Sometimes it’s important to remember that the idea of an “album” is largely an arbitrary concept created by the restrictions imposed upon the vinyl medium. The reason most albums are 40-60 minutes long is because that’s the maximum amount of music that would fit on an LP, and so many pop albums are front loaded with singles because record executives don’t trust listeners to actually finish an album. It begs the question in this age of viral hits, and songs with millions of Youtube views, why should an internet-famous artist create an album at all? It’s a question that frequently occurs while listening to Encore, the debut album from Turn Down For What producer DJ Snake.
DJ Snake is one of those artists that can be difficult to write about without coming across as condescending, because the easiest way to describe his style is “dumb fun”. His music is loud and abrasive, but also incredibly catchy. It mixes the most populist sonics of trap and dubstep, with a healthy dose of Diplo-style chopped up vocals. It’s rarely music that evokes much in the way of emotion besides a need to dance, and that’s where its charm lies. Anyone looking for depth or any real intelligence is looking in the wrong place, but he’s perfect for someone looking for 3 minutes of fun. Unfortunately, that particular style loses its lustre somewhat when stretched out over 53 minutes.
The album just doesn’t feel like the appropriate format to show off DJ Snake. He has attempted to expand his typical sound, and work an impressive roster of guests into the tracklist, but all this ends up doing is diluting what made him special in the first place. Middle, Sober, Talk, The Half, Future, Pt.2, and Let Me Love You all sound like extremely boilerplate off-cuts from Justin Bieber’s Purpose. Purpose was a solid album, and it popularised the tropical house sound that characterises so much of pop nowadays, but these songs just feel out of place coming from a noise-making auteur like DJ Snake. Furthermore, when they’re squeezed between explosive dubstep bangers like Sahara and Propaganda, they can’t help but just feel weak, as though he’s very blatantly catering to a commercial audience, but without the catchy melodies to back it up.
Part of that may be his choice of collaborators. So much of what made Turn Down For What mad fun was that Lil Jon spends the entire song shouting at the audience. He matched DJ Snake for ridiculousness, which is necessary for an artist like Snake, since he’s at his best when he’s most ridiculous. The only collaborator on the album that really seems to “get” what Snake is going for is Mr Hudson, on the closing track Here Comes the Night. His vocals are bombastic and cheesy, but they’re a match for the synths that sound like they come straight from the Drive soundtrack, and the sounds of bullet casings dropping to the floor before the explosive drop. It’s the only moment of the album where Snake’s two styles really converge in any meaningful way, and is an easy standout. It’s just unfortunate that the rest of Encore doesn’t stack up to it.