Kygo has been my favorite artist for the last three years. So, with Kygo releasing his third album in a week, I decided to do a review on his first two albums. Kygo’s freshman album, Cloud Nine, is a masterpiece, filled with luscious piano melodies, enchanting vocals and heart-throbbing lyrics. Each song features Kygo’s masterful piano skills and the album, while having a few weaker songs, is one incredible musical journey.
Song #1: “Intro”
“Intro” is a piano interlude performed by Kygo himself that works in preparing the listener for the magic that they are about to listen to. The song starts off slow, with just the piano playing. It then builds, adding more sound, expanding the range of the piano, and adding more hype for the songs to come. It then dies back down to the initial note that it starts off with from the piano, and then fades out. This song is very beautiful and serves very well as an introduction that showcases Kygo’s mesmerizing piano skills and tropical sounds; thus transporting you to a beautiful beach-like fantasy.
Song #2: “Stole the Show” (featuring Parson James)
“Stole the Show” was one of Kygo’s first major hits, and deservedly so. The melodies of the keyboard are enchanting. The percussion is also very powerful. However, the most interesting element of this song are the lyrics. It is a breakup song, but not just any traditional breakup song. Instead of just talking about the complications of a breakup, Kygo decides to compare a breakup to performing a show. There are many lines throughout the song that addresses the breakup, but from a stage performance view. The idea to take a new spin on the traditional breakup songs in this manner is very unique, which definitely helped earn its fame.
Song #3: “Fiction” (featuring Tom Odell)
In my opinion, the best thing about “Fiction” is easily the piano. Throughout the song, there is this catchy melody that Kygo performs on the piano that is extremely fun to listen to, with a version of the melody played later in the song that just takes my breath away. Only three songs into the album, and it is clear to see how insane Kygo’s piano and melody writing skills are.
Song #4: “Raging” (featuring Kodaline)
“Raging” is a bit somber compared to the last song, with Kodaline singing about how rough it is to not be with his girl at the moment. The vocals, provided by Kodaline, are very powerful, and with Kygo’s piano chiming in with Kodaline, this song is very enchanting. The song also has a nice touch of guitar, adding it a bit of a different sound than the last few songs of this album.
Song #5: “Firestone” (featuring Conrad Sewell)
“Firestone” is one of the gems of this album. Initially released as a single, this song not only put Kygo into the spotlight, but is still even considered his best song by many of his fans. Once you listen to this song, it will make sense as to why this is such a defining song of Kygo’s. The flow of this song is exceptional. It starts off with a piano intro, as well as some breathtaking percussion. It then dies down to just piano chords and Sewell’s vocals. Then it starts to build alongside Sewell, who is singing a very motivational message of what love truly is. This build up then ends with Kygo’s piano dipping out, Sewell taking over the stage for his final lyrics of the verse, and then Kygo swooshing back in with one of the most enchanting melodies ever crafted. The flow of this song is truly exceptional and, alongside its positive message, it definitely stands out not only in Kygo’s repertoire, but in the world of music as well.
Song #6: “Happy Birthday” (featuring John Legend)
First off, the fact that Kygo was able to acquire a legend like John Legend on his first album is no minor feat. John Legend’s vocals mesh so beautifully with Kygo’s sound. The vocals that John Legend delivers on this song is definitely one of my favorite vocal performances on this album. This song’s melody is a lot simpler compared to the melodies that are featured earlier in this album, however, it not only works for the song, but for the album as well. After experiencing the overwhelming majesty of “Firestone”, the listener definitely needs a bit of a break, and this serves very well as that break, while also not being boring. Although the melody is a lot simpler, it is still very soothing to the ear. This is one song that I continue to go back and listen to.
Song #7: “I’m in Love” (featuring James Vincent McMorrow)
Although many people probably love this song, I personally find I’m in Love to be one of the weaker songs on this album. I personally do not care for how James Vincent McMorrow’s vocals are utilized in this song and the melody is not particularly special.
Song #8: “Oasis” (featuring Foxes)
“Oasis”, although it is not my favorite of the album, it is still very pretty. The vocals on this song are not my favorite, although they still are pretty to listen to. The piano is definitely the best element of this song. However, what prohibits this song from being a masterpiece to me is the flow of it. For some reason, the transitions between the verses and choruses seem a bit forced, causing this song to not sound as amazing as it could have been.
Song #9: “Not Alone” (featuring RHODES)
“Not Alone” is one of the more somber songs of the album. Although I am not usually a huge fan of somber songs, this one surprisingly works for me. Throughout the song, there is a constant build up leading towards the end of the song, where RHODES delivers a beautiful message, “You’re not alone”, in an enchanting repetition. It then ends with Kygo harmonizing with his piano to RHODES’ vocals creating a sad, throbbing, yet hopeful emotion, which is truly special to listen to. The simplicity and somberness of this song not only works in the context of the album, but also provides a different, intriguing view into the musical abilities of Kygo.
