Zedd -- aka Russian-German producer Anton Zaslavski -- made a splash in the EDM world with his 2012 debut, "Clarity," an album that pushed the boundaries of dance pop in terms of lyrical content and musical arrangement.
He landed the biggest dance hit of 2012 with "Spectrum," featuring Seaford native Matthew Koma, and the biggest dance hit of 2013, "Clarity," which Koma also co-wrote, featuring Foxes on vocals. Who would think a tongue-twisting, brain-twisting chorus of "If our love is tragedy, why are you my remedy? If our love's insanity, why are you my clarity?" would be a pop hit? Apparently, Zedd. And that's why his career skyrocketed.
Soon, Zedd was producing Lady Gaga ("G.U.Y."), helping out Ariana Grande ("Break Free") and moving into a whole new celebrity status by dating (or not) Selena Gomez following Justin Bieber.
And that's where "True Colors" (Interscope) comes in. Zedd is trying to decide whether to pursue the pop world or push the boundaries of EDM and ends up not doing much of either on his sophomore album.
The flashy first single, "I Want You to Know," shows off his new A-list status, with Gomez on vocals and OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder cowriting. It's certainly a big pop statement, but it feels hollow inside, without the details that made "Clarity" so compelling. He does better with Bahari on "Addicted to a Memory" and Echosmith's Sydney Sierota on "Illusion," but it still feels a bit formulaic.
On the pop side of "True Colors," Zedd fares best with another Long Islander, Lake Grove native Jon Bellion, who gives the sleek "Beautiful Now" just enough edge to make it memorable.
Zedd would seemingly do much better setting his own course rather than following the well-worn pop path. The seven-minute-plus "Papercut" with Troye Sivan is a fascinating suite of synth-pop. The banging "Bumble Bee" with Botnek is a hard-hitting dance-floor-filling instrumental that shows Zedd hasn't lost his edge.
Somehow, it seems ironic that "True Colors" shows that Zedd hasn't found his just yet.
BOTTOM LINE Coming to terms with growing pains -- as a musician and a celebrity