In just a few short years’ time, Madeon has gone from masterful mash-up newcomer to iconic electro-pop sensation. Since releasing his debut album with 2015’s Adventure, the French DJ/producer, born in Nantes as Hugo Leclercq, has become a fixture in the electronic dance scene. Living with his family in 2011, Leclercq was a skinny 16-year-old music nerd with bedroom equipment that helped him put out a 39-song mash-up, “Pop Culture,” which the then-17-year-old posted to YouTube.
It was natural to move out from my parents’ basement and have more of my own-life experience,” Madeon told Billboard Dance in an exclusive interview. “Being out on your own, it forces you to figure out who you are outside of the familiar.”
As Madeon, he’s garnered production credits working alongside the likes of Lady Gaga, Ellie Goulding, and many more pop icons. He’s helped birth a wildly successful artistic concept alongside Porter Robinson and toured “Shelter” around the world. He’s even built two immaculate live shows around his only two solo long-form projects, the latter of which is out now on Columbia Records.
Now comes a monumental stepping-stone moment in the 25-year-old’s creative career. Madeon has released his seminal sophomore studio album, Good Faith. He’s been teasing the full-length effort since January, releasing the first three tracks off the album in “All My Friends,” “Dream Dream Dream” and “Be Fine,” respectively. The prolonged wait was due to some creative and personal roadblocks along the way, Madeon revealed last month. So to say the wide release was well worth the wait might just be the biggest understatement of the year.
I knew Adventure was about my teenage years. That’s when I made it, and I wanted this one to be about my early adulthood,” Madeon continued.
Weighing in at 10 tracks in length, Madeon’s entirely solo creative endeavor is a charismatic exploration of dance-pop ballads. Good Faith draws its inspiration from an amalgamation of genres, from indie-electronic to gospel and smooth rock to pop, of course. Glistening synths, bellowing church organs, electric guitar and piano melodies, robust drum work, and Madeon’s synthesized vocals all make their way into a number of the album’s tracks. Each song reveals a new piece of the album’s larger story.
Take the album’s fourth track, “Nirvana,” which picks up right where the previously-released teaser tracks left off. The song’s cinematic opening and powerful lyrics make the song function as the album’s starting point, almost as if Madeon’s intention was for listeners to begin the listening journey at the four-track mark. The entire track works diligently towards its climactic point, at which point Madeon introduces fluttering xylophone synths, the likes of which we’ve never heard before of any production designer. Complexly textured and intricately layered, the song stands completely on its own.
After what seems like an abrupt end to “Nirvana,” Madeon brings listeners into a drum-led intro on “Mania.” The landscape here is more toned-down with chill electric guitar riffs and gospel vocal samples. However, the song quickly builds back towards excitement at a frenzied pace, as synths begin mixing with electric guitar progressions as Madeon raises the heart rate. The song’s end quickly turns towards a soft piano melody and it becomes clear that these songs have no beginning or endpoint. One simply leads into the next.
A standout on the LP comes at its midway point in the sixth track, “Miracle,” which acts like a bridge to the album as a whole. The song takes the organ melody from “Dream Dream Dream” and the lyrical melody line of “All My Friends” and subtly integrates them as hummed verses, thus making the listening experience feel nostalgic, meaningful, and whistfully sentimental.
From the funky, synth-pop beats of “No Fear No More,” to the glistening synths, vibrant horns, and emotional lyrics of “Hold Me Just Because,” Madeon begins winding down the album with ease and grace. That is not to say each track does not build to its own intensity. The latter track’s outro contains an interesting anime vocal sample, no doubt inspired by friend and collaborator Porter Robinson, that takes listeners into “Heavy With Hoping.”
The song’s R&B-focused lyrics infuse the track with a soulful approach that falls into indie-tronica territory. Heavily synthesized keys then mar the outro, sounding like they were taken straight out of “Shelter.”
By the end of the listening journey, it becomes clear that the leaps Madeon has taken on the new album were all in Good Faith. He’s managed to craft a soaring sonic statement that is every bit as technically saavy as it is emotionally poignant and sonically groundbreaking.
Every few years, a poignant album comes along that changes the way we listen to electronic dance music. In 2014, it was Porter’s Worlds. In 2018, it was RÜFÜS DU SOL’s Solace. They also serve as reminders to the masses what boundary-pushing electronic sounds like. In 2019, that accolade belongs to Madeon. Without a doubt, Good Faith will go down as one of the top albums of 2019.
Featured photo: Nelson Aaron.