AREA21 officially lands on Earth with release of highly anticipated debut album: Full Review
It feels like just yesterday that Martin Garrix took the stage of Ultra 2016 and unveiled his newest project that would soon become known as AREA21. A collaborative effort with his close friend and fellow songwriter Maejor, the AREA21 alias revealed a new side of Garrix by experimenting with a more hip-hop-centric sound blended with pop and EDM. Now, over five years later, the two have finally officially introduced themselves to the world with their highly anticipated album, ‘Greatest Hits Vol. 1.’
The story behind the AREA21 project is that two aliens (M and M) are traveling through the universe spreading good vibes and ultimately end up crash landing on Earth. The album documents their journey and experiences while they navigate through this new world that they have never seen.
People have waited eagerly since that March night in Miami. Now, after nine months filled with multiple successful single releases, the wait is finally over. AREA21 has landed here on Earth.
‘’I’ve never released this many songs before at the same time, so I’m nervous about it. But that nervousness gets overshadowed by excitement, adrenaline and passion. This project means so much to us both musically and conceptually. I’ve had some of the best moments of my life working on these songs and we can’t wait to finally share them with the world.’’ – Martin Garrix, Press Release
Track 1: “21”
The lighthearted track that starts off this album and begins the journey for M and M. Starting with an ear-pleasing guitar riff and count up to the number 21, the song shows the listener just how fun the rest of the project is going to be. But when the beat comes in, that is when the fun begins. It feels good to hear Maejor’s voice again on a Garrix produced beat. Something about the chemistry between the two creates a dynamic that is unable to be matched. The drop features a unique and catchy pitch-bending sound that feels like something from out of this world. This is the type of track that brings a smile to your face. It is the perfect introduction to the style AREA21 bring, and it gets you even more excited for the next 11 songs.
“The first song on the album is a song called ‘21’, which is actually the last song we finished before we delivered the final album. It’s funny because the album deadline was Friday night at midnight and Thursday morning, we decided to change the tracklist and work on a new song because I came up with this guitar riff the night before.” – Martin Garrix, Press Release
Track 2: “La La La”
At the moment, the most popular song on the entire album. As the lead single, it had generated over 7 million plays on Spotify. The track incorporates another upbeat tempo and brings an old western style to the project with the riff on the guitar. “La La La” is the fan-favorite so far and, it is no question why. Maejor’s voice, along with his and Garrix’s writing, are top-notch and display something we have not heard in dance music before. This song also kicks off the video story that AREA21 is based around. With seven different experiences, this track captures the moments before and right as M and M crash on Earth.
“The first video in the series,“La La La,” shows the alien travelers beaming up unhappy people into their spaceship for an impromptu intergalactic party, using music to unite and uplift their mood. The end of the video sees them accidentally crashing the spaceship on planet Earth where the real adventure begins.“La La La” speaks to the importance of being your true self, following your voice and choosing your path from a place of dreaming and wonder, not fear, while the lyrics celebrate being different and blocking out the negativity.” – Video Storyline, Press Release
“Sometimes we have these ideas or things we want to do, but we don’t do it because of the opinions of others. This song is about saying ‘’forget that I don’t wanna hear it, I’m doing it. This is me. Can’t you see that I’m different and I like to go my own way’’. Just doing whatever it is you really believe in and having fun with it.” – Maejor, Press Release
Track 3: “Pogo”
Now the aliens have finally crashed landed on Earth. It could be easy for Maejor and Garrix to continue with the sound they have previewed in the previous two songs. But like the masters they are, they continue to change up the style with this next hit. What starts very elegant and subtle with soothing vocals turns into a slap-style type beat that will have you moving your feet throughout the track.
