Justin Blau has toured the world, created a record label, and raised enough funds to build four schools in Guatemala. Despite having done all this by the age 27, he will dismiss compliments about his achievements in favor discussing what he will do. What he has done is never enough. What he will do is what he finds interesting. The Las Vegas native can now add releasing a full length album to his list accomplishments, and for many fans, the fact that this is only his inaugural album comes as a surprise.
More popularly known as DJ and Producer , the artist is one who “early” adopters electronic dance music claim as their own. His ascension began after releasing hit remixes and touring colleges throughout the country while he attended Washington University in St. Louis. After gaining momentum through his remixes, he starting releasing originals, leading to breakout single “How You Love Me.” The track took the electronic music world by storm, and Blau became a major player in a scene that was coming into its own within mainstream America. To this day, he maintains that his success is partially a product the transition that the industry was going through at the time he started his career.
As electronic dance music cemented itself as a pillar American pop culture, Blau joined the ranks artists like , , and who withstood the test time by being able to evolve and grow with the changing industry. DJs and Producers were suddenly the faces major brand campaigns, scoring their own TV Shows, and selling out stadiums. Blau rode this wave with the best them, and has done everything from featuring NFL star Rob Gronkowski and WWE Personality Mojo Rawley in his music videos to being the face a Marc Jacobs x GQ fashion .
Many artists reflect upon their ascension into notoriety once they have ‘made it’ as inevitable. Blau discusses his career with a refreshing sense realism when it comes to his decision to pursue music full time. He admits that, for all intensive purposes, his life was planned out for him, and that plan culminated in a career in finance:
Blau had an academic full ride at Washington University in St. Louis, and his parents and pressors became increasingly concerned when his grades began to decline rapidly Junior year. A’s and B’s became C’s and D’s as Blau left town every weekend to play at colleges across the country. This was the beginning the end for his corporate finance career, and the birth the musician we know today.
The 3LAU today, though, is very different than the bright eyed kid who dropped out college to risk it all and pursue his dreams. His new album, Ultraviolet, is an unapologetic expression his frustrations with the music industry, and his desire to play by his own rules.
As many artists have revealed, there is a certain pressure when a career is gaining traction to create the next hit, and to keep that momentum going. For the first time, Blau discusses, he has created music with no regard to the popularity or radio-worthiness the tracks. Ultraviolet is the essence him in aural form, and he makes it very clear that the album was his chance to do everything his way.
Even the album’s release strategy did not adhere to industry standards. Tracks f the album were released over a year and a half long period before the full Ultraviolet release. To give context, a typical album will tease a few single releases 6-8 months out from the full release, making Ultraviolet’s runway almost double that the typical album.
“Fire” was the first track that contained the combination instrumentals and electronic production the producer was going for, and he states that he finally created the full embodiment the sound he was aiming to achieve in track “Star Crossed.” From there, the creative process became much quicker.
It becomes clear upon listening to Ultraviolet that a vast majority the tracks have the capacity to become their own separate and distinct radio hit. Blau has managed to create music that can appeal to the most passionate electronic fan and the most mainstream pop fan.
This cross-appeal would usually signify a compilation tracks with formulaic dance chords and enamoring vocalists complemented by one or two authentically electronic songs. For Ultraviolet, this is not the case. It is an experimentation instrumentals, disco, bass, and the best commercial house. No two tracks are alike, and none blend into the background.
Despite the energetic nature the album upon first listen, Blau points out that if listeners really absorbs the lyrics and undertones each track, they will discover that the album is really quite dark:
The concept ultraviolet light itself is that it reveals things that are not normally there. For Blau, the title was an embodiment his relationship with dance music, and the album was his way breaking free this.
Despite his concerns about the reception the album, Ultraviolet hit number one on the electronic music charts within 24 hours its release, and “Touch” skyrocketed to the number one single. In many ways, the album’s success is an indication that electronic fans are no longer looking for another easy hit with a three chord drop and a catchy vocalist. It is also a confirmation that, if the music is good and authentic enough, an artist doesn’t need a major label to make their music hit number one. Blau has continually pushed the envelope what it means to take electronic music mainstream, all while finding a way to do this without losing the integrity the music itself.
Photo Credit: Shervin Lainez; Cory Hammons