Fedde Le Grand’s paid his dues in the world of electronic music – there’s no doubt about that. From his humble beginnings as a purveyor of house and techno to the widespread success of “Put Your Hands Up For Detroit” (as well as his arduous efforts towards dispelling the resulting public perceptions of his being as a one-hit-wonder), the Dutch progressive house superstar boasts career highlights that up-and-comers dream of.
Taking his accolades into account, he had his work cut out for him while putting together his fourth studio-length album. With electronic music now more of an international commodity than ever, the effort had to compete with what other artists of comparable reputation have been turning out both conceptually and production wise.
Let me start off by saying that Something Real is a good album. But three or four years ago, it would have been a great album. Now, however, the EDM movement has reached such staggering heights that an artist practically has to put out a collection of songs worthy of their own religious doctrine to stand out.
Something Real makes its intentions known immediately by starting off with Fedde’s Merk & Kremont collaboration, “Give Me Some.” The soulful hook (a sample of Kylie Auldist’s vocal contribution to The Bamboos’ 2009 track “On The Sly”) effectively counterbalances the electro house verve of the production in a way that hints at what the rest of the album has in store. “Feel Good” and “I Can Feel,” which were collaborations with Holl & Rush and Cobra Effect, respectively, follow suit with a comparable synthesis between old and new dance music elements.
Just when you’re getting used to it, though, “Beauty from the Ashes” comes out of left field with Fedde’s very own take on trap music. Aside from 808 drum rolls and syncopated percussion, the track doesn’t betray his main stage sensibilities, but it nonetheless makes for an unexpected creative departure.
It’s not the only curveball in the entire effort, either. “Immortal” featuring Erene sees the DJ/producer try his hand at moombahton – and honestly, we wouldn’t call it an assault on the senses.
Still, the real standouts from Something Real are those that blend pop music sensibility with the invigorating energy of mainstream EDM. Tracks like Fedde’s Jonathan Mendelsohn collaboration, “Miracle,” thread together a combination of stylistic elements that give them the undeniable appeal which made his GRAND stage shows such audiovisual masterpieces. Of these, his Denny White collaboration, “Cinematic,” makes for the most infectious and memorable for how effectively it blends instrumentals, vocals and production elements.
Fedde Le Grand does win bonus points for his reimagining of Corona’s 1994 hit “Rhythm of the Night.” While all the other recent versions of the heavily remixed track fall into the over or underproduced categories, his version features updated sound design elements that don’t keep it from paying homage to the original – which Corona themselves even noticed, as they signed off on Fedde using the original vocal cut themselves.
While not the type of track that would see substantial radio play, “Shadows” featuring Jared Lee stands out as a particularly powerful track from the lot. Production and arrangement similarities liken it to Nicky Romero and Krewella’s 2013 track “Legacy,” balancing soft melodies with adrenaline-pumping urgency in a way that makes a stronger case for mainstream EDM than most of what’s on the market nowadays.
Curiously, however, Fedde chooses to end Something Real with something that instead comes across as trite and tragically manufactured. His Kepler collaboration, “The Noise,” features the sort of vocal hook that would find itself in a top 40 hip-hop track – and tumbles into a vapid big room house drop. As a whole, the track would grate on your ears even if it didn’t feature the “woo” sample that became one of EDM’s biggest clichés when Steve Angello used it in his 2010 track, “Knas.”
Overall, while it’s unlikely to be considered a contender for album of the year by anyone who closely follows contemporary electronic music, Fedde Le Grand‘s Something Real still comes across as an intelligent body of work which thoughtfully straddles the line between sophistication and mass appeal. It’s got its ups and downs, sure, but it’s a well produced effort and one that fans of the producer should definitely enjoy.
Even for its shortcomings, Fedde Le Grand’s Something Real remains a very respectable, fourth studio-length album for the producer.