Jai Wolf explains why writing good political music is more difficult than ever
Jai Wolf isn't afraid to express his mind. Over the span of two weeks in May, the electronic music producer and DJ called out dance music giant Marshmello for featuring domestic abuser Chris Brown on a song and said that "old straight white men are ruining this country" after the Alabama Senate passed the nation's most restrictive abortion ban.
But you won't see Jai Wolf (real name: Sajeeb Saha) following in the footsteps of the countless musicians who have written lyrics bashing President Trump over the last few years. In fact, you won't hear any political activism in his songs.
"For me, writing music is more about my emotions and feelings. And in terms of politics, I use my personal platform to speak about it," the Bangladesh-born, Long Island-raised 27-year-old told AOL. "I don’t see the merits of marrying music and [political] messages."
That view has been molded by countless hours on social media, where nearly every earnest opinion is questioned, mocked and turned into a meme.
"I feel like back in the day, there used to be more successful political fight songs and protest songs," Saha said. "But I think the way society is conditioned now, it’s hard to take things seriously."
Saha admits that some musicians can ably touch on hot-button issues without coming off as preachy. He praises The 1975's sarcastic yet hopeful "Love It If We Made It," which features cheeky one-liners such as "'I moved on her like a bitch'/Excited to be indicted" and was ranked by Pitchfork as the Best Song of 2018.
"There’s definitely a right way to do it. But the way things are consumed and absorbed and analyzed, it’s really tricky to say, 'This song is supposed to be pro-immigrant, and pro-choice …'" Saha said. "People will rip it apart, analyze it and question your intentions. There are all these crazy layers that go into consuming music now that makes it difficult to seriously address an issue within a song."
The uplifting, apolitical messages contained in Jai Wolf's new album "The Cure To Loneliness," may not surprise any of his fans, but the manner in which they're delivered certainly might.
Some of Jai Wolf's first releases were bouncy remixes for Skrillex, ODESZA and Alesso. But his first full-length LP often leans closer to pop or alternative rock than the euphoric electronic sound he's become known for.
"I've always loved indie rock and indie dance music. I wanted the album to have a layer of that feeling while merging it with what I love electronic music," Saha said. "It was a little scary at first, but the crowds on the tour have been super supportive and responsive, which is always exciting."
Perhaps the best example of that fusion of genres is "Your Way," a cut that smoothly transitions between crisp, guitar-driven verses sang by Day Wave's Jackson Phillips and a pair of high-energy peaks centered around explosive synths. The bright, dreamy sections synonymous with Jai Wolf are balanced out by Phillips' grounded lyrics ("I already know your lies/But I don't expect to change") that provide a touch of emotional depth and earned pessimism that's uncommon in the escapism of electronic music.
Though Phillips provides the most cynical lyrics on the album, Saha sounds pretty demoralized himself when asked about the state of American politics.
"Just assessing what’s happening in this country, it seems like we’re headed in the wrong direction," Saha said glumly. "But we have to give it some time and see what happens over the next two years. It’s definitely a crucial time, but I don't think anything is guaranteed right now one way or the other."
The only thing that seems to be guaranteed is he'll keep his controversial opinions out of the studio and on his Twitter feed.
Jai Wolf is co-headlining the Splash House music festival in Palm Springs, California on June 9 at the Riviera Hotel, and will continue his tour supporting "The Cure To Loneliness" this fall.