On Tuesday night, Tiësto took over one of NYC’s premier music venues, Terminal 5, and turned it into his own club to celebrate the release of “A Town Called Paradise” earlier that day. Danny Avila, currently signed to Tiësto’s label Musical Freedom, opened up the night with the typical big room fare. When it came time for the main event, the entire venue was lit up with white lights and the LED screens filled with futuristic, metallic machine parts interlocking to create Tiësto’s logo, while the sole instrumental track “Rocky” from Tiësto’s new album slowly built to an epic crescendo.
Tiësto proceeded to weave an impressive set comprised of songs from the new album, as well as older originals like “Feel It In My Bones” and “Pair Of Dice.” Many of the vocalists featured on the new album came out and sang live, including Icona Pop, Matthew Koma and Ladyhawke. Despite the necessary rehearsed order of guest appearances, as a DJ myself, I really respected the fact that Tiësto mixed each song transition in real time. Once Tiësto had covered most of the album’s tracks, he addressed the crowd, “Are you ready to rage?”, and proceeded to drop harder big room tracks and a few trance classics like “Adagio for Strings.” In the midst of a riveting slew of electro bangers, he welcomed surprise guest Hardwell onto the stage who unsheathed “Apollo” and a few other tracks.
Photo Credit: Jordan Loyd
“A Town Called Paradise” is Tiësto’s fifth full-length album. In recent interviews, Tiësto has drawn a distinction between his recent “Club Life” compilation albums, which were a mix of traditional EDM tracks made by various producers, and “Paradise,” which entailed Tiësto’s close involvement in writing full-length vocal songs and imbuing them with his personal experiences living and working in Sweden and Las Vegas. The album’s title is inspired by Vegas, where Tiësto has held several nightclub and pool party residencies over the past few years. To him, Vegas is his town called paradise, but as Tiësto said in his album commentary on YouTube, “I think in general, a lot of people have a town in the world called paradise. So I think everyone can relate to it, that you can go to your own town called paradise.”
“Paradise” is certainly a departure from Tiësto’s signature sounds, which over the years have shifted from trance to electro and progressive house. It has a softer, sometimes poppy vibe, and as Tiësto himself identified, some tracks even have indie rock influences. Although some of Tiësto’s die hard fans have decried this shift to more of a radio-friendly sound, I think after decades of producing arena-filling trance and EDM, Tiësto has earned the right to create an album that experiments with different styles and ultimately just expresses his personal life experiences. And as Tiësto demonstrated at the release party, his propensity to play the big room sound at live performances isn’t going anywhere. Looking at the album in this lens, I think the majority of the songs are emotionally moving and have the correct tone to express Tiësto’s ideas, while still unleashing EDM-style drops and basslines where appropriate.
Read below as I share my thoughts on the album track-by-track, including impressions I gathered seeing them performed live at the album release party.
1. Red Lights
This has probably gotten the most attention thus far of all of the album’s tracks, released as a single months ago and played on top 40 radio stations. Inspired by Tiësto’s time living in Sweden, this track starts out light with acoustic guitar and soothing vocals. The lyrics, together with Tiësto’s catchy melodies, construct a state we can all aspire to where we can escape society’s constraints, do what we please and “run them red lights.”
Live: Attendees were given free Tiësto-branded wristbands upon entering the show. When Tiësto played Red Lights (with Michael Zitron singing live and amping up the crowd), every writsband lit up in red and began to pulsate to the beat. From the VIP balcony, the crowd below transformed into a beautiful sea of red.
2. Footprints feat. Cruickshank
This is my favorite track on the album. I first discovered it while listening to a recording of Tiësto’s set at Ultra Miami 2014. The high-pitched, blissfully buzzing, but still light melody hooked me instantly. My interpretation of the lyrics matches what Tiësto described in his album commentary - it’s inspired by his travels all across the globe as a performer and how he’s left strong impressions (or “footprints”) on fans and communities worldwide.
Live: Cruickshank sang live and wowed the crowd with improvised vocal crescendos at times, as the LED screens displayed images from locales across the globe.
3. Light Years Away feat. DBX
This track is really carried by DBX’s soulful rock-style vocals that at times remind me of 90’s band 3 Doors Down. The main driving beat carries a subtle echo of the vocals, which is a nice touch. A tale of trying to make a relationship work despite feeling distant, “light years away.”
4. A Town Called Paradise feat. Zac Barnett from American Authors
This is another of my solid favorites on the album and is inspired by Tiësto’s experiences in Vegas. The album’s title track starts out unassuming with a piano line, but builds nicely, first with Barnett’s vocals, then with an epic melodic drop. I listened to this track while walking down the street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn on a nice summer day last week and it really seemed to infuse my perception of the neighborhood with a glowing, positive vibe.
Live: As expected, the LED imagery depicted various scenes of Vegas nightlife, as the spotlights and strobes flashed in bright red.
