On the list of things that can supercharge a new artist’s career, a supportive tweet from Lady Gaga to her 30.2 million followers is right up there.
So on Aug. 22, when she tweeted, “Monsters you need to hear this amazing song by @Zedd,” with an iTunes link to his new single “Spectrum,” the 23-year-old producer/DJ instantly became a much bigger deal.
Overnight, “Spectrum” — which features singer/ songwriter Matthew Koma — shot from No. 23 to No. 10 on iTunes’ dance chart and it’s stayed in the top 10 since. On Sept. 1, the track hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Dance Club Songs tally, and spent two weeks at No. 1 on Dance/Mix Show Airplay. Total downloads are now at 97,000, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
But it’s not like Zedd, aka German native Anton Zaslavski, was obscure before. On the strength of his production work, the young artist became Interscope’s marquee EDM signing in June, with the trust and support of Interscope Geffen A&M chairman Jimmy Iovine, who even gave him his own studio, renamed “Zedd 1.” He also co-produced “Beauty and the Beat” for Justin Bieber’s Believe with Max Martin, and spent the summer on tour — and reportedly in the studio — with Lady Gaga.
According to Dave Rene, Interscope A&R rep and Zedd’s co-manager (with Tim Smith of Blood Company, also Skrillex’s manager), the single’s success “changed the whole game” for Zedd, as both an artist and a touring DJ. His first album, “Clarity” (Interscope), debuts at No. 38 on the Billboard 200 and at No. 2 on Dance/Electronic Albums, moving a respectable 12,000 units.
“‘Spectrum’ made him able to represent himself on a much broader level sonically,” Rene says. “He has what people have even called ‘Zedd style’ — harder, more electro niche stuff, but also extremely musical. I would always hear, ‘I wonder what else he can do.’ This track showed everyone.”
“Spectrum” has a hard edge, but with a lovey-dovey pop top-line by Koma, a new face who Rene first heard on Interscope rap artist Lil Playy’s 2011 single, “Birthday Dress.” Rene says, “I was like, ‘Who is that guy singing and who wrote that hook? He needs to start writing shit for the people I’m working with.'”
To drive home the musical message, Team Zedd followed up the “Spectrum” single release in June with a YouTube video showing the artist playing the track solo on a grand piano. It has racked more than 320,000 views, while the official clip — a man-meets-alien love story — has more than 1 million.
“Spectrum” not only re- established Zedd as a dance-pop purveyor, it opened the door to bigger DJ gigs. “He wasn’t getting a lot of heat on the live thing. His slots were not always that great,” Rene says, referring to set times at festival and nightclub gigs. “I’d say to myself, ‘Man, what’s the disconnect here?'”
If Zedd’s set at New York’s three-day Electric Zoo in September is any indication, that corner has also been turned. The crowd spilled well past the boundaries of the tent where he was playing a set dominated by his own tracks, and fans sang along to every word. It felt like Skrillex’s 2011 set at the same festival.
Zedd is in the midst of the coast-to-coast Poseidon tour with fellow EDM wunderkind Porter Robinson. The next single from “Clarity” will likely be its title track, which features Louisa Rose Allen from London-based duo Foxes, according to Rene. But Iovine reportedly doesn’t think that “Spectrum” is done yet.
“He thinks we went to radio too early,” Rene says, “but that in two months that song is going to be absolutely everywhere.”