In a live interview streamed through his Potato YouTube channel last night, Diplo promised the release party for Major Lazer’s new album, Free the Universe, would be the “weirdest night ever.” While that goal might not have been reached, there certainly were elements of the unusual inside Orchid Restaurant in Los Angeles on Tuesday night. While Diplo’s Potato partners (and fellow Billboard cover boys) A-Trak and Skrillex mingled with the crowd, posing for photos with fans and chatting with the handful of industry professionals present, an emcee donning a cowboy hat addressed the crowd, making it clear this was not a typical release party.
The choice of venue (a Korea Town karaoke bar) was somewhat of an oddity, but it lent itsel to several rousing performances. While Diplo’s memory of lyrics to 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” was a little disappointing, he and AM Only agent Lee Anderson demonstrated some impressive freestyle rap skills instead. This was nothing compared to the next song: Justin Timberlake’s “Like I Love You,” sung live by A-Trak with Diplo mimicking some guitar playing by his side. Singer and occasional Mr. Oizo collaborator Lola Delon’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” blew everyone away (setting the bar for quality that went disappointingly unmatched). Atlantic recording artist and Skrillex collaborator pennybirdrabbit delivered the oddly chosen Maroon 5’s “Sunday Morning” before former Shiny Toy Guns frontwoman Sisely Treasure belted Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way.” But as with all karaoke parties, the mood died later with a single indulgent song choice by someone nobody wanted to hear sing (whose identity we will protect out of respect).
The idea for the event just might have been born from Big Beat GM Liz Miller’s industry karaoke party during Miami Music Week back in March: Miller was in attendance, along with Warner/Chappell’s Charlie Amter, and reps from the power trio’s press agency Biz3.
With all this haphazard musical activity one would be forgiven for forgetting that Free the Universe was the reason for the party. Apart from being played early in the evening, there was nary a mention of the album. Diplo was happily glad-handing and hugging his buddies Skrillex and Alex Ridha (Boys Noize), making it clear this was less a promotional or even listening event and more of a celebration of a long-awaited and hard-won release.