College kids love EDM — according to Spotify, EDM is the second most popular genre on college campuses, and UC Berkeley listeners enjoy EDM on average more than any other school. It is important to consider that much of the EDM catalog is released on SoundCloud, never formally released by a label, let alone streaming on Spotify, so the figures Spotify introduces could very well be short of an accurate representation. You don’t have to be up to date on current pop culture to know that Mad Decent Block Party went down a month ago at the Greek — it was easily the most talked about concert event this fall semester.
One artist particularly added to the hype surrounding Mad Decent. His name is Dillon Francis, and today he releases his debut full-length, Money Sucks, Friends Rule.
You might be trying to remember the last time you heard of a complete album from an EDM producer, and you’re not alone. For the genre of EDM as a whole, it is quite rare for an artist to choose to release his work in album form rather than as a complete “set.” But a set, Money Sucks is not. A set unofficially calls for a predictable ebb and flow, a consistent pattern of drops and releases that a live audience can easily recognize. Money Sucks, Friends Rule adheres to few (if any) genre prerequisites; instead, it showcases Dillon Francis’s versatility in working with multiple subgenres of dance music, his sharp sense of irony and humor, and his hunger to foster creativity in a genre too often criticized as being one-dimensional.
The album begins with “All That” and “Get Low,” which are simple, familiar-sounding EDM tracks. Both are hard-hitting statement tracks, as if Dillon Francis is asserting his prowess as a production-guru. From there, the album mellows out, and although you would undoubtedly categorize songs such as “Drunk All The Time” and “Love In the Middle of a Firefight” as belonging to the club scene, they are both tracks you could groove to without feeling obligated to go crazy. “Love” is especially expansive, exploring the fringe of ballad territory. Here Dillon Francis tries his hand at a relatively slow-boiling pop song. It’s a little too short to develop into anything revolutionary, but it’s definitely a refreshing change of pace from the excessively-stereotyped world of rave.
Despite Francis’s effort to build innovative developments on seldom-used tempos, the one glaring con of the record is the lack of new sounds. The colors of the album are all too familiar. EDM is far too diverse to adequately sample its most interesting subgenres in a 45-minute album, but it seems that Dillon Francis could have found a specific niche or two to fully excavate. Listening to Money Sucks, Friends Rule the second time is comparable to your second time on the Universal Studios tour. Even though you might find something that you missed the first time through, it doesn’t make up for the fact that it feels like your twentieth go-around.
That being said, Money Sucks, Friends Rule is still a strong showcase from Dillon Francis. It is an ode to the genre that Dillon Francis helped shape into the huge entertainment-behemoth it is today. In the midst of strategically constructed sets, the album assumes an important role in validating EDM into the contemporary music industry, as if to say ‘this is music and we belong here.’ It’s hard to concur if this will spark a trend for fellow EDM acts, but there’s one thing we know for sure: EDM is quickly establishing itself as an influential form of modern music.
See Dillon Francis play the Fox Theater in Oakland December 18.
Article by Darius Kay