The two best singles bubbling on the underground right now are proof positive that Diplo and Switch are the Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis of the alt-urban generation. It takes a certain type of artist to sit back and allow themselves to be the canvas for a producer. So many want to impart upon the creative process of a producer a signficant part of themselves, so much so that it mutes the excellence of the producer. In muting his own creative impulse, 25 year old Londoner Alex Clare’s given Diplo and Switch, Major Lazer, the ability to turn down the bombast of Guns Don’t Kill People, Lazers Do, and in creating something as sweet and sensual as the Major Lazer album is strong and hard, proves the duo’s rising dominance as the top two progressive producers in mainstream music today.
“Up All Night” is a jam that if you have done multiple nights of wild partying, ever experienced truly being on a bender, ever toured anywhere in a manner consistent with being any level of rock star, or are just a general insomniac, you’ll perfectlyunderstand the vibe. I have done all of these with relative frequency in my 32 years, so this one sounds anthemic. One thing about Diplo is that when he finds something he loves, he’s unafraid to go back to it over, and over, and over again. From Rye Rye vocal samples to KW Griff and Blaqstarr breaks, Diplo’s slavish devotion to his muses is not a mystery. The crunching surf guitars seemingly from a throwaway recording session of “Hold the Line” are instantaneously iconic, and as they kick off the sweeping reggaeton invoking dancehall track, Clare just has to sing. He does, and with vocals that make you feel like you’re listening to a UB40 cover act, the song is a killer.
I’ll argue that on a technical level, the best production that Major Lazer has ever done is Clare’s second leaked single, “Relax My Beloved.” Mississippi Delta blues and Portishead recalling trip hop combined with the soulful edge of dubstep is actually a logical combination. The track moves and evolves from trip hop to dubstep, and again, Clare’s vocals are exactly what they need to be. His alto falsetto over a downtempo melody really drives home the message of seductive desire of the song.
At this moment, outside of listening to about a solid 24 hours of moombahton, and the greatness of Fat Trel, Alex Clare’s expected presence at SXSW is what’s driving me to purchase my airplane ticket. In being the vessel for the excellence of Diplo and Switch, the Island Records UK signed artist is set up for a major and expeditious rise to the top. Get familiar, and get an early seat on the rocket now as this man soars to the top.