length of the closer “Freeze” – clocking in at over eight minutes – suggests newfound sonic ambition; a long overdue embrace of risk-taking and re-invention. But instead, it turns out to be utterly unremarkable, simply repeating the formula of the previous 13 songs once more, just for twice as long. It serves as the final nail in the coffin; the final confirmation that with a lifetime of riches already secured, the star producer has no interest in meeting the moment and making the sort of invigorating music required to jump-start EDM’s flailing vessel.