As the world burned in the wake of the pandemic with global lockdowns, racial injustices, violence, and the suppression of freedom, ZHU found himself envisioning a new dream for the future. A utopia where human interaction is intertwined with art and the dancefloor would be the exhibit. A land where human expression through music and dance act as the ultimate form of self-expression and display of emotion without restrictions. Considering what the world has gone through this past year, this dream could feel like a fantasy, but for ZHU, it is necessary and imminent. Showcasing this dream on his third studio album, DREAMLAND 2021, serves as a call to action to get back to the dancefloor and rediscover art and expression in the purest of forms.
On April 30th, DREAMLAND 2021 was released through Astralwerks, unraveling the many layers of ZHU’s genius through hazy soundscapes and dynamics vocals. While ZHU’s visionary dream of artistic expression is optimistic and bright, the means by which he tells its story is dark and mysterious. With 12 tracks of grungy techno and seductive house, DREAMLAND 2021 creates a vibe filled with dark shades, cocaine, and strobe lights. More fitting for late-night clubs and dark, intimate settings than daytime festivals, ZHU explores the possibility of dance music returning to its primitive form where the only thing that mattered was getting lost in not only the music but the moment. The Grammy-nominated producer imagines DREAMLAND 2021 as an arcadia of dance music without the grasps of corporate pockets, government restrictions, or commercial aspirations. Just pure art and authentic expression that unites the people.
As the first track and introduction to Dreamland 2021, ZHU entices the listener by opening up with a banger. You’re immediately transported into the after-hours ZHU envisions as he sings, “I’ve Lost It I’ve been up all night. I’m still trying to find my mind,” over deep melodies and dark, twisted bass.
ZHU brings the funk to life with bouncy grooves and blurred vocals as he sets the tone for the album. He yearns to be free and express himself. “I don’t believe that music, dancing, or the freedom of expression will be suppressed for much longer,” “They can’t—that’s against human nature,” ZHU proclaims as the track comes to an end.
As cool as the weed strain, this track is named after ZHU showcases his talent as not only a singer with The Weekend-like vocals but his ability to combine r&b and hard house beats perfectly.
How Does It Feel (with Channel Tres)
One of the lighter tunes on the album, Channel Tres’s vocals, gives the record some soul as it’s paired wonderfully with funky guitar riffs and another impressive vocal performance by ZHU himself.
Sky Is Crying (with Yuna)
ZHU teams up with singer Yuna creating a late-night story of lost love and tears being taken out on the dancefloor. “The sky is crying (someday). Crying for the world, she knew,” Yuna repeats as the melody sounds through the night. This goes back to the world ZHU is trying to develop. A place where you lose yourself and emotions in the