Music Review: Marshmello

Julia Kaplansky, Senior, Staff Reporter

His enormous cartoon-like mask with large fictional eyes light up a room. Though he is an internationally acclaimed star with millions of fans, the musician behind the mask remains a mystery. Creating and performing music is a talent in itself, but doing it masked is a creative escape from the public eye. DJ and electronic dance music (EDM) producer Marshmello first gained recognition from remixing tracks by Jack Ü and Zedd, and later rose to fame by partnering with artists like Jauz and Slushii. Marshmello’s iconic head costume is made from a 3D printer, and only a few of the prototypes are in existence. While speculation on the man behind the cardboard box has been ongoing for years now, Forbes Magazine confirmed in 2017 that his alias is supposedly Chris Comstock, also known as Dotcom. The reason Marshmello performs with his helmet is still unknown, though fans have theorized that it is used to create an excitement over unmasking his true identity. Or perhaps, in a personality-driven culture, the disguise is to keep the focus on the music and not the musician.

At the time of his debut into the industry, Marshmello’s sounds were unique — incorporating rich bass and drums, sounds that almost frightened other artists. The EDM industry was something new and exciting. In his newest hit, “Here With Me,” which was released in March 2019, Scottish band Chvrches is featured. Marshmello’s lyrics juxtapose the pain and the joy of love. He says, “You’re saying the words that I want you to say // There’s a pain in my heart and it won’t go away// Now I know I’m falling in deep.” Given the depth of emotion, Marshmello rightly upends the upbeat sound that has been his usual style. Instead, the halting, staccato stop-start lyrics and melancholy guitar are balanced against a driving drumbeat that perfectly compliments the lyrical tone.

“Paralyzed,” a much older song than “Here With Me,” reflects on the immobility Marshmello feels in trying to survive a failed relationship. He can’t, or won’t, let go, reflected in the heartbreak of both the words he sings and the music that underscores it. “Baby, why won’t you stay with me?//’Cause I know I’ve tried///And I know I’ve said goodbye//Baby, without you by my side//Ya, I feel like I’m paralyzed,” Marshmello’s synth-sampled voice amply echoes the frustration and sadness of unsuccessful love — robotic, repetitious, and pleading — with a musical drum break that drips with desperation. For sure, this is not your typical electronic-dance single.

Even his single “Happier,” nominated for Billboard Music Awards 2019 Top Dance/Electronic Song, is a little lethargic. It starts off slowly, with a vocal sung against open chords that is only punctuated by thumb-snaps in the second verse. He conveys a message that happiness is just fleeting — “We’re a flame in the wind — not the fire.” Marshmello provides blunt honesty with his words, as the lyrics build in intensity as he pleads for redemption in another failed relationship. Towards the end of the song, he finally reveals the song’s lyrical twist — “I want you to be happier, so I’ll go.”

Marshmello’s style is unique, even if his lyrics sometimes reflect all-too-familiar themes. He is atypical of anything you will find in the electronic music scene, and is definitely worth listening to.