With a full-length documentary film, five compilations and a sell-out tour under his belt, not to mention his two consecutive placings at the top of DJ Mag’s prestigious Top 100 poll, Dutchman Hardwell had already established his superstar status way before he announced his debut album, United We Are.
But arriving six years after his breakthrough mash-up of Robin S’ “Show Me Love” and Steve Angello & Laidback Luke’s “Be,” its fifteen tracks fail to justify exactly why the 27-year-old is held in such high regard.
Indeed, despite boasting an impressive array of guest names, including R&B lothario Jason Derulo (“Follow Me”), husky-voiced soulman Mr. Probz (“Birds Fly”) and hypeman Fatman Scoop (“Don’t Stop The Madness”), as well as fellow countrymen Tiesto, Funkerman and W&W, much of United We Are is indistinguishable from the stadium-friendly EDM sound that has long since reached saturation point.
Occasionally, the man formerly known as Robbert van de Corput will show glimmers of inspiration. The expletive-laden “Sally” is an enjoyably ridiculous attempt to bring the hair metal of the 80s kicking and screaming into the clubland arena, while the widescreen instrumental section of opener “Eclipse” and the sci-fi synths and imposing spoken-word samples of “Area 51” see Hardwell explore his cinematic ambitions with promising results.
But from “Let Me Be Your Home” to “Nothing Can Hold Us Down” to the title track, elsewhere Hardwell relies far too heavily on the all-too familiar wave of fratboy-friendly drops, hard-hitting beats and hands-in-the-air melodies that you feel like you’ve heard a million times before.
Given that his recent dominance at the top of the Dutch DJ chain has been met with some skepticism, you would have expected Hardwell to raise his game considerably for his first full-length studio effort. But instead of silencing his critics, the utterly generic United We Are is only like to provide them with more ammunition.