Anthony Gonzalez has followed an unusual directional growth as a musician, transforming his at once dream-like production into a more streamlined approach, sacrificing his unique style in doing so. The blend of shoegaze and electronica that was done so masterfully on Dead Cities, Read Seas, & Lost Ghosts has long been stripped away in favor of a squeaky clean, polished pop sound. Following his success after the infectious “Midnight City”, Gonzalez has understandably began focusing on the synth-pop approach to electronica a la Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, which remains his least forward-thinking and safest release. Unfortunately for fans of what M83 used to be, it’s also by far his most popular.
So, what we’re left with is an artist shedding away his past ideals in favor of appealing to the masses. And what exactly do the masses want? Because there are times where the general consensus still feels like the right one, where the audience genuinely craves more of what truly made an artist great. I mean, “Do It, Try It” was pretty abhorrent, but maybe the newest single will be less self-indulgent and more of the middle ground between the new and the old.
A quick scroll through the YouTube comments on the official audio page for the newest single “Solitude” shows a lot of hope. The reception is overwhelmingly positive, despite the opening organ and vocalization being the kind of slow-paced masturbatory sound M83 has been moving closer toward with every release. This new single never lets up in its pseudo-sophistication and sleekness, offering up light orchestration and synth solos that feel completely without substance; a lightly inoffensive track masquerading as grandiose, topped off with a Bond-esque array of emotionality.
Potentially the worst element of this track is the overwhelmingly undeserved positive feedback it’s received from the hypnotized fanbase. By accepting “Solitude” as exceptional, M83’s fans confirm that their choice in direction is beyond reproach. Barring inappropriate comparisons, it represents the laziest way to produce music that falls in the shadow of the old M83. The lyricism has a forced loftiness to it, a glazed atmosphere that screams “minimalism can be a substitute for effort”. Why write well-thought-out verses when you can have a bridge drift in, surrounded by five minutes of instrumentation that’s just so endearing and powerful?
I didn’t doubt Gonzalez in the early 2000’s. But after this unbelievably well-received change in style, you have every reason to doubt him. Substance is no longer the name of the game. For M83, music has become a commercialization, capitalizing on the most bare and tired tropes in synth pop. And for his newfound fans, it’s apparently exactly the kind of approach to musicality that should be applauded. The offensively bad can be followed by the inoffensively bland and be heralded as a comparative masterpiece, despite being its own brand of mediocrity. It’s honestly too soon to call whether Junk will be atrociously bad or just middle-ground for synth-pop monotony, but either way, it’ll be a culmination of a trend few saw coming, turning an exceptional producer into one of typicality.
– Zach W.