2013 has been a year of unsuspecting comebacks and surprising summer hits. From Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” to Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” the Billboard Hot 100 spectrum has taken mainstream outlets through a whirlwind of delightful obscurity. Among this league of unforeseen blockbusters comes an impassioned Electronic/Dance masterpiece called “Clarity,” carved from German producer Anton Zaslavski, better known as Zedd.
Originally released in February of this year, the Foxes featured title song from Zaslavski’s 2012 debut album has found worldwide recognition, mainly in America where it sits highest at number eight on the Hot 100 charts, as well as number one on the Hot Dance Club Songs, marking “Clarity” as one of the staple summer songs of this year. Written in collaboration with Matthew Koma, Porter Robinson, and Skylar Grey, the end result is a titan-status pop anthem, disguised in dance glory, that twists its way through enough present genres and effortlessly found a way toward found massive success.
“Clarity” is structurally intellectual. Starting out with minimal key, string, and percussion sections, the track slowly builds over a verse, chorus, and post-chorus timeframe. Eventually, the song comes down for a moment with two reverberated percussion fills, then moves into a danced-out chorus once more. What’s most interesting about this song is the moment after the second chorus, the one that contains panned instrumentation of which almost completely fades out for a moment before the a second movement of the song comes into place.
Sure, in terms of the Dance music genre, this Zedd single falls in line with something Tiesto was going for in his Kaleidoscope days. But, in regards to song structure, nothing about “Clarity” screams formula-oriented for radio; which is what makes this track’s rise to fame so incredible and refreshing.
Lyrically, the title track finds steadiness amongst romanticizing intense passion through trying times in relationships. This method of songwriting is found throughout music, period, but it’s done so indirectly at times, while allowing the metaphorical paintings to proliferate. “A clock ticks ’til it breaks your glass and I drown in you again” delicately references the time theme of which Clarity is comprised of (both the first song on the record “Hourglass” and closing “Epos” contain ticking ticking clock noises) while it hones in to the song’s content through a series of blooded questions; “If our love is tragedy why are you my remedy? If our love’s insanity why are you my clarity?”
The engineering on Zedd’s projects aren’t the best. We’ve brought this up in the past on our review of Born This Way by Lady Gaga [click here], and while the mastering on Gaga’s projects wouldn’t necessarily reflect the final pressings of her collaborator’s projects, Anton’s debut record runs squashed at an average of 4dB of dynamic range. While it is dance music and most EDM seems to be running extra hot nowadays, it’s inexcusable; especially with a project that shine’s melodically as much as this record.
Regardless, the Foxes featured “Clarity” single is immaculate. Zedd’s classically trained skills show greatly on this record, as does his knack for crafting songs with movement, rather than bland dance-turned-pop offerings heard throughout most of the Pop spectrum.
Ultimately, he’s sexy, he’s smart, he’s talented and in terms of song composition, production, and structure. He’s given the main outlets of music some clarity into what the EDM community is capable of: timeless dance records.