When an artist hits a musical home run, it’s common lore that the follow-up is under far more scrutiny to measure up. It’s the infamous “sophomore slump” curse. RAC killed it back in 2014 with his debut solo release of Strangers and its infectious track, “Let Go (ft. Kele and MNDR).” Now the DJ/producer and all-around musical wizard is back with the release of EGO and the first of what I predict will be multiple hit singles, “I Still Wanna Know (ft. Rivers Cuomo).” From the instant the first beat hits your ear, it’s clear RAC has nothing to fear from the curse.
EGO is front-to-back jammed with styles covering the entire landscape of electronic dance music with a consistent tilt towards heartfelt pop. What RAC delivers this time around is not just a reminder of what it feels like to be forced to tap your feet without control or start belting out the chorus before you even finish your first time hearing a song, it’s a rhythmic résumé advertising his ability to create a track in the style of a variety of artists, each one just as good as the original, or better.
On numerous occasions, the first single released is the one thought to be the strongest, most demanding of listeners’ attention. The rest of the album becomes a crap shoot, but EGO has no such drought of killer tracks. The Rivers Cuomo tag-team is certainly a great radio introduction to the album, but it can rightfully be followed up by “Unusual (ft. MNDR),” “Nobody (ft. Chaos Chaos),” or the one they did choose, “The Beautiful Game (ft. St Lucia).” Upon hearing the opening notes of “The Beautiful Game,” something familiar exploded in my brain. I ran the melody over and over in my head trying to scrape together the lyrics to the song I knew from years and years ago. Finally, when I was about to run headlong into my mental limit, it happened. “Back to Life” by Soul II Soul carries a very similar structure in the chorus, and I’m making no claims that it had any influence on the track, but it reminded how much music can embed itself into the farthest reaches of our memories.
The flow of the album matures from RAC’s debut. Strangers felt like a call to stand up and dance, whereas EGO is more stand up for yourself. Many of the tracks, in essence, are banner cries for a variety of reasons. “I Still Wanna Know” cries for people to remember how much more there is to learn and never stop growing. “Unusual” lays itself out as a musical foundation for every outcast who never fit into a predefined pigeonhole. Lastly, “Find a Way (ft. Alice MK)” is for those on the bottom side of the coin. It says it’s okay to let the tears fall, but the time is here to get back on your feet, so reach out, grab this song, and let it guide you.
As I mentioned earlier, RAC manages to put on full display his ability to take on any pop style. If anyone in the pop, electronic, or alternative genre isn’t already trying to work with him, they are sorely lacking vision. You think of any breakout pop/rock hit in recent years, and RAC goes toe to toe with it here. “Fever (ft. KNA)” drifts in with a riff sounding like Edge from U2 just walked in the room. “Unusual” could’ve been in Ke$ha’s back pocket and killed it (were it not for her legal troubles). “No One Has to Know (ft. Joywave)” could be packaged up and delivered right alongside anything The Postal Service played on their only released album (Give Up).
For those who dabble in music gossip, RAC dances on both sides of the Taylor Swift/Katy Perry feud with “Johnny Cash (ft. Scavenger Hunt)” and “Find a Way,” respectively. Even “Heavy (ft. Karl Kling)” towards the back of the album sounds like RAC kidnapped Simon & Garfunkel and is hiding them in his studio. While incredibly illegal, a bold musical move nonetheless.
From start to finish, EGO by RAC destroys the sophomore slump curse and proves to anyone listening (and you should be listening), he is only getting started. Buy a ticket to this ride soon before there’s no more room on the train.