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Tiësto’s new album plays like a play for the mainstream

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Annie Zaleski
Two stars

Tiësto A Town Called Paradise

You have to feel for Tiësto. He might be a global superstar who commands respect for his trance and progressive house production and mixes, but he has yet to achieve the kind of mainstream crossover-pop saturation enjoyed by artists like Calvin Harris or David Guetta. His fifth studio album, A Town Called Paradise, certainly sounds like an attempt to remedy this: It’s all radio-friendly EDM whooshes and surges, midtempo BPMs, vague feel-good platitudes (e.g. “We live forever wherever we go”) and vocals from soulful-rock crooner Matthew Koma and electro rebels Krewella and Icona Pop. The results are mostly faceless, although certain songs do rise above the commercial gloss. “Written in Reverse” ends in a hard-driving flurry of turbocharged techno beats, while Ladyhawke’s brittle quirk-pop vocals redeem “Last Train” and a rework of Ou Est le Swimming Pool’s “The Feeling” amps up the longing and adds loopy electro-pop production. Still, the takeaway from A Town Called Paradise is that it’s mostly surface sentiments and dumbed-down music—in other words, full of songs calibrated perfectly for a massive headlining DJ set. And while pleasantly generic is acceptable for many acts, it’s big disappointment from Tiësto.

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