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December 5, 2022

Kings of EDM: Swedish House Mafia returns with a darker sound in Paradise Again

By JULIA ALUMBRO | April 28, 2022

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PARLOPHONE MUSIC SWEDEN/ CC BY 3.0

The band Swedish House Mafia released their first studio album, Paradise Again, after a hotly anticipated reunion.

One of the most anticipated albums of the year, Swedish House Mafia released their debut album Paradise Again on April 15. This would be the group’s first album since the announcement of their reunion in 2021. Band members Sebastian Ingrosso, Axel Hedfors and Steve Angello all expressed a desire to return as a group, and after years of individual growth, the members were faced with a new challenge: to step back into a growing and transformed electronic dance music (EDM) genre.

To expand on their journey as a band, it's important to note Swedish House Mafia’s impressive run in 2011. The men were dubbed as “Kings of EDM,” having contributed to the colossal boom of EDM exposure to casual music listeners. They sold out the legendary venue Madison Square Garden in minutes, and their last single, “Don’t You Worry Child,” peaked in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100

Now with Paradise Again the group returns, not to fulfill any public demand or desire, but because they’ve felt a reignited passion for making music together again. This required a tedious scrap and development process for the group, in which each song on the 17-track album had to satisfy each member’s expectations. 

With a runtime of one hour and two minutes, the album can be distinctly broken down into three parts: pop features, dark experimental and traditional house. 

The album was first teased with three singles released in the past year. “It Gets Better” and “Lifetime,“ featuring Ty Dolla $ign and 070 Shake, were released in July 2021, but the most recent single “Moth to A Flame,“ featuring The Weeknd, soared in streams with over 290,000,000 listens on Spotify. Based on these first releases, one could predict that the album would follow a funky, upbeat direction, but this was a false impression. 

It’s fair to say that there are a handful of pop tracks on Paradise Again, though none that really compare to the feat and range of “Moth to A Flame.” The second track “Heaven Takes You Home,“ featuring Connie Constance, follows a basic progression that seems predictable and repetitive. One of the more relaxed songs of the album, “Another Break” utilizes a meditative bass-heavy techno sound that is different from the other pop tracks.

A defining aspect of Paradise Again involves the thicker, murkier-sounding beats scattered amongst the major tracks. The title track blends a heavy bass in the buildup, which adds a high-pressure volume to the song. “Mafia,” one of the horror-inducing tracks, is the purest example of “dark experimental” on the album. The song evokes a blurry, surreal image that could definitely be used in the background of a horror movie chase scene. A$AP Rocky’s feature in “Frankenstein” further solidifies the band’s attempt to highlight a sense of agency on the album with a modifier added over his voice. 

The final third of the album contains songs that follow the traditional house genre. “Can You Feel It” is reminiscent of their old sound with the addition of overwhelming hi-hats. “Red Light,“ featuring Sting, also parallels older Swedish House Mafia songs based on the progression and electronic layering. 

By choosing to divide the album in this way, Swedish House Mafia proves that they are unafraid to experiment and try new sounds while also retaining some of the original sounds that many fans anticipated hearing. This is precisely how they redirected the EDM genre in 2012, and the darker themes of Paradise Again are a unique sound that defines the newer Swedish House Mafia.  

In an interview with Spin, Hedfors explained his mindset going into the writing process:

“At the end of the day, it’s music, It’s not bookkeeping. It’s not work. It’s supposed to be passion,” he said. “Whatever we’ve done, it’s because we want to do something that excites us. That’s why we shut it down. That’s why we played Ultra and did some shows, and that’s why we made music again together.”

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