A Film Noir-esque saxophone sets the scene in the introductory song. Black and white imagery shifts to that of blinding color as the listener falls musically down a rabbit hole and through the decades. Bright city lights emerge and disappear as an escalator is descended. Growing in volume, a subway train rolls by, the wind billowing along after it. Dr. Maya Angelou echoes in the background, speaking of the “nobleness of the human spirit,” and the notion is suggested that people can begin each day anew. Her words distort with the electric guitar and echo into the perfect segue and theme for the rest of the album.ZHU is not a new artist, rather the Katy Perry of the electronic world. With his hit “Faded” in 2014, he raked in millions of digital downloads and streams. With Generationwhy, it is clear that ZHU took his time producing this debut. While many Electronica DJs are only interested in keeping the party going with surface level lyrics, single-faceted ideas, and predictable beats, ZHU seems to have a different agenda. While the album upholds the catchiness of the EDM scene and may not look like much more at first glance, these songs, when held under a magnifying glass, are much more complex: politically and historically.
In the song “Cold Blooded,” the pursuit of a dangerous love is too exciting to stop. The tempo is manically taken up with the prominent drum lines and depressively down with synth throughout the song, concluding with a person’s footsteps walking towards the listener, throwing some ice in a glass. Flowing seamlessly into “In the Morning,” the narrative continues.There are fourteen tracks on Generationwhy, and smack dab in the middle is his track titled “Money.” ZHU was clearly going for the concept album feel, but the tilting and positioning of this particular song leads me to believe it was influenced by Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. “Money” begins with the beep of a cash register and the printing of a receipt. Then, a forklift reverse signal resounds, which is promptly cut off by a smooth synthesizer. The deep, parallel topic is accompanied by a relaxed vibe that includes choral singers flawlessly harmonizing with ZHU.
Another song, “Secret Weapon,” features Nylo (aka Andrea Landis). ZHU’s falsetto perfectly complements Nylo’s breathy tone in this song about a dangerous, fated love. The use of cliché could have been avoided in he second verse with the lines, “Two can keep a secret / But you know that only true when one of them is dead.” If an idea could be copyrightable, The Pierces would call dibs on damages.
“Secret Weapon” is the first song of a few on the album in which ZHU introduces some less-known artist features, which speaks to ZHU’s involvement and procreation of the EDM scene.In the closing bonus song, “Working For It,” ZHU features Skrillex and THEY.
Combining his experience and contacts with smaller names proves that ZHU genuinely cares about the quality of his content, not just about numbers that sit beside dollar signs.