“I remember feeling like if the song ever came out and hit the radio, it could change music,” Boyd says. “And it did.”
Boyd first presented the track to Bieber -- a longtime collaborator for whom Boyd also co-write hits including “What Do You Mean?” and “Hold Tight” -- in 2014, when they were attending a Dave Chappelle show at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado for Bieber’s birthday. Bieber sent the song to his manager Scooter Braun, who passed it to a few producers.
In this mix was Jack Ü, who were then in the process of making their 2015 debut LP Skrillex and Diplo Present Jack Ü. The duo’s only album to date, the LP and subsequent big-league festival sets marked a collaboration between two of the most successful, prolific and boundary-pushing producers of the EDM era. As Jack Ü, Skrillex and Diplo took “Where Are Ü Now” and applied their technical prowess, adding drums, filtering vocals and generally manipulating the track into an entirely new form.
“Sonny [Skrillex] sent back the version a week or two later,” Boyd says. “And it was just magic. I had never heard anything like it.”
“Where Are Ü Now” hit No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July of 2015, ultimately spending 45 weeks on the chart and earning Jack Ü and Bieber the 2016 Grammy for best dance recording. (Skrillex and Diplo Present Jack Ü also took home the award for best dance/electronic album.) In March of 2015, the duo closed out Ultra Music Festival in Miami with the track, with Bieber dancing onstage and Diddy getting on the mic to announce he’d “never seen anything like this” as fans cried in the audience and fireworks lit the sky.
While the pop/electronic crossover hit wasn’t a new phenomenon in 2015 -- Calvin Harris, Avicii and Swedish House Mafia had all scored them already at that point -- with its instrumental chorus, drops and pitched up vocals “Where Are Ü Now” presented mainstream music with a new and thoroughly futuristic song format that inspired everyone from EDM stars like The Chainsmokers and Loud Luxury to country artist Zac Brown.