Capping off a year littered with strong singles and star-studded collaborations, Kygo has finally released his long-awaited Sophomore record, Kids In Love. The eight track release consists of anthems for youth, romance, and chasing the promise of a better tomorrow. It does not reinvent the dance music wheel, but then again no one said it had to in order to be considered worthwhile.
Blame it on the string of EDM-fueled radio hits artists like The Chainsmokers have brought to the mainstream in recent years, but the bulk of Kids In Love feels like a collection of potential singles that never stray from the path of least originality. Slow burning verses give way to pulsating hooks that soar as much as they speak to the feeling of mutual attraction between two hopeless romantics. The guests are interchangeable, with male and female vocalists adding their unique croons over an ever-driving, but never aggressive ocean of synth that aims to fill your soul with joy. This is perhaps most evident on “Never Let You Go” and the title track, both of ” and the title track, both which detail how the sensation of young love can make you feel as if you’ll live forever. Kygo seems determined to capture those moments two people share when time appears to stop for just them in hopes of preserving such occurrences for the world to enjoy.
The thing about this goal however, is that seemingly every other artist in electronic music is seeking to celebrate and commit to song the exact same feelings. You don’t need to be a fan of the genre to know there is a wealth of great electronic artists producing sugary-sweet ear worms about youth and how the feeling of first love can make you feel both invincible and vulnerable simultaneously. There is no shortage of material like this in the current EDM ecosystem, and as a result much of Kids In Love ultimately falls into the grey area of being good without necessarily being memorable. The replay value may be high, but it’s unlikely many individual moments or lyrics will resonant on a deep level. This is due in part to the glut of similarly themed tracks, but also to the impeccably vague ways the material addresses the subjects at hand. It seems Kygo believes being relatable through lyricism matters more than originality, which in turn causes his songs to lack great emotional impact. It’s familiar without being too specific, like generic cola or off-brand candy.
Still it’s hard to imagine a lack of originality being enough to derail the rise of Kygo. Even his biggest hits, such as the Selena Gomez assisted track “It Ain’t Me,” retread tired thematic territory with anthemic sound. Being original in electronic music is no longer a prerequisite for success. The turnover on most material happens at a rate no individual artist can meet, which in turn has created communities built around niche corners of the genre that feature a dozen or more arguably similar artists feeding serving as the soundtrack for that group. Kygo falls right in line with some of the biggest names in electronic music today, and though he may sometimes be indiscernible from his peers the quality of the songs themselves is rarely brought into question. It’s all good, catchy, dance floor ready material that speaks to hope in the goodness that resides in us all. As long as Kygo continues to deliver quality attempts at ever-so-slightly moving his particular community forward there will be an audience willing to listen. More importantly, there will be those willing to pay to experience it live, which is really where artists like Kygo find the most success in 2017.
Kids In Love is ultimately not the record many may have expected, but it is nonetheless a worthwhile electronic release for those seeking a quick fix of nostalgia-laden elation set to synth and booming bass. It’s a perfectly enjoyable, largely forgettable release that will help extend the playlists of electronic music fans without altogether turning off any longtime Kygo listeners. The biggest complaint anyone can make is that it may be too safe, opting to play into what is proven to work rather than take a chance on something different. Kygo has the trust of his followers needed to attempt change, but for whatever reason he chooses to remain in the pocket and deliver material that can best be summarized as being ‘good enough.’ I believe he’s capable of more, and hopefully, in time, he will believe the same.