Taking behelmeted EDM DJ Marshmello on his own terms means accepting that his songs aren't meant to be played at home, or even listened to voluntarily. He's a festival DJ; his role is to make drunk teenagers dance to a mashup of "Mr Brightside" and "Bangarang." And, for what it's worth, he's great at it. At Governors Ball this past June, I saw a little kid—maybe seven or eight years old—walking around, holding his parents hands, dressed like Marshmello. Two hours later, he was somehow onstage with what I guess was his hero, leading a field full of high school seniors through a drop in "What's My Age Again." Everyone had fun! Marshmello and baby Marshmello were good at whatever they were doing! I hope that the crowd stayed hydrated!
But, again, yes, the songs, the ones that he writes and produces. They all sound like the headache you get on bad ecstasy: throbbing, unnecessary, unquelled by ibuprofen.
Khalid Robinson is the polar opposite of Marshmello. He's already made one of the best albums of 2017 in American Teen, turned up alongside Future on the increasingly replayable Calvin Harris cut "Rollin," and shown a terrifying amount of potential that could take him just about anywhere.
Marshmello and Khalid released a new song together this morning. It's called "Silence" and Khalid wins out. Even with the overdone echo tacked onto the 19-year-old's vocal track, and the inevitable one-finger club keys that kick in for the chorus, Khalid's delivery is compelling. The croak at the bottom of his range gets enough soul through to liven up the EDM balladry in the background, and the tiny jump into falsetto when he sings, "I been quiet/silent for too long" is a nice touch.
It's not that Marshmello was useless here. It's nice to hear Khalid backed up by choirs of his own harmonies, and the four notes that Marshmello's put together in sequence are indeed notes that work together in a sequence. Even when the drops become tiresome (immediately), there's comfort in the fact that Marshmello stays mostly out of Khalid's way.
Okay, fine, it's good. It's a good Marshmello song. He cheated by getting Khalid to do the vocals, but it's good. It sounds a bit like that Justin Bieber-featuring Major Lazer song that you can't pretend you didn't listen to a hundred times last summer. Listen to "Silence" below.
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