Song #10: “Serious” (featuring Matt Corby)
“Serious” is another somber song of the album, however, it is one of the more unique songs on the album. Unlike the last nine songs, “Serious” has a very different sound and message. Instead of having a more positive tone, Kygo decided to do what most EDM (or even pop) artists are too afraid to tackle, actually talking about heavier problems than romance. This song’s message addresses the problems of money – how it can take control of us and can damage our relationships. The song also has a much emptier sound to it which works very well in conjunction with the message.
Song #11: “Stay” (featuring Maty Noyes)
After the last few more somber songs of the album, “Stay” is a very welcome return to Kygo’s cheerier repertoire. Everything about this song works so magically. The vocals provided by Maty Noyes are very unique, adding a bit of spice to this song. Also, the keyboard and percussion gel perfectly, creating a very bouncy tune that is quite addicting. Bottom-line, no matter what your mood is prior to listening to this song, it will be hard to resist the happiness found in it.
Song #12: “Nothing Left” (featuring Will Heard)
After the joyful tones of the last song, Kygo decided to return to a few more somber songs. The first one, “Nothing Left”, is a much more serious song. Similar to “Serious”, “Nothing Left” also addresses a much more serious problem, the problem of living a self-centered life. Songs like this is what makes Kygo a much higher-caliber artist than most EDM and pop artists. Addressing serious topics that could be polarizing takes a lot of courage, and I am delighted to see that Kygo has no problem with addressing them. Unlike “Serious”, “Nothing Left” does not have an empty sound to it, however, it does have a more serious sound than the rest of the album. The vocals of Will Heard also work very well for this more serious song.
Song #13: “Fragile” (featuring Labrinth)
The next somber song, “Fragile”, is more of a love cry rather than a wake-up call for society. Personally, I do not care too much for this song. The melodies are not very memorable, and the vocals provided by Labrinth are a bit annoying to me. However, I have heard worse songs, so I am not necessarily complaining, I just do not have a lot to say about this one.
Song #14: “Carry Me” (featuring Julia Michaels)
The last upbeat song, “Carry Me”, is easily one of my other favorites of this album, and probably Kygo’s entire repertoire. “Carry Me” is a love ballad that starts out pretty calm, with a continuous piano melody playing in the background. For most of the song, the star is easily Julia Michaels. Her voice works so wonderfully with the angelic sound of a Kygo song. However, where the song gets interesting is toward the end, where the continuous piano melody drops out, leaving Julia Michaels singing by herself. This creates an interesting build up. After Michaels repeats her bridge line a few times alone, Kygo immediately jumps back in with his piano, with some powerful build-up chords, which then leads to one of my favorite piano solos that I have heard yet from a Kygo song. The feeling of the piano solo is just pure bliss. This song not only works well as a stand-alone song of Kygo’s, but also as the last upbeat song of the album. It is a great summary statement of how magical Kygo’s music can truly be.
Song #15: “For What It’s Worth” (featuring Angus & Julia Stone)
“For What It’s Worth” works so well as the closing song for Kygo’s freshman album. It has a much more somber tone, and a very interesting message as well. The song is basically an apology letter, stating that “for what it’s worth, I was only trying to wake you up.” There are a lot of different meanings that can be drawn from the lyrics of this song. Although the lyrics are definitely exceptional in this song, my favorite part of it is, yet again, the piano. Kygo actually released the piano part as an instrumental before this song was released. The piano accompaniment does a fantastic job of making you feel heartbroken, yet soothed, all at the same time. The fact that this song also has few electrical elements compared to a traditional Kygo song works very well for the closing song of the album. Having a song that focuses more on the piano skills of Kygo, like the opening song “Intro”, does a great job of concluding the magical journey of Cloud Nine.
Kygo’s induction into the world of EDM with Cloud Nine was not only a spectacular introduction for the music crafter but changed the world of EDM entirely. It has been said that Kygo is Avicii’s successor, and after listening to this album, it is clear that this is no shallow statement. Although Avicii initiated the transformation of EDM, Kygo took Avicii’s accomplishments, and continued his vision. The way that Kygo weaves talented vocals, powerful lyrics and his magical piano skills into each song is stunning. It is a drastically different approach to EDM compared to most EDM artists; to create music rather than just beats. The fact that Kygo not only was able to pull off an astonishingly beautiful work of art for his first album, but redefine an entire genre of music as well is astounding. Cloud Nine is definitely a production of musical genius and, out of Kygo’s two albums that have been released so far, it is easily my favorite. Although there are a few songs that I do not care for, the rest of the album is so perfect to me that it far outweighs the disadvantage of inconsistency. Cloud Nine was not only a masterpiece, but a statement to the world that a new artist was taking the spotlight; one that was about to take the world’s breath away.