If you have not heard of Grey, you have definitely heard their music. Their track with Hailee Steinfeld, “Starving”, featuring Zedd, has racked up over half a billion plays on Spotify. And their remixes of Kaskade, Mike Posner, and Zedd have been gracing the sets of DJs big and small for the last two years. Top 40 radio is currently saturated with their sound – alongside that of innumerable knockoffs trying to capture their unique and exciting flavor. The wave of copycats chasing a singular talent might sound a little depressing, but I am actually delighted to see that their fresh approach to music has inspired so many other songwriters and fans. It’s a rare act that’s able to shift the sound of the mainstream charts so completely in another direction.
What makes the music of these two brothers so compelling? First of all – and this is coming from a blog with “EDM” in the name – it’s the acoustic elements. For the last ten years or so, pop radio has mostly stuck to a safe formula of four-on-the floor beats and derivative, EDM-laced hits. Grey’s music comes from an entirely different direction. The first thing you’ll notice on a Grey track is an acoustic guitar, typically plucking out a sexy Spanish-style melody. Compared with the compressed-to-death kick drums and synths that have made up the basis of pop music in recent years, their sound pops right out of the speakers, inviting us to savor the particular sound of human fingers strumming on taut copper strings.
The second element that makes Grey songs unique in 2017 is their incredibly rhythms. They unapologetically eschew repetitive four-to-the-floor beats in favor of syncopated rhythms that crackle with a wild energy. Their songs are typically based on a drum-and-bass style kick groove peppered with percussive elements that seem to come from all directions. Their precise, crystal-clear mixing makes it feel as if they are in the room with you, rapping out a beat on a cowbell or shaking a marimba. Their use of a wide palate of timbres in every song is reminiscent of complextro – but is perhaps more compelling due to the realistic samples they employ.
Despite being pretty new to the scene – their first official releases are only two years old! – these Grey has already made an enormous impact on contemporary pop music. Clearly, these two have a long career ahead of them. I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing what they come up with. For now, check out their new Chameleon EP, featuring collabs with talented vocalists like Avril Lavigne, Skott, and Stephen.