Album Review – zer0 by Krewella

Rating: 4star

It’s been seven years since Krewella released their debut album titled Get Wet in 2013 which saw the group refine their sound into an accessible, pop-infused electronic dance music album. Since then, Krewella has radically evolved their image and sound to incorporate grittier bass tracks and more mature lyrics.

One important element of this evolution was the controversy over the departure of one of the group’s founding members, Kris Trindl (a.k.a Rain Man). In 2014, Rain Man was voted out of the group due to alleged alcohol problems and subsequent rehab. The sole male and producer of the group retaliated with a lawsuit seeking a $5 million settlement. During the ordeal, the other two members of the group — sisters Yasmine and Jahan Yousef — faced sexist attacks from internet users. Well-known electronic producer Deadmau5 fired off tweets intended to discredit the sisters’ creative talents.

After the case was settled around 2015, the sisterly duo now comprising Krewella gradually released songs and EP’s that featured production from other popular EDM acts like Pegboard Nerds and Diskord. With their reputation scarred, Krewella continued on their own trajectory unabashed. Rain Man also established himself as a successful solo act.

That said, Krewella’s 2020 sophomore album zer0 is unique in the fact that it’s their first without production from Rain Man. Instead, it is the culmination of their efforts to rebrand their image and sound into something that greatly deviates from the more party-centric sounds of their earlier bodies of work.

For those wondering, zer0 was mostly produced by multi-platinum record producer Cody Tarpley, someone that Krewella has worked with before on post-Rain Man songs. He’s also produced for artists such as Somo, Zhavia Ward, and Noah Cyrus. While many people still seem to think that Krewella has less credibility because of their use of ghost producers, it’s actually pretty evident that the sisters have a strong influence over the direction of their songs. This latest album is proof that hiring the help of other producers in no way diminishes their creative merit or ability to thrive within the EDM world. Rather, it almost seems as if Krewella stands in a lane of their own within this scene.

A core theme of the zer0 album is how Krewella has sought to start from scratch over the years in light of their past controversies and struggles to stay credible thereafter. There were definitely some awkward phases between Get Wet and zer0, but those have finally been ironed out in this latest body of work. Now, it seems as though Krewella has tapped into something more substantial than simply concatenating wild bass drops onto lack-luster lyrics.

Opening the album is a self-titled track that provides listeners with an overview of this sentiment of starting over from scratch. Many people sometimes feel that same desire to leave their past behind and pursue their vision of happiness and growth that seems just beyond the horizon. Other songs like ‘Anxiety,’ ‘Martyr,’ and ‘Overboard’ are also lyrical attempts at reaching into complicated, yet universal emotions and tendencies that speak to the current state of the youth. Indeed, Krewella has always brought to light certain social issues — such as cyberbullying and social ostracization — through their lyrics.

But make no mistake. Fans of Krewella’s tendency towards mind-bending drops and party anthems will be happy to know it still lives strong on zer0. Just after the aforementioned opening song is a smooth transition into ‘Mana,’ which is a “no fucks given” foray into bravado and female empowerment. Around the 2-minute mark begins one of the wildest sonic treats on the album. Even the song ‘Martyr,’ which begins as a heartfelt exploration of existence backed by a very minimalistic melody, eventually transitions into a growling trap bassline that sounds incredible on a good set of speakers. Furthermore, like ‘Mana,’ the song ‘Ghost’ was one of the singles released prior to the album, and similarly includes rap-influenced lyrical bravado backed by a hip-hop beat and a quintessential trap EDM drop. So Krewella has in no way abandoned the high energy production that makes their live shows so intoxicating, despite the focus on more emotionally substantial lyrics.

Diverse vocal and production features are found throughout the first half of the album. Indian producer Nucleya takes on the moombahton/house-style track on ‘Good on You,’ and Arrested Youth offers emo-tinged vocals on ‘Anxiety.’ Fellow Pakistani (same ethnicity as Yasmine and Jahan) Asim Azhar adds a refreshing pop verse on ‘Paradise.’ Rapper Yung Baby Tate and Venezuelan-born singer Alaya are paired together on ‘Like We,’ making for a uniquely diverse track with the latter dishing out her lines in Spanish.

Arguably the most unexpected gem on zer0 is the song ‘Overboard.’ Appearing near the end of the album, ‘Overboard’ is a sleeper hit that delivers a raw vocal performance slightly reminiscent of some grunge, goth rock throwback similar to an early AFI song. Everything from the emotionally self-destructive tone of the lyrics, the sharp and flowy vocals, and tightly coupled hip-hop beat were very well-done on this song.

Krewella’s career has seen many ups-and-downs — that include a handful of unfocused, mediocre songs with gimmicky lyrics — as they attempted to define who they are. Fortunately, zer0 really does feel like a properly cohesive album with emotionally substantive lyrics and an overarching theme of starting over. And yet they still manage to pack in those chilling bass drops that are enough to get any party down and dirty. All things considered, however, there is still something left to be desired from Krewella. It’s apparent that there is something really special waiting to be conveyed through their music, but only a few songs on this album (i.e. ‘Overboard’) are remotely close to fully capturing whatever that is.

┬áListen to Krewella’s sophomore album zer0 below!

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