At a time when some collaborations are drawn up in corporate boardrooms, Jack Ü‘s is based on genuine friendship.
After moving to LA, Diplo says Skrillex was the first to welcome him (with an invite to a Matthew Dear show, no less), and they eventually became “best friends in a lot of ways.” That’s hardly news for the millions of fans who tune into the duo’s daily antics on Facebook, Twitter, and particularly, Snapchat. But Jack Ü also finds root in a mutual respect for each other’s artistry.
“I just think that Sonny is the best sound designer there is right now,” Diplo says.
It’s hard to argue otherwise. Sounding both unique and accessible at the same time is deceptively difficult, but Skrillex’s modulated synth leads and pitched vocal sorcery are as impressive to studio engineer’s ears as they are appealing to the casual radio listener. Combined with Diplo’s strengthened sense of songwriting — following sessions with the likes of Max Martin, Benny Blanco and Dr. Luke — it’s an undeniable recipe for success.
“I just became a stronger songwriter to where he brings in the craziest sound design you can have,” Diplo says. “But I’m also in his world, too, so I understand how he can mix that stuff together. With the Jack Ü album, it’s like we’re trying to build songs. Strong songwriting but then we have to make something that sounds like punk rock, and it’s still weird, crazy and exciting.”
Jack Ü’s Mad Decent Block Party closing set at Brooklyn’s MCU Park on Sunday (Aug. 9) was all that and more. Perhaps most striking is how well the artists complement each other onstage. It only takes one DJ behind the decks to mix at a time, so the duo have embraced their newfound freedom in a way that Swedish House Mafia never took beyond fist-pumping.
Skrillex and Diplo switched off dancing wildly atop the DJ booth, zipping about the stage on futuristic IO Hawks, doing their best Iwo Jima impressions with smiling logo-emblazoned flags, and constantly goading the exuberant crowd to turn up even further.
The result? The show’s energy level never flagged from muscular opener “Take U There” with Kiesza to confetti-flooded finale “Where Are U Now” and throbbing funk encore “Show Me Love.” Pairing remixes of radio hits by Rihanna and Fetty Wap with fan favorites cherry-picked from each artist’s catalog — such as “Lean On,” “Bangarang” and “Revolution” — Jack Ü’s set-list sported the look of a greatest hits.
Jack Ü’s combined star power and recent chart success have also given them the clout to pull a continual stream of special guests at their shows. Sunday featured the fresh-faced Silentó performing his viral hit “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae),” as well as a fierce version of “No Chill” by Vic Mensa — who wore a black uniform with “Fuck” scrawled over its “Police” insignia to honor the #BlackLivesMatter movement on the anniversary of Michael Brown’s death.
But it was Korean pop star CL (of girl group 2NE1 fame) that drew the evening’s loudest cheers for her steamy renditions of “Dr. Pepper” and “Dirty Vibe.” Managed by Scooter Braun Projects, the Seoul native has crossover in her crosshairs with a full-fledged solo LP set to drop next year — and the commanding stage presence she showed on Sunday night should aid her pursuit.
Dance acts have long struggled to hold their own as headliners. For many, the solution has manifested in a stage production arms race that saw deadmau5‘s “Cube,” Dillon Francis‘ “The Gary,” and countless others channel Daft Punk‘s famous Alive 2007 pyramid. It’s an approach that Skrillex adopted as well during his Mothership tour. But no spaceships were needed on Sunday night — Jack Ü’s raw energy was enough to enthrall their young audience and perhaps set a new performance standard.
“Tonight is probably our best Jack Ü show ever,” gushed Diplo during the finale. “I want to say that right now.”
That may be true for now, but it’s unlikely to stand for long. These two artists are only just beginning to explore their partnership’s full potential.
— MDBP (@MDBlockParty) August 10, 2015