When Jack Ü debuted in 2013, Diplo and Skrillex were already two of the country's highest-profile producers. The dubstep king won three Grammys in 2011, the same year Calvin Harris broke new ground for dance-pop crossover with Rihanna collab “We Found Love.”
“EDM” had become a household name, and its high-powered synth melodies reigned supreme. Avicii was the one DJ to rock an arena tour Stateside, while DJ Snake and Lil Jon's “Turn Down for What” had just taken lead on the dance-trap revolution.
Neither Diplo nor Skrill had broken the Hot 100 top 50 when they surprised fans with a back-to-back set at the San Diego Mad Decent Block Party in September 2013, but the news of their collaboration hit Billboard, MTV and the EDM blog scene hard. They teased fans with unreleased songs, introducing a funk-laced, hard-edged and high-energy sound.
When Jack Ü played Ultra Music Festival's Miami main stage in March 2014, they still hadn't released any official music. It was another seven months until fans were graced with “Take Ü There” featuring Kiesza. The song was an instant smash for dance floors across clubs and festival grounds, ushering in what would become Jack Ü's hallmark mix of erratic noise and undeniable hooks.
The debut single's bittersweet piano melody and euphoric house builds gave way to a wonky breakdown that defied classification. An off-center rhythm stomped like some happy-go-lucky monster drooling with drunken joy, while hard vocal chops, 808 hi-hats and even honking car horns built a great wall of sound. Every layer of the production was capital-C clean, pushing the single to No. 14 on the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart.
With one single out, Jack Ü headlined Madison Square Garden's NYE 2015 celebration, flanked by performances by A$AP Ferg, Rudimental and Yellow Claw.
The group's next single, released in February 2015, would define more than one career. “Where Are Ü Now” saved newly grown child star Justin Bieber from a notorious nosedive. The co-sign from electronic music's coolest power couple gave the singer street cred and opened the door for a new chapter in his sound and style. Katie Couric came to interview Skrillex about it, putting his technique of pitching and twisting vocals into an unrecognizable melody on full mainstream display, while the New York Times interviewed Skrillex, Diplo and Bieber in a deep dive on the making of the track.
Skrillex returned to Ultra Miami a month later for a close-out main stage set. Diplo joined the stage for the final half-hour, and the impromptu Jack Ü takeover became a star-studded affair. There were special guest performances from Kiesza, K-Pop star CL, Diddy and, last but far from least, Bieber. Scooter Braun, who manages Bieber, has credited the Ultra crowd's immediate roar of approval with having been the critical push for his client's evolution. Skrillex went on to co-produce five of the 13 songs on Bieber's seminal 2015 album, Purpose.
This was the stage upon which the Jack Ü album was born. It was all but destined to conquer, a harbinger of the genre-less and borderless shift music would take in the years to come. The duo celebrated its release with a 24-hour back-to-back DJ set at a house part in Los Angeles. The marathon was streamed live on Twitch and shut down by police 18 hours in.
Every one of the album's 10 tracks was an eclectic electrical fire. In Diplo's own words via the slowed-down psychedelic intro “Don't Do Drugs Just Take Some Jack Ü,” “there's 2 million-jillion-hundred watts of electrical vibes -- electric voltage coming through these speakers right into your ear holes.”
It tied NoLa bounce, reggae, future bass and dancehall with the fierce and biting strangeness that was its parents' combined sonic palettes. It is a hard album, an explosive collage that could never be repeated by another collective mind. Even the melodic-driven tunes “Mind” and “To U” made room for pop appeal while packing a mind-bending punch of the experimental and bizarre.
Most importantly, the album was fearless; just two buddies having a good time, letting their inner party children run loose. Skillex and Diplo Present Jack Ü proved that electronic music could crossover without sticking to cliches. “Where Are Ü Now” gave both producers their first Hot 100 top 10 hit and earned Diplo his first Grammy win. It took home Best Dance Recording, followed soon by the LP's Best Dance/Electronic Album award.
In August 2016, Skrillex tweeted that Jack Ü was “done touring for a long long time,” and even though he soon deleted the tweet, we've never heard a peep. In 2017, Diplo told now-defunct Australian outlet inthemix that Jack Ü was “complicated” because of contractural obligations to major labels.
Jack Ü's own end mirrored EDM's decline. Two months after that Grammy win, Pitchfork dropped a think-piece about “EDM's bubble burst." By October, The Chainsmokers would make their big come-back with “Closer,” a song as far removed form club culture as a “dance music” act could ever be. The overblown flash of Vegas megaclubs drove many partiers toward darker “underground” sounds, a trend Ultra respected with its Resistance Stage debut in 2018.
Five years after the album release and four years after the group's breakup, Jack Ü remains one of the most powerful acts in modern dance, racking up more than four million Spotify streams a month. Diplo and Skrillex continue to dominate with more Grammy wins, No. 1 hits and high-profile collaborations. There's never been even a hint of a Jack Ü reunion, but we'll always have that 35-month whirlwind when two titans became one.