Perhaps today just wasn’t the right day for Robin Schulz to put out a house album. For all intents and purposes, Sugar is a sincere enough collection of four-four dance music – but when it’s measured against the yardstick of Kaskade’s Automatic and Disclosure’s Caracal, both of which also came out today, it comes across as a largely risk-less attempt to reach the widest audience possible while still maintaining some semblance of artistic integrity.
To his credit, Schulz did succeed in making a consistent follow-up effort to 2014’s Prayer. Every track on the album features the stylistically mature marriage between groove and melody that Schulz has developed over the last decade or so. Heavily driven by both instrumentals and lyrics, the songs on Sugar certainly don’t come across as the attempts of a novice producer, and some are even profound in their own right.
Nonetheless, most of them feel like they’ve been delivered from an assembly line. While influences on the album range from deep to tropical house, all of the tracks end up fitting neatly into the packaging of pop music when it occurs to you that you wouldn’t be surprised to hear them blasting from the tinny overhead speakers of a retail outlet in a strip mall.
What ends up being most memorable about Sugar is its re-imaginings of mainstream pop songs like Eagle-Eye Cherry’s 1997 anthem “Save Tonight” or “Sugar” by Baby Bash, the latter of which Schulz even chose as the title of the entire effort despite having heavily borrowed from the original. Songs like “Show Me Love” and “This is Your Life” still make the whole of the album worth a listen, even if they blend together into what ultimately makes for little more than pleasant background music.
The most bizarre track of the album comes in the form of “Titanic,” a pan flute-heavy tropical house number featuring vocals by Schulz himself. It actually starts out showing the most promise of any song on the album with its unorthodox use of instrumental samples, but the vibe is ruined by an out-of-place sample of Schulz uttering the title of the title of the song in monotone before each bridge, which makes it sound like a watermarked sample on an AudioJungle download. Ironically, the one instance on the album at which Schulz tried to push the envelope made for its most cringeworthy moment.
For what seems like a laundry list of shortcomings when compared to the other big albums hitting the market today, the misses on Robin Schulz‘ Sugar are actually fairly minimal. Besides that, in the grand scheme of electronic music, being unmemorable isn’t the worst thing an artist can be and seeing as how he’s only two studio albums deep, Schulz will still have plenty of opportunities to contribute to the global conversation that is dance music in the years to follow.
Don't get us wrong, Robin Schulz' sophomore album, Sugar, isn't a bad collection of tracks - it simply falls short of making as powerful a mark as some of the other recent EDM albums we've been seeing. Thoughtful arrangements and close attention to detail still make it worth a listen though, making Schulz an artist to keep an eye on in the months to follow.