DJ Hanzel, DJ Rich As Fuck, Drunk Chef, Rave Dad, Diplo’s BFF….whichever alias you choose to call Dillon Francis by, you can’t deny that the DJ is currently one of the fastest rising stars in EDM. Though he’s been making music for years now, the Mad Decent recruit has experienced a meteoric rise in fame and popularity over the past year or so. Now a common face at most major festivals, and collaborating with everyone from Diplo to Calvin Harris, the young artist has finally released his first studio album, and it’s pretty damn close to perfect.
Titled Money Sucks, Friends Rule, the disc spans a whole variety of genres, from trap to moombahton and everything in between. Whether it’s the electro-reggae track “We Make It Bounce” or the emotionally charged “Love In The Middle of a Firefight,” there’s truly something here for everyone, no matter where your music tastes lie.
But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
Kicking off the album is “All That,” featuring Twista & The Rejectz. While not a bad way to start things off, and certainly not a subpar track, I do have to admit that “All That” isn’t really what its title implies. It’s a pure trap song with Twista spitting fire (seriously, you can’t even tell what he’s saying at some points because he’s going so fast) over a fast-paced synth beat that builds into a chorus which levels things out slightly, thanks to a funky rhythm. Unfortunately, the song doesn’t do much to leave an impact as an album opener and not being a fan of trap, I just couldn’t get into it.
Thankfully, things turn around pretty quickly, as next up is “Get Low,” which was also the first single that we saw from the disc. Featuring DJ Snake, Francis takes us on a wild ride through the sounds of moombahton/trap with a bit of Middle Eastern flavor sprinkled in for good measure. As the same six words repeat over and over, “get low when the whistle blows,” the two Mad Decent producers give us a huge banger that’s already seen countless plays on the festival circuit. It hits hard, for sure, and will no doubt have people getting low on the dancefloor.
Oh, and the remix (also done by Francis and Snake) is pretty awesome, too.
Song number three is “When We Were Young,” which is probably the most accessible and mainstream track on the album. With the help of Sultan + Ned Shepard and The Chain Gang of 1974, Francis gives us a song that’s primed for main stage play. With its upbeat progressive sound, some may peg it as too mainstream and run of the mill, but there’s no denying how catchy this tune is. The feel good vibe underlying the track and a melodic riff throughout makes it quite different than what we’re used to hearing from Francis. While this may turn some people off, it will definitely open him up to a new audience.
For the fourth track, we get the much anticipated Martin Garrix collaboration, “Set Me Free.” Having been released a few weeks back as a single, the buzzy song has been a big hit so far and it’s easy to see why. Combining the Dutch DJ’s big room sound with Francis’ bouncy moombahton style and a huge drop, the result is a banger that should easily find a place in many upcoming festival sets. What I particularly love about this one is the powerful drop and the surprisingly melodic beat. They combine to give us an impressive collaboration and one that leaves us hoping that these two will team up somewhere down the road again.
“Drunk All The Time,” Money Sucks, Friends Rule‘s fifth song, is straight up infectious. It’s good that Francis saved this one for the album and didn’t release it beforehand because I think it’s going to take a lot of people by surprise. Teaming up once again with Simon Lord (the duo previously gave us Messages), we get a groovy synth-based beat encompassed by Lord’s soothing vocals, which result in a light, breezy listen that’s incredibly catchy and easy to chill out to. I wouldn’t expect to see it worked into many of Dillon’s sets, but it’s something a bit different and a nice change of pace from the big room sounds of “Set Me Free.”
“Love In The Middle of a Firefight” is the album’s definite crossover track, and is destined to be a hit. My favorite song on Money Sucks, Friends Rule, this one features Panic! At The Disco singer Brendan Urie laying down some emotional and easy to sing along with vocals on top of a track that’s definitely got a bit of an electro-rock/pop vibe to it, which once again demonstrates Francis’ tremendous versatility. I dig how Dillon lets Urie’s vocals take centre stage here, and doesn’t overload the song with too many EDM elements. No heavy drops or distracting builds, just an emotive anthem carried by some beautiful vocals and a steady beat.
Best song on the album? Quite possibly.
Next up is the first song on the album not to feature anyone else, and it’s an odd one. Titled “Not Butter,” the strange electro track has a female robotic voice talking about butter, telling us what we can put it on and what it goes with. It’s strange, for sure, and never really sat well with me despite giving it several listens. I’m sure “Not Butter” will find an audience, but this particular writer won’t be part of it.
“I Can’t Take It” is a fun song, and one that I’ve dug ever since Dillon released it as a single back in August. The moombahton track is a monstrous one that features some distorted vocals and a catchy, bouncy bassline. It’s a song that sees the DJ going back to his roots and should please longtime fans.
Another album highlight comes in the form of “We Are Impossible,” which has The Presets’ infectious vocals leading the way. Refreshing and pop-y, the progressive house song will have you singing along and its numerous dance elements will have crowds moving in no time.
“We Make It Bounce” brings with it a bass heavy beat that, like its moniker, makes the song bounce. Couple that with some reggae aesthetics and Major Lazer’s dancehall sounds, and you have a track that will have festivalgoers grooving up and down. Francis has already been working this one into his live sets and it’s been going over pretty well, so you can expect to see more of it in the near future.
“What’s That Spell” is Dillon’s collaboration with TJR, and it definitely sounds more like something out of his playbook than Dillon’s. Still, it’s an interesting song, as it mixes TJR’s bounce style with some of Francis’ signature moombahton/electro elements for a funky little tune that I definitely dig.
Finally, we have “Hurricane,” which closes off the album beautifully. Euphoric vocals from Lily Elise envelop the uplifting dance track and make for a very accessible listen. With its pop-esque sound, expect this one to be another song from Money Sucks, Friends Rule that sees a lot of mainstream attention.
So, where does that all leave us? Well, the randomness of the tracks definitely leads to a bit of a lack of cohesion in the album, but there is certainly one constant throughout, and that’s the fun factor. Money Sucks, Friends Rule is very clearly an album that was enjoyable for Francis to make. It never takes itself too seriously and gives the DJ a ton of opportunities to try out new sounds. He’s never been an artist who just pigeonholes himself into one genre, and it’s exciting to see him exploring so many different avenues here.
As a debut album, Money Sucks, Friends Rule is by all accounts a success, and only further cements Dillon Francis‘ status as one of EDM’s most exciting artists.
Though a couple of the tracks miss their mark, Dillon Francis' Money Sucks, Friends Rule is an impressive debut album, offering up a fun, energetic and unpredictable set of songs that show great promise and an exciting new direction for the DJ.