It was 2014, and “tropical house” was but a concept in the minds of some people. Hardly a popular genre by any means. And yet, that fateful September evening, Kygo stepped in for an ailing Avicii and performed on the main stage of TomorrowWorld. It’s generally hard to pinpoint a specific date that a genre really “made it,” but in the minds of most who are familiar with the history of tropical house, that moment spelled a turning point.
It’s been nearly two years since then, and the tropical house fever has mostly died down to a light simmer. Most producers have taken in more elements of deep house into their work, eschewing the typical pan flutes and steel drums. In the aftermath, Kygo has come out as the figurehead for the genre. His productions have featured laidback rhythms and easily digestible melodies that are as sophisticated and smart as they are simple. As he evolved as an artist, though, even Kygo started to move away from classically defined “tropical house.”
The evolution has resulted in a sound that is more appropriate for ballads and love songs, that sort of vibe. You know the kind. So it follows that Kygo’s debut album, Cloud Nine, almost exclusively features vocalists. With the exception of the first track, “Intro,” every track features a different vocalist, each with a track that is tailored with their sound in mind.
There are so many times when an artist making dance music says “I’m not EDM” that I want to shake some sense into them. This is one of those cases where I will fight to exclude Kygo’s name from the term EDM. Cloud Nine just doesn’t fit in with the rest. If anything, this album showcases Kygo’s ability to work around and with vocalists to create a vocal album, backed by production, rather than the other way around.
There’s a lot about this album that shows its imperfections. First, “Stole The Show” should have been the last track. Second, after hearing the voices of Parson James, Tom Odell and Kodaline consecutively, Conrad Sewell’s crooning vocals sound oddly out of place. Third, as much as Kygo has left the tropical house sound behind him, there’s a lot of music on this album that sounds eerily similar.
Despite all of this, Cloud Nine accomplishes its main goal. It entertains from beginning to end with little to no lulls in flow and vibe. People will likely point to this album as another milestone in the career of Kygo, or as a turning point in dance music in general. It’s tough to say right now. Nonetheless, Kygo has succeeded in outgrowing the very environment in which he was incubated.
Cloud Nine might not be our album of the year in 2016, though it could definitely make our top 10. No album is without its flaws, but Kygo makes a strong case for himself in his debut album which will certainly make a lasting impression.