The headline act at the King of Netherlands’ coronation last month, Armin Van Buuren was also recently voted the world’s number one DJ by readers of DJ Magazine for the fifth time in his career. But despite his superstar status amongst the progressive trance community, and apparently Dutch royalty, the 36-year-old has yet to achieve that mainstream international breakthrough like the men (Guetta, Avicii, Deadmau5) he kept off the top spot.
His fifth studio album, Intense, might finally provide him with that elusive hit. In fact, there are two potentially massive singles here. First, the slow-building EDM of “This Is What It Feels Like,” which sounds like a less bombastic take on Swedish House Mafia’s global number one, “Don’t You Worry Child.” And secondly, “Turn This Love Around,” a euphoric hook-up with Australian twin sisters Nervo which suggests diva-ish vocal house could become Armin Van Buuren’s forte should he choose.
There are a couple of interesting ideas on offer elsewhere, namely the epic title track collaboration with US-Israeli violinist Miri Ben-Ari, which fuses furious Baltic classical music with flashes of dubstep and retro arcade game electro, and the surprising indie-rock finale of “Reprise.”
Unfortunately, the other 11 tracks on Intense indicate why Van Buuren has struggled to transfer his success from the super-clubs to the charts. “Waiting For The Night,” “Won’t Let You Go” and “Forever Is Ours” all stick to the same safe generic trance-pop formula that has defined his near 20-year career, aimless instrumentals “Pulsar” and “Last Stop Before Heaven” plod along for six long minutes without ever threatening to provide a memorable hook, while the spooky “Love Never Came” is little more than a watered-down retread of Faithless’ “We Come 1.”
Intense feels like it’s the last-gasp opportunity for Armin Van Buuren to reach the masses before the EDM scene reaches saturation point. But the two obvious pop juggernauts aside, he doesn’t appear to have grasped it with both hands.
<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/BR_DFMUzX4E” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>