Every now and again something happens to make these words pop into your head…
A moment like that occurred last week when we were interviewing The Vamps about their latest single ‘All Night’, a collab with Norwegian DJ Matoma, and Tristan said something that really made us think:
“It’s funny how DJs used to be quite unknown but now they’re just as massive names as pop artists.” (Read the full interview with The Vamps here)
Huh, you know what they’re right.
Believe it or not, there was a time when DJs were heard but not seen. We remember back when pop artists would work with producer/DJs and the single would be released just under the pop artist’s name without a credit for their collaborator.
Justin Timberlake‘s second ever single ‘Cry Me A River’ back in 2002 was produced by a then relatively unknown Timbaland who did feature in the video but went uncredited on the song, despite providing backing vocals.
But Timbaland was part of a new wave of producer/DJs who wanted their rightful share of the limelight. Flash forward a few years and Timbaland was collaborating with Nelly Furtado on global No.1 smash ‘Promiscuous’ and had released his own album, ‘Shock Value’, with pop stars acting as the feature artists instead of the other way round. Remember this piece of pop gold dust?
And he wasn’t the only one. Despite not singing on tracks himself, producer Mark Ronson also released his own album, ‘Version’, in 2007, which introduced the world to this new concept of producers being the stars themselves.
Then came the likes of David Guetta, Avicii and Calvin Harris who rode the EDM trend to become household names across the globe. In one year Harris can rake in far more than established pop stars like Selena Gomez will earn their whole career. Case and point, Harris made $66 million in 2014 alone which far outstrips Gomez’ current net worth of $46 million as of 2016.
Harris also boasts his own Las Vegas residency which, until a few years ago, would have been unthinkable for a DJ. These slots were traditionally reserved only for massive pop stars like Celine Dion, Prince and Cher, which is proof of how much attitudes have changed towards DJs in the past few years.
In this article from Forbes, the head of the nightclub where Calvin has a residency, Neil Moffitt, had this to say about the rise of the superstar DJ:
“We’ve gone past the point of where a DJ plays someone else’s records and that’s it. Calvin Harris is an international songwriter, record seller, music producer and collaborator.” (Forbes)
Another massive EDM producer, Zedd, seemingly appeared out of nowhere a few years ago to emerge as one of the biggest names in pop, whose collaborations include big players such as Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande and Selena Gomez.
In an interview with The Guardian Zedd highlighted that DJs now have their own sense of style which helps them stand out:
“My outfit in the ‘Break Free‘ video was very on the edge of what I can wear. I used to wear plaid every day for probably two years and now I’m starting to experiment with wearing sweaters. I loved the idea. For me it was important not to be the classic DJ, so I needed it to have a funny touch. It’s something I’ve never done before – DJing on some spaceship equipment – but I thought it turned out really great.”
He also pointed out that it was Lady GaGa approached him to work her album ‘ARTPOP, not the other way round’.
“Lady GaGa’s ‘ARTPOP’ was a different story because she called me and said “I want you to produce my album”.
Rather than fading into the background as they once did, the new wave of producer/DJs have challenged people’s traditional perceptions of the role they should play in the music industry and they are truly reaping the rewards. At this present moment Calvin Harris is just as big a name as Little Mix.
Now we are going to introduce you to one of the brightest upcoming DJ/producers the UK has to offer – Jonas Blue. At the end of 2015 he released his debut single, a remix of the Tracy Chapman classic, ‘Fast Car’, which went on to be the 13th best selling single in the UK last year.
The follow up single ‘Perfect Strangers’ also hit No.2 in the charts and ruled the airwaves the whole summer. Jonas’ latest single ‘By Your Side’ is every inch the pop banger those songs are so we thought it was high time we got to know the next superstar DJ on a personal level:
Hi Jonas Blue! Which emoji best represents how you’re feeling today?
Cheeky! We like it. Could you tell us about the inspiration behind your new single ‘By Your Side’?
I wanted to create a song that begins how I pretty much start all of my songs which is me at the piano. I wanted ‘By Your Side’ to really capture both sides of who I am musically, the classically trained pianist that you hear at the start and the electronic dance DJ/producer which I hope you can feel from the drop!
The concept came from having an outer body experience when I was behind the decks at one of my gigs, I literally felt myself hover over the ground and I remember seeing a couple really in the vibe clearly sharing a special moment. I wanted to create a song which encapsulated that whole experience.
Which is your favourite track you’ve produced so far?
It’s hard to pick they’re all my babies, ‘Fast Car’ obviously was my breakthrough single. It’s ended up being a career defining moment for me, so I hold it very close to my heart, but any song I release will be special to me for a different reason.
The remix of ‘Keeping Your Head Up’ I did for Birdy is really special too as when I first heard the song I instantly had it clear in my head exactly what I wanted to do with the remix so actually we went to the label and asked to remix it which is the opposite way round to the way it would usually happen, and whenever I play the record it goes OFF big time so it’s a dance floor favourite thats for sure.
Name one thing you’ve done which you tried to keep hidden but everyone ended up finding out anyway
Make ‘Fast Car’ lol! At the start I created Jonas Blue as a bit of a mysterious character that no one really knew much about, but pretty quickly people found out it was me!
Oh and also I’ve stolen too many pairs of hotel slippers and robes :)
What’s the first thing you’d grab in a fire?
Woof! Who would you most like to sing on one of your songs/collaborate with?
Sia, she’s the most phenomenal song writer, her lyrical ability just blows me away, she uses descriptive words that really capture your emotions so well, and her voice is so unique. She’s truly one of the greats of our time.
Who would play the role of you in a film of your life?
Tom Hardy – what a dude he is, proper english lad too. I think he’s got such a strong screen presence, even in a scene where there’s no dialogue he’s got you hooked in. I’ve been watching the new BBC Series he’s in called ‘Taboo’ and he’s amazing.
What’s the worst date you’ve ever been on?
One where the girl didn’t even turn up lol let’s just say it was a non starter!!
What’s one piece of wisdom you’d offer to your 14-year-old self?
Enjoy being young – it only happens once, and be a nice person.
Ooh we like that advice. What’s your favourite dance move?
The 2 step! It’s my move I’ve had it on lock from when i was a kid!
Picture the scene. You and Taylor Swift break up after 15 months of dating and you find out her next album is full of scathing songs about you. What do you do?
Ha.. wouldn’t happen! But let’s just say it did.. then I would sample all the songs and re-arrange the lyrics so it was saying only nice things about me and bad things about her.
Salty AF. WE LIVE FOR IT!
Thanks for talking to us Jonas. Let us know whether you agree with our thoughts about superstar DJs being just as important as pop stars nowadays.