After the success of 2015’s Peace is the Mission, an ensemble delight that would even challenge a Wes Anderson wishlist, Major Lazer’s new EP, Know No Better, has the same intentions as its lengthier counterpart as temperatures begin to skyrocket and the tropical EDM vibes come thick and fast. Again, Diplo, Jillionaire and Walshy Fire stuff their tracks with of-the-moment stars, with the likes of Quavo of Migos, Travis Scott and Sean Paul turning out for dance music’s premium trio.
But like so many EDM collaborators searching for summer jam ubiquity, and the parallels they share with cinema’s blockbuster season, the appeal of Know No Better risks all of its money on its stellar guest list sticking the landing. The opening trio of songs provide the highlights: ‘Know No Better’, boosted by an ecstatic Travis Scott and a ‘One Dance’-echoing dancehall 4×4 beat provides the peak that Major Lazer fail to repeat across the six-track listing. Camila Cabello provides ample, sultry support to Scott’s starring role but like so many of the rap features on the EP, Quavo is lost in the impersonal feel of his boastful verse. Sean Paul and Jidenna are victims by the same method on their respective tracks too; even when the seriousness of conscious rap begins to soften like ripe fruit at the advent of the summer months, it doesn’t mean that any sort of discernible meaning should melt away completely.
But where the rap features miss spectacularly, relative unknowns J Balvin and Ice Prince salvage Major Lazer’s summery bop. Balvin adds real spice to a fairly generic tropical cut on ‘Buscando Huellas’ and on ‘Particula’, Ice Prince sets up the pins for Major Lazer’s catchy drop to knock them down gleefully.
But it’s the rather mechanical, overly-aggressive compositions in the EP’s second half that really dampen Major Lazer’s attempts at summer soundtrack monopoly. ‘Jump’ is the kind of commandeering EDM blitz that DJs use to force the most stubborn of revellers out of their clubs at 3am. ‘Sua Cara’ suffers from different ailments; the samba beat is pleasant enough but with its speedy sub-3 minute run time, we’re never quite allowed to hear the track hit its potential apex. And as for finale ‘Front of the Line’, it’s the kind of pacey, polyglot Frankenstein of a dance track that rests on thin narratives and momentary highs before departing to die quietly in the depths of a sub-par sports game soundtrack.
On Peace is the Mission, the standout track ‘Lean On’ not only provided the song of the summer (and arguably the song of the year), it made the best out its emerging vocal star MØ. That ear for captivating voices, threaded into the gentle, but euphoric sound of summer served Major Lazer well but on Know No Better you can’t help but think that this seemingly invincible algorithm has curdled slightly. Know No Better has some really great moments, many delivered by the handpicked collaborators, but Major Lazer need to be wary of that same approach. Sometimes having so many stars pasted onto an already maximalist canvas can make the finished design too bright for its own good.