If this year’s Ultra Music Festival had a theme, it was cross-genre collaboration.
The Miami dance music festival boasts a history of surprise guests, most notably Madonna’s cameo during Avicii‘s set in 2012, but this year’s installment was especially star-studded. With marquee acts like Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Usher and Diddy taking the stage to support various DJs, the festival entered a new era of crossover relevancy indicative of dance music’s current popularity.
Plenty of DJs supported their own as well. New York producer Penguin Prison jumped on stage to perform with Solidisco, and Dutch heavyweights Martin Garrix, Nicky Romero and Afrojack surprised thousands of fans who came to see David Guetta perform on Sunday evening. And when in-person treats weren’t feasible, there was often evidence of behind-the-scenes collaborations. Artists such as Nicky Romero and Axwell and Ingrosso teased unreleased tracks with Nile Rodgers and Pharrell, using their sets to preview the soundtrack of the pending festival season. Below, we’ve rounded up 10 genre-blending highlights from the wild weekend in South Florida.
Skrillex surprises with Justin Bieber, Diddy, Diplo and Kiesza
While the rumored Missy Elliot appearance didn’t materialize, Jack U’s main stage takeover had plenty of star power. Justin Bieber took the stage to deafening screams to perform “Where Are U Now” with emphatic gestures and robot dance moves, while Diddy pumped up the crowd on the mic. Kiesza and South Korean singer CL also made surprise appearances during Skrillex’s set to perform “Dirty Vibe.” As fireworks signaled the set’s end, the artists exchanged hugs and smiles onstage while the crowd continued showering them in cheers.
Martin Garrix and Usher join forces on “Don’t Look Down”
Last week, wunderkind Swedish EDM producer Martin Garrix released his new music video for “Don’t Look Down” featuring vocals from the legendary Usher. It was a watermark moment in the 18-year-old’s career and a monumental event for Ultra Music Festival as the Atlanta singer joined his collaborator on the Main Stage, Saturday night. Usher sang the song live as both men jumped on the decks in excitement. Fans whipped out camera phones as fireworks exploded overhead.
Ariana Grande sings two songs with Cashmere Cat
This time last year, Norwegian producer Cashmere Cat was a strong underground favorite known for his perfect mix of hyphy Jersey club beats with sweet yet somewhat melancholy melodies. His career exploded in 2014 when he teamed up with Ludacris, Jeremih, Wiz Khalifa, and most recently, pint-size pop princess Arianna Grande. He made his Ultra debut Sunday at the World Stage and cemented himself as a crossover king when the singer showed up to close the set with a live performance of “Be My Baby” and “Adore.”
DJ Snake gives fans Dillon Francis’ phone number
Phones suck, Friends rule…. @djsnake pic.twitter.com/FVcLNT2dIo
— Dillon Francis (@DILLONFRANCIS) March 30, 2015
Dillon Francis is often referred to as dance music’s prankster, but the joke was on him this weekend. Following a joint performance of collaborative single “Get Low,” DJ Snake posted Dillon’s number on the Main Stage’s massive LED screens to the delight of fans who flooded his inbox with thousands of text messages within minutes. Francis took to Twitter to jokingly blast Snake, post hilarious images of the aftermath and assure everyone that he’d replaced it with a new number.
Axwell & Ingrosso tease collaborations with Pharrell and Salem Al Fakir
Since the split of Swedish House Mafia, Axwell and Ingrosso have signed a major label deal with Def Jam and released a flurry of singles and dramatic music videos teasing up their debut album as a duo. One of those singles, “This Time We Can’t Go Home,” features rapper Pusha T and premiered at New York’s Governor’s Ball last summer. In keeping with the trend of festival debuts, they chose Ultra to tease a few of their new collaborations with Pharrell and Swedish singer Salem Al Fakir. All are expected to appear on their forthcoming album due out in September.
Claude Vonstroke and Green Velvet come together as Get Real
During last year’s Miami Music Week, Dirtybird label boss Claude Vonstroke and Chicago house legend Green Velvet (who also performs under the moniker Cajmere) performed a spontaneous back-to-back set at the Delano hotel’s club FDR. Over the following months, they formalized the collaboration and dubbed the side project Get Real. It was only fitting that the pair would make their festival debut at back in Miami one year later, and they dressed the part: Vonstroke wore a white tee that said “Get,” and Green Velvet in a corresponding black tee that said “Real.”
Tiësto brings KSHMR onstage for “Secrets”
The moment @kshmr revealed himself during my set @ultra and we played our single #SECRETS together! Now you finally know how he looks like! Check the live stream of this in my bio! #Ultra2015
The Tiësto brand has become synonymous with that of Ultra, having headlined the festival for more than a decade. It’s fitting he chose the Miami crowd to premiere his latest single “Secrets” in collaboration with LA’s KSHMR. The latter came out to join Tiësto in it’s reveal, addressing fans and thanking the Dutch icon for having been his inspiration to first write dance music years ago.
Steve Aoki joined by Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike
The cake-tossing Dim Mak mastermind gave fans a heaping dose of new music from upcoming LP Neon Future II. Not to be outdone by the landslide of special guest appearances, he thrilled crowds with a surprise performance from 3 Are Legend, his new supergroup along with Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike.
Kygo debuts new track with Sia
Three days after trotting out singers Brika, Kyla La Grange, Parson James, James Hersey for an acoustic sunset performance, the Norwegian tropical house artist unveiled his new live setup on Ultra’s Live Stage. Flanked by onstage flames, Kygo played live keyboard lines and premiered a new unreleased track called “Oasis” featuring Australian singer Sia.
“I got the demo a couple months ago and really liked the piano melody,” he says. “It’s a bit faster than my other tracks at 120 bpm. I’m a big fan of her.”
Carl Cox unveils collaboration with Nile Rodgers
Carl Cox is an icon in his own right, but even his techno highness gets giddy in the presence of disco giant Nile Rodgers. The pair recently teamed up in the studio on a number of upcoming tracks, a glimpse of which revelers were treated to during Cox’ headlining sets Friday and Saturday night in the Megastructure that bears his name. Keep an eye out for official releases later this year