Major Lazer - Peace Is The Mission

by Jack Reid

Major Lazer is a funny sort of idea. More of an umbrella term for a collection of producers than an act per se, the project has Diplo at its centre. He seems to be the motivating force for the brand and the guy who arranges the obscene number of collaborations under the moniker’s belt. On any given Major Lazer track, the number of featuring artists far outstrips the song title, most commonly something like Bruk Out or Mashup The Dance.

Given the ebb and flow of people actually involved in Major Lazer, a certain fluctuation in quality is to be expected. This dancehall/brostep fusion can’t always be pulled off with as much finesse as you might hope. So it goes for every Major Lazer release, take When You Hear The Bassline from the debut, or the aforementioned Mashup The Dance from the sophomore effort; they’re both bollocks. Occasionally a Major flop will tragically make it to a single release, usually on the merits of who they managed to convince to get on the track, like Bubble Butt featuring Bruno Mars of all people.

The main takeaway from this album is that there’s a trend at play in Major Lazer’s discography. The ratio of standout tracks to skip-happy mess-fests is rapidly declining. The formula for a great Major Lazer track is directly derived from the fact that the project seems to be able to do nothing in moderation. So, the formula goes like so: choose between a reggae-infused summer track with a laid back vibe, and a stonking dancehall infused track with an outrageous and silly drop. Then add a featuring artist, and not somebody huge like Ellie Goulding. That’s it. If Major Lazer deviate from this path, they produce total crap.

The tracks that made it through this flowchart on Peace Is The Mission are few; in fact there are only two that are any good. Lean On (feat. MØ & DJ Snake) is that great laid-back summer song in the same mould as Get Free (feat. Amber of Dirty Projectors and Can’t Stop Now. It manages to have a trap-style drop, complete with high-pitched vocal loops, and maintain that laidback air; it’s a pretty mean feat from the producers. The core of the song is held together with some actually mindful lyrics from MØ, which is always a pleasant surprise in a Major Lazer song.

The other worthy song is Roll The Bass. While not as accomplished as Lean On (there are still pointless over-dubbed and auto-tuned vocals akimbo), it fulfills that other side of the coin - the drop-heavy song without compromise. The reason it falls short still is the fact that Major Lazer just can’t seem to keep those get-your-breath-back moments between drops free of listless silliness. For instance, Blaze Up The Fire has a pretty great trap-style drop but the verses succumb to this messiness that makes them sound like something from the FIFA 2010 soundtrack.

When you think about it, the Major Lazer project is actually a pretty ambitious one: for a white guy from Mississippi to corral an incredibly wide set of musicians and musical influences, produce their music in various high energy genres and try to shit out a viable club record at the end. Given that, I suppose it’s surprising any of Major Lazer’s records are any good at all, and maybe we should be thankful for the two viable songs we have from this album.