“The video for “Pogo” picks up where “La La La” left off with the two alien travelers M & M having crashed landed on earth, standing on their recently crashed spaceship, and running from the law. Their escape includes a very unorthodox mode of transportation, a group of unlikely heroes and lands them in the perfect place to get away from it all – Vegas, baby.” – Video Storyline, Press Release
“The song was a lot of fun to make. I remember I made the beat, the groove and then Maejor and I were on tour, and we were just generally trying different grooves, different rhythms and came up with the idea for the ‘Pogo’ video where the alien is running away from his relationship on a pogo stick.” – Martin Garrix, Press Release
Track 4: “No Angel”
As not part of the video series, this song comes as new for fans of the duo. At its time, in the album, “No Angel” is the most hip-hop-oriented track on ‘Greatest Hits Vol. 1.’ You have to admit, it’s pretty cool to hear Garrix producing a hip-hop beat, and he’s dang good at it too. With a stripped-down beginning only featuring an acoustic guitar that leads into a hard-hitting beat, this track is one of the best vibes on the album. What should not go unnoticed are the incredible lyrics that Maejor provides in this song. It is what drives this one home as one of the best AREA21 songs to date.
“We’re working on the version that shines a light on the women’s perspective about this exact same situation. It will be called ‘No Saint’ and that will be the followup to ‘No Angel’.” – Maejor, Press Release
Track 5: “Lovin’ Every Minute”
Probably the most commercial/radio-ready song on the album. Garrix and Maejor express their love for life in this eclectic tune. If you are a fan of the euphoric vibes that Garrix is known to create, then this song is the one for you. The title perfectly explains the song’s tone, and with Maejor’s vocal work subbed in for his rapping, it once again puts a smile on the listener’s face. Not to mention the sprinkle of a hip-hop beat in the middle of the track is a nice touch.
“‘With your energy and spirit, you can change someone’s mood just by how you treat them,’ noted AREA21. Meanwhile the video looks at how M & M are loving every minute of their time here on Earth and hints at what’s ahead for the duo. The video details M & M’s journey so far–from their accidental crash in the Nevada desert, being chased by the ominous Lady T, to partying in Vegas and floating through the Louvre in Paris. There’s even a hint at what’s to come.” – Video Storyline, Press Release
“The initial idea for ‘Lovin’ Every Minute’ was already over five years old. I remember Maejor playing me this whistle melody and the lyric hook he had on it. He sent me the stems, I did the production, made it a little bit more clubby and bouncy and ended up playing it live once in Ibiza. Then when we were working on the album, we were listening to all these old ideas, because the database we have of unreleased AREA21 music is crazy. This one song popped up and we decided to redo the lyrics and production a bit.” – Martin Garrix, Press Release
Track 6: “Mona Lisa”
Chronologically, the next chapter in the story of M and M. This song depicts the next adventure of the two aliens as they travel to Paris and live out their Earthly bucket list. Garrix and Maejor speed the energy back up to where it was at the beginning of the compilation. The one outstanding element in this track is the impressive moving bass line featured throughout. This song provides some amazing imagery within its lyrics and is no surprise why it is the second most-listened-to track on the album.
“One thing that ‘Mona’ Lisa shows, that is also highlighted in the rest of the project and is exciting for us creatively, is that we don’t have to fit inside one genre or one structure musically because the aliens are from outer space. So, we can pull from any creative influence and ‘Mona Lisa’ is a mash up of many worlds together which is exciting.” – Maejor, Press Release
Track 7: “Own The Night”
Once again, diving deep into the hip-hop side of things, Garrix and Maejor introduce some interesting elements in this song. Bringing awareness to social conformity, the two display the important message that each AREA21 track contains and prove that it is more than just music.
“In ‘Own The Night’ the alien duo have found their way to Hollywood and are struck by the many masks that humans put on to conform to society’s norm. The track is incredibly catchy, but also carries a sense of social awareness, which is exactly what AREA21 are trying to transmit through their music.” – Video Storyline, Press Release
“‘Own The Night’ is also a great example of how great music can last. We had recorded the song so long ago we had almost forgotten about it, but when we listened again it felt like something new–like a marriage of the past with the future.” – Maejor, Press Release
Track 8: “Followers”
Garrix and Maejor feature another important topic in this next single. Bringing back the iconic upbeat and electric guitar that their sound has become synonymous with, AREA21 tackles the subject of social media and poses the question of what one would do without it. The song encourages everyone to put down their devices and experience the world in front of them.
