Album review: Zedd’s ‘True Colors’

Annie Zaleski

Three stars

Zedd True Colors

EDM phenom Zedd has always stood out from the pack. Born in Russia and raised in Germany, the classically trained 25-year-old plays piano and drums—he kept time for the metal band Dioramic as a teen—and was inspired to delve into electronic music thanks to French shapeshifters Justice. As a result of this background, Zedd creates music with meticulous arrangements, vivid textures and a flair for the dramatic, as heard on Top 40 smashes “Clarity” and “Stay the Night.”

On True Colors, Zedd somewhat de-emphasizes the 8-bit video game-isms and head-spinning sonic effects that marked his debut full-length, Clarity. While these elements do pop up on occasion—the marbled techno charging through opener “Addicted to a Memory;” the scrambled, aggressive house attack “Bumble Bee;” spritely keyboards skipping through “Straight Into the Fire”—he largely favors the soaring, heartstring-tugging approach of his biggest crossover pop hits, pairing artists such as Selena Gomez, Jon Bellion and Echosmith with sentiment-imbued synth-pop and aspirational lyrics. Highlights include “Beautiful Now,” which features the Adam Lambert-esque Bellion, and the laid-back “Transmission,” a vocal pairing of hip-hop upstart Logic and soulful rockers X-Ambassadors.

True Colors falters, however, when it tries to sustain momentum. Like so many other vocalist-driven electronic albums, songs live or die by the cachet of its singers—and tunes like “Done With Love” and “Daisy,” which feature uncredited session vocalists, are too generic to make a lasting impression. Zedd’s determination to elevate electronic music to an art form remains admirable; on True Colors, his ambition doesn’t quite equal his execution.

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