5. Tiësto & Hardwell – Written In Reverse feat. Matthew Koma
This is a deeply meaningful collaboration between Tiësto and his former mentee Hardwell, who is now one of the top DJs in electronic music, also including Koma on vocals, who is without a doubt one of the top vocalists in electronic music. It’s a touching track about imagining a lost relationship that played out in reverse and might have worked out, fueled by a stimulating melody between vocal phrases.
Live: Although Hardwell did not make an appearance until later, Matthew Koma graced the stage with electric guitar in hand and belted this one out true to the recorded version.
6. Echoes feat. Andreas Moe
Moe’s vocals are haunting at first, eventually giving way to a vocal buildup that seems influenced by “Million Voices” by Otto Knows, and finally a grittier drop than we’ve seen on the album’s preceding tracks.
7. Tiësto & Firebeatz – Last Train feat. Ladyhawke
Tiësto collaborated with fellow Dutch producers Firebeatz to create this light melodic track with spirited buildups. Ladyhawke, on vocals, seems to tell a tale of lament that her lover is on the last train home again, wishing it weren’t so.
Live: Ladyhawke nailed singing this live, assuming a still, yet confident presence on stage that perfectly matched the song’s vibe.
8. Wasted feat. Matthew Koma
Here's another track that Tiësto previewed at Ultra Miami earlier this year, and it's already been remixed several times. It has a poppy, party feel to it and it's a solid summer hangout tune.
Live: Tiësto prefaced Matthew Koma’s live vocal performance of this track with the epic TST remix of the track. Koma again sounded faithful to the recording and had an amazing energy on stage.
9. Let’s Go feat. Icona Pop
Tiësto continued the working relationship with Icona Pop after remixing their hit "I Love It." This is a high-energy party track that makes me either want to dance or go out and get big things done. It's also featured in 7UP's World Cup-themed TV ad with Tiësto.
Live: Icona Pop was jumping around and loving life as the beautiful duo sang over Tiësto’s melodies. In keeping with the 7UP TV ad, the LED screens bore the drink’s logo and green balloons fell from the ceiling.
Photo Credit: Jordan Loyd
10. The Feeling feat. Ou Est Le Swimming Pool
This track starts with a europop beat, definitely standing out from Tiësto's typical big room style. Tiësto’s indie rock influences on the album really show in the vocal style used here. The drop exhibits Tiësto's harder style while still maintaining the track's lighter undertones.
Live: The LED screens depicted an animated scene of Tiësto as a comic book superhero trying to block a swarm of arrows from hitting a damsel in distress, with several images of arrows striking the heart. Creative and moving at the same time.
11. Shimmer feat. Christian Burns
Soulful vocals that remind me of many indie songs at once take a high-pitched turn before revealing a violin-infused synth line.
12. Tiësto & Kaaze – Rocky
This track inevitably makes me think of the movie Rocky and it's certainly a driving, inspiring tune. It's also the only fully instrumental track on the album. Tiësto has said that this track was inspired by 80's music.
Photo Credit: Jordan Loyd
13. Tiësto and Sultan + Ned Shepard – Close To Me feat. Quilla
Another instance of Tiësto's indie rock influences, this track features Quilla on vocals, who has been featured on Tiësto's previous compilations. Teaming up with Sultan and Ned Sheppard, this track has a massive energetic drop with Tiësto's signature written all over it.
Live: Quilla’s energy was inspiring, as she was overjoyed to share the stage with Tiësto and at times screamed with joy at the top of her lungs between verses, which was really effective in upping the crowd’s energy.
14. Set Yourself Free feat. Krewella
This is essentially Tiësto and Allure's previously released track "Pair Of Dice" with Krewella's vocals on top. A powerful song about letting yourself be free and true to what your real desires are.
Bonus Tracks on the Deluxe Edition of the Album:
15. Tiësto and MOTi – Don’t Hide Your Light featuring Denny White
This is one of my favorites on the album. Working with labelmate Moti, Tiësto created a rushing drop followed by emotional, high-pitched synths. Denny White sings over a deep bassline.
16. Tiësto and Fred Falke – Calling On Angels featuring Elan Lea
An airy track carried by Elan Lea's ethereal vocals. A light beat with supporting violins.
17. Tiësto and Dzeko & Torres – Can’t Forget
Teaming up with his mentees Dzeko & Torres, this is one of the harder tracks on the album, and some of the sounds bear similarity to Tiësto's side big room project TST. This is probably the most likely candidate to have replay value at EDC Vegas.
18. Tiësto – Take Me featuring Kyler England
A Tiësto-produced track released last year and featured in many of his live sets, ‘Take Me’ is an emotionally rich song about staving off loneliness and sharing experiences with a loved one. It bears Tiësto’s signature progressive house style.
Pick up Tiësto’s album on iTunes
Also available for streaming on Spotify: