As Hugo Pierre Leclercq, or simply Madeon, is rather known as DJ, he’s basically an all-round musician – produces records, sings and writes lyrics, and started composing music when he was 11 years old. Couldn’t be bothered by school, he already knew he would devote his life to music, creating tunes first with monikers like Wayne Mont, starting in 2010 naming himself Madeon, an anagram of Deamon, another former moniker he used.
Then, rewinding back to 2011, his devotion in music took an unexpected turn: It’s mid of July and the young French artist from Nantes, France, posted a mash-up of pop songs in real-time on YouTube. Simply starting off the video with the words “Here are 39 songs I like”, the newly discovered Madeon is seen operating live on a Novation Launchpad, blending a funky mix of various tracks. Filled with pieces of tracks by Coldplay, Kylie Minogue, and OneRepublic, from Gorillaz’ ‘Dare’, Linkin Park’s ‘Crawling’ to famous French pop-hip-hop classic ‘The Magic Key’ by One-T + Cool-T. The funky 3:24 minute mix with the simple title ‘Pop Culture’ gained him an unexpected widespread recognition with millions of views in the first few days and more than 52 million as of now. As his fanbase built stronger from minute to minute, he followed up with original music in his debut EP ‘The City’, released in 2012, and quickly made notice of himself as a leading deejay of the new generation, working with other famous electronic artists like deadmau5, to even contribute on three tracks of Lady Gaga’s ‘Artpop’ (2013).
It’s like an overnight success story in the disk jokey world, but not without blood sweat and tears: Distinctive and focused, Madeon’s method is to lock himself in the studio for 24 hours and starting a clock, some snacks on the side, turning the wifi off and staying locked in the studio, so that he forces himself to commit to ideas, mentioning that sleep deprivation, that he gets after many hours staying in the studio, puts him in a zone. It’s how he visualizes his own world – and his first full-length studio album from 2015, ‘Adventure’, stays true to that vision – with tracks like ‘Imperium’ and ‘Pixel Empire’ literally feeling as being in a spaced-out adventure in an unknown planet. To top this off, Madeon likes to hide meaning in his music, as in track ‘Technicolor’ from the earlier mentioned debut album that shares a morse code towards the ending, and acts as a hunting game for his fans: From transforming a website by entering a code to downloading an artwork, to finding a secret archive to eventually finding a follow-up morse code by merging together two visuals and putting them against the sun. A whole complicated mission that was funny enough cracked within two hours, making him realize the impact he has on his fan-community.
Finding a break in between constant touring, Madeon finally found the time to finalize his sophomore release ‘Good Faith’. And while his first album ‘Adventure’ deals with adolescence capturing his teenage years, his follow up is actually a transition to his next level in artistry, explaining in an interview with the Recording Academy that his in-between single with Porter Robinson called ‘Shelter’ (an intimate song about his parents) inspired him to sing and write more: “[Shelter] did well, so I felt vindicated that Madeon could be a project that was as sincere and as embodied as I wanted it to be; it didn’t have to be like a producer project or vehicle for other people’s songs and stories; could be like very much about what I wanted to say and communicate.” Inspired to make it his truest expression and what he’s been through, Madeon stated that ‘Good Faith’ feels more to him like an artist album than everything he’s done before. Let’s dig into the album and see if that’s truly the case.
The album starts off with atmospheric ‘Dream Dream Dream’ that’s introduced by Madeon with a big ‘HELLO’: “…it’s one of the songs I’ve made I’m happiest with, I’m so thrilled to share it with you!” Stated by him to be a celebration of joy, the track indeed offers euphoric feelings with choir-pieces that right from the beginning reminds of African tunes. Kind of a free feel as being in nature, like an electronic mix for the Lion King soundtrack, with lyrics underlining strong feelings of love: “Cause I’ve got you to adore, nothing is true anymore.” Right after, the second track ‘All My Friends’ makes notice of itself with bass and pan flute. Promoted with a handful of vinyl copies released in selected cities worldwide (including his hometown Nantes in France) and released as the first single, the pop-like structure and rhythmic bass is a fun song to listen to. It follows the pace of ‘Be Fine’ that just like the opener track uses chopped choir sounds but lyric-wise lets his environment know not to worry too much about his well being (“If I fall to the ground I’ll come again”), then ending calmy, yet putting a quick ‘HA!’ in there just for fun.
Then, in ‘Nirvana’, things start to get serious: As if you’re wandering in space, it literally gives the feels of slowly walking down a road and getting closer to a destination, reaching the album’s actual core that nicely connects with ‘Mania’ afterwards, where sounds of drums with electronic beats yet again, just like ‘Dream Dream Dream’ offer African feels in a jungle, and also would fit into a climax of either a video game or adventure film.
In addition, the album’s content also deals with introvert pieces. Like in dreamy ‘Hold Me Just Because’ for example, or in smooth and calm ‘Miracle’. In Madeon-fashion, his introvert self is surprisingly diminished in the mentioned songs when in ‘Hold Me Just Because’ drums and trumpets take over right towards the end, and ‘Miracle’ unexpectedly showcases his singing ability with only piano in the background. Madeon keeps surprising with different elements that accompany French house when he out of the blue adds soul influences in ‘Heavy With Hoping’, mixing effects with EDM and adding some levitation, which works very well with feature Audra Mae who not only delivers soul with her voice but also brings in a lazy Sunday coffee mood. This kind of ‘take it easy’ attitude is carried on in ‘No Fear No More’, too – danceable in pop urban, laid back summer feels with influences of K-Pop, and gives happy feelings with the help of singing kids supporting the hook in the background (performed by the West Los Angeles Children’s Choir). Piano, guitar, and trumpets then build up in final track ‘Borealis’ that starts off in a slow rate, then slowly but surely brings in some tempo, getting faster around three minutes (like an autopilot almost without noticing), then slowly tunes out to bring the song and the entire project to a nice ending.
A single word to define Madeon’s music, in general, would be the word magic. This is how it literally feels, the soundtrack of how you’d imagine magic would sound like. As if you feel lost between time and space, with some distortions, dreamy vibes, and unexpected changes. The music sounds like an illusion, yet it still manages to stay in one line. In comparison to his 2015 debut, he in fact sings more and gives away more personal content. What also sticks out is that ‘Good Faith’, in comparison to ‘Adventure’, has more pop elements, while ‘Adventure’ has more heavy dance tracks and ‘Good Faith’ more mellow moments. Moreover, there is no competition of ‘which album is better?’ It’s rather a matter of personal preference. To sum it up, all the tracks work together. All ten to be exact. In a time where artists drop albums with close to twenty songs, Madeon shows that ten well-created tracks are sufficient enough to create a nice album. Plus, it’s all the little details in every song that defines the project.