“Detailed in AREA21’s music and visuals, the alien characters M & M have been able to observe humans both from a distance and up close. With the song ‘’Followers’’ they talk about the benefit of living life in real-time instead of becoming mesmerized by devices. In the accompanying music video, AREA21 highlight the pressures that can come from living your life through social media and encourage everyone to look up and enjoy the world around them.” – Video Storyline, Press Release
“Lyrically Maejor did some crazy stuff. We wanted to make people think about what’s really important. Is your phone that important? And do you remember how great life was when you didn’t have your phone?” – Martin Garrix, Press Release
Track 9: “Human”
Showcasing a more aggressive tone than in the previous eight songs, “Human” is about loving someone even when they are different. The song has the most somber tone of the 12. However, it plays just as much of an important a role in AREA21’s message. Garrix and Maejor do a tremendous job in displaying the emotion behind this track and, it feels like the perfect fit to symbolize the beginning of the end of M and M’s journey on Earth.
“‘Human’ is actually one of the first songs we wrote six years ago.” – Martin Garrix, Press Release
Track 10: “All I Need”
Maejor’s vocal mastery is on full display with this next track. The message in “All I Need” is about being surrounded by your family and friends. With another uplifting style production, this song is sure to be a fan favorite that will grow in popularity over time.
“I love this song, it’s probably one of my favorites, if not my favorite song of the album. Every time I hear it, it sounds like so many worlds of music just all merged together. When Martin first showed me the melody that he came up with I immediately thought it was insane.” – Maejor, Press Release
Track 11: “Time Machine”
As M and M begin to finish their journey, they look back at all the moments they have experienced. The track features a breathtaking piano instrumental combined with a groovy drum beat. You can hear that this song means a lot to Garrix and Maejor, and the emotion they put into it is awe-inspiring. This song was the final single to release during the album promotion and it almost in a way depicts more than just the alien’s journey but also Garrix and Maejor’s as well. The memories that the two made and the friendships that were created while producing this album over the last several years all encapsulated into one three-minute song. The “Time Machine” concept is all something we should hold dear to us. Never let a precious memory go to waste.
“‘Time Machine,’ the last in the series of animated videos accompanying the songs that make up AREA21’s debut album,Greatest Hits Vol.1, is a wistful look back at alien travelers M & M’s early years, as well as recapping their journey so far here on earth, and features a few of the characters they’ve met along the way.” – Video Storyline, Press Release
“We hope that ‘Time Machine’ takes people to memories of those simple moments that make life beautiful. We wanted to capture that in the song. I’m grateful for the timelessness of the song, it feels very classic to me, and I think that Time Machine will be a song that will be around forever.” – Maejor, Press Release
Track 12: “Going Home”
As expected, the final song on the album ends with massive production. Featuring not just Maejor but an entire group of voices accompanying him, this track blends the sounds of what we originally heard of AREA21 five years ago and the new elements that we have become accustomed to over the past nine months. The song finishes with a nice parting message from M and M thanking Earth for letting them have time on the planet and that they leave behind love and unity.
“We had this idea to record a kid’s choir. My neighbor that I grew up with across the street is a school teacher, so she reached out to the music teacher from that school to get some kids who could sing. We had a studio day at STMPD recording studios which was so much fun and so beautiful. The kids were so excited to be a part of this and to just sing, they had so much passion for music.” – Martin Garrix, Press Release
After five years of anticipation, the first AREA21 album was well worth the wait. Garrix and Maejor exceeded expectations and showcased the potential this project can have in the future. The two should be praised for having a different approach to each track and constantly keeping the listener engaged.
‘’It was really important for us to have a full body of work because there’s so much stylistic range on the album. I feel like if we had the pressure to compress it into something smaller, it wouldn’t have worked.’’ – Maejor, Press Release
There is nothing more to be said than that Garrix has proven once again why he is atop the EDM mountain and that Area 21 will be a fan favorite for live shows in the upcoming years. As AREA21 returns to their home on another planet, we will be eagerly awaiting the next journey of M and M.
Listen to AREA21’s ‘Greatest Hits Vol.1’ via STMPD RCRDS below.
Image Credit: Martin Garrix (via YouTube)