I can see it now.
Someone in the Pitchfork offices just finished listening to Alan Walker's debut album. They are licking their lips, possibly even gently moaning as they plan how to systematically break down this album in the most brutal way possible. Seeing how they can produce the next viral sensation that was the site's review of Greta Van Fleet's debut album.
Why would they ever like something produced by an artist by Walker? Someone who rose to fame with an explosive single. Someone who potentially hit superstardom before they had the catalog to back it up.
In all honesty, I am asking myself the exact same questions. Part of me wants to indulge in that level of cynicism. Take an elitist viewpoint and explain how this record doesn't live up to the hype that has followed Walker since ‘Faded' broke 1 billion views on YouTube.
If you were hoping for a review like that…well, you're about to be decently disappointed.
Alan Walker's Road To Different World
Alan Walker is not a classically trained musician. He first learned how to produce through YouTube tutorials and by reaching out to more successful artists for tips. Through tweaking his work and receiving feedback on forums, he eventually released ‘Fade'.
The single laid the groundwork for what would become his biggest hit. A year later Walker rereleased an updated version of the track with vocals, and called it ‘Faded'. Now, three years after its release – it has been certified platinum in over 10 countries.
Walker's explosion was so quick that he experienced the same pushback that Martin Garrix received after ‘Animals' topped the global charts. The internet began lobbing ghost producing accusations at the Norweigan producer.
Walker did something that not many people anticipated – he started to release tutorial videos alongside his behind the scenes collaborator. The internet, and in particular, Reddit did not quite know how to handle this transparency.
Production Is Rarely A One Man Show…
Alan produced ‘Fade' entirely himself. There is little debate about that. His melody construction was near perfect and incredibly exciting. When he started to gain a serious online following, major record labels started to take note.
When Walker was picked up by the likes of SMG Sweden, he was clearly given a team of professionals to help elevate his sound to professional grade. The (at the time) 18-year-old did not know how to mix and master his tracks or produce in other DAW's outside of FL Studio. But one thing was clear – Walker had a serious ear for catchy, infectious melodies and some serious vision.
The Man Behind The Mask
As his visibility grew, his signature face mask became the obvious topic of discussion. Alan explained his choice in branding as a way to try and create a metaphor for unity. It doesn't matter who the face of the project is – it is the music which speaks.
While naturally, this created some haters – just as marshmello or deadmau5 can attest to – for the most part it worked perfectly. Walker's following grew and became more loyal with each new release. Alan began playing clubs and festivals all over the world to sold-out crowds regularly.
Then 2018 hit, and singles for Different World began to drop.
Alan Walker – ‘Different World'
I listened to Different World from beginning to end, entirely uninterrupted. I will admit, I did so in hopes of picking it apart. Explaining why Alan's title as one of the most recognizable DJs is undeserved. I made it about 3 songs before I changed my outlook on the LP entirely.
Different World highlights several different styles of modern-day dance music. There are tracks which showcase vocals, instrumentals which rely on catchy and memorable melodies, and of course a high profile collaboration or two.
It was this variation that pushed me to stop dissecting the pieces of the album and instead look at it from a view of 30,000 feet or so. Alan Walker and his brand have always been about one thing – unity. In my opinion, Different World showcases this phenomenally. Alan worked to compile 15 tracks which give an overview of the many things that make dance music so unique.
Melodic introductions and interludes helped remind me that at his core Walker has the ability to really captivate his audience. The gentle, but confidently building piano riffs served as pallet cleansers in between his signature style of upbeat productions. Overall, Different World is a damn fine debut album, that demonstrates Walker has achieved almost immeasurable growth since the release of ‘Faded' in 2015.
A Damn Fine Debut But…
Is Different World a perfect album? No, I cannot say that this is a true 5-star release. That being said the blemishes on the LP are few and far between.
My main critique would be that some tracks on the album do seem to be a bit formulaic, or cheap attempts to recreate the magic that was found in ‘Faded'. In an interesting twist, the risks which Alan took paid off a great deal more than some of the tracks that feel like he was ‘playing it safe' with his fanbase.
Alan Walker's time in the public eye has been marked with controversy, slight confusion but more than anything, it has been a massive success. Different World is a strong performance for an artist who is still developing and finding his footing in an industry that changes so fast even the seasoned professional struggle to keep up.
While Walker has not yet been able to recreate the magic of ‘Faded', Different World shows that he has grown as a producer with each and every release.
If I had to bet, 2019 will be an even bigger year for Walker. And after shutting off my jaded, critical exterior, I am certainly rooting for him. Check out Different World below.