After years of smash hit collaborations and remixes, it’s amazing that Steve Aoki has never released his own album.
Aoki, an icon in the electronic music world, is best known for his signature locks, facial hair and riotous live performances. His seminal track “Warp” has been a staple at college parties for years.
Wonderland, the new 13-track album from Aoki, has finally given the electronic phenomenon something to call his own.
Though this is Aoki’s first official studio album, Wonderland is filled to the brim with big-time collaborative artists. Rivers Cuomo of Weezer, LMFAO, Kid Cudi, Travis Barker and Lil Jon are just a few artists to join Aoki on this album. Taking a cue from the diverse collaborating artists, the album’s influences range from hard rock to pure pop to dirty dubstep.
The album begins with “Earthquakey People,” a collaboration with Rivers Cuomo. This endlessly dance-enducing, electro-groove track comes off surprisingly as borderline rapping from Cuomo. “Earthquakey People” is downright funky, with a bright, poppy chorus that is pure fun, fueled by playful lyrics: Earthquakey people, jump around / ready to shake with the power of sound. Aoki constructs the track beautifully around Cuomo’s vocals, and it’s contagious.
Aoki follows this up with “Ladi Dadi (feat. Wynder Gordon),” which begins with some calm, Kaskade-esque grooving and seductive vocals from Gordon layered on top. The track gradually elevates to an unexpected dubstep-infused chorus. Aoki masterfully manipulates rhythm on this track, and the result is a blast that is epic and sophisticated.
Another standout track is “Emergency,” a collaboration with Lil Jon and Chiddy Bang. “Emergency” begins with Lil Jon yelling, This girl is so hot / it’s an emergency that I get her out of the club. Despite the stereotypical Lil Jon intro, the track continues with a solid rap by Chiddy Bang, which builds up to an absolutely epic chorus. Aoki brilliantly synthesizes melody, rhythm and Lil Jon into a banging chorus.
“Livin’ My Love” is one of the most popular tracks on Wonderland. The track is star-packed, featuring NERVO and LMFAO, and the song sounds a lot like something the latter would create. Aoki’s own influence is subtle here — Aoki purists will be disappointed. But with an addictive chorus and solid production, this song could certainly blow up into a party hit.
“Steve Jobs (feat. Angger Dimas)” pays tribute to the man who revolutionized DJing and music production with the hardware he created. The song begins with video game synth sounds building into a big house line, followed by a bass-infused, trance-esque chorus. This track is one that is sure to be remixed.
“Cudi the Kid” begins in typical Cudi style — dreamy and reflective — but Aoki smashes his way into the song with a hard, grinding chorus, backed by Travis Barker’s furious drumming. “Cudi the Kid” is an interesting collaboration that crosses several genres successfully, showing off Aoki’s versatility.
“Earthquakey People (The Sequel)” re-mashes the album’s initial poppy track into an electronic banger. Aoki mixes Cuomo’s vocals into several haunting, frenetic buildups that crash down into a hard-hitting, synth-heavy chorus.
With a huge infusion of vocals and prominent collaborating artists, some critics have deemed Aoki too mainstream. Though this album certainly has a poppier feel to it, it’s a credit to Aoki that he can fuse so many different styles and artists into one album while maintaining its relevancy. Aoki is “mainstream” in the sense that he’s at the forefront of the electronic music movement, not because of his lack of originality or mimicry.
Wonderland is not just Aoki’s first album — it is literally a wonderland, an album chock-full of an amazing variety of genre-mashing, collaboration-infused grooving. It’s a stellar “first” album effort, one sure to solidify and extend the reign of one of electronic music’s foremost kings.