In 2012, when Zedd released his debut album, Clarity, he had a clarification of his own to make: “#CLARITY is all about the music,” he tweeted. “The ‘M’ in ‘EDM’.” It was a crucial distinction for an artist who had come up through rave’s ranks in record time. The Russian-German producer, born Anton Zaslavski in 1989, got his start in electronic music in 2010 by winning a pair of remix contests—prior to that, he’d played guitar in a post-hardcore band, Dioramic. He came flying off the blocks soon after with remixes of Skrillex’s “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” and Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.” But while his early singles, like 2011’s “Shave It,” were booming, laser-strafed electro-house anthems in a jagged style that some fans dubbed “complextro,” it soon became clear that those buzzing, fizzing synths were secondary to his real interest: songwriting. His second album, 2015’s True Colors, traded festival fireworks for sleek choruses, clever chord changes, and featured guests like Logic, Troye Sivan, and Selena Gomez, and since then he has continued to prove his range. “Stay,” a 2017 track with Alessia Cara, flips trap drums and silky vocoders into a bewitchingly skeletal (and devastatingly wistful) form, while 2018’s “Happy Now” trickles acoustic guitars over a twinkling music-box beat and a plaintive chorus that captures his music’s deceptive emotional pull. And then there’s 2018’s “The Middle,” a song Zedd tried out with a number of heavy-hitting vocalists (Carly Rae Jepsen, Demi Lovato, Camila Cabello) before finally going with Maren Morris, a country singer little known in pop-EDM circles. Splitting the difference between Morris’ grit and his own silicon sheen, Zedd once again proved his versatility—as well as his star-making instincts.
- Saratov, Russia
- September 2, 1989