“First Time” – Kygo & Ellie Goulding

For someone who’s such a big fan of Kygo and typically keeps a close eye on his new releases, I actually stumbled upon this track as sort of a surprise. The same day I found “First Time,” I had also visited the National Gallery of Art here in DC for the second time, so I was able to enjoy the museum from a familiar lens. Specifically, I really noticed how the museum does such a great job of covering many artistic periods, yet still remains compact and not overwhelming. Even so, you get a great array of art that ranges over a vast period of time, such that you can make out the intersections that emerged between art periods as one transitioned to the next. I think we’re really seeing a similar transition for Kygo in his career as a producer and artist through tracks like “First Time,” along with the other tracks he’s recently released, including “It Ain’t Me” and “Cruise.”

Kygo has an interesting background. He’s a young guy from Norway, which, along with its neighboring Sweden, has been putting out some of the best house music throughout the past few years. Think of artists like Avicii, Matoma, or even Alan Walker. He became known by electronic fanatics through his deep house remixes and his more or less invention of tropical house as a new subgenre of house music. But then he entered the mainstream and became more of a pop star, especially with the recent Selena Gomez collaboration and the release of his debut studio album Cloud Nine last year. At this point in time, he seems ready to take the next step in his career and continue to mature and refine his craft, especially in his upcoming second studio album that has yet to be named. I am sure that we will see a greater degree of overall maturity in the next album, with a few pop crowd pleasers to keep the energy going.

Much of Kygo’s maturity has to do in part with his sound design. His most recent tracks, especially “First Time,” have introduced a more intentional and deliberate sound choice and arrangement that has resulted in much more confident mixes. As a result, Kygo as an artist has begun to command a greater degree of respect from his peers in the past year alone, and he’s certainly become a big name at festivals and other concerts globally. It’s fascinating to actually see the progression of this artist’s career play out, especially where you’re close in age and can perhaps better empathize with the artistic sentiments that fuel each track.

Arguably more important than sound design, however, is the actual musicianship invested within the track. Both Kygo and Ellie Goulding demonstrate a strong command of their instrumental and vocal skills, respectively, within “First Time”; Kygo was classically trained on piano as a child and continues to integrate his piano skills as a fundamental component of his music, while Goulding has of course been a big name in the pop and electronic scene for almost ten years. The result of meshing the two highly talented artists: a memorable and captivating track that has certainly grabbed my attention. I am really excited and optimistic about the next few months for Kygo, and I can only imagine what’s in store for this summer from the Scandinavian producer.

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