The divide in dance music between mainstream and underground is growing by the day, but some artists refuse to pick sides. Dillon Francis, EDM’s resident funnyman, is one of them. When the Los Angeles producer, 27, signed to Columbia Records in the spring after releasing one-offs on tastemaking indies like Skrillex’s OWSLA, he faced a conundrum: Make a street-cred-worthy moombahton album for his rabid fans, or aim for pop glory and risk alienating them? It seems Francis couldn’t decide, as his debut LP, Money Sucks, Friends Rule, is both.
It’s fitting, then, that the project has a few contradictions, with sugary big-room bangers (“We Are Impossible” featuring The Presets) alongside more sophisticated club fare (“Set Me Free”). His collaborators play all sides of all fences, from rapper Twista to Panic at the Disco’s Brendon Urie to Lily Elise, a former contestant on The Voice.
The beats are serious business – Francis has an undeniable ear for what makes the kids move – but the lyrics often border on parody: “Don’t be afraid of a love like thunder,” sings Elise on “Hurricane,” a song with so many weather metaphors, you can’t help but wonder if Francis would spoof it on his own Instagram. (That’s where he sometimes posts videos as DJ Hanzel, an alter-ego that mocks EDM’s many diva DJs. That has been one way Francis has built a cult following that sees him as dance music’s handsome class clown.) This LP may not win him respect from the genre police he pokes fun at, but as long as Francis can keep kids laughing and dancing, it may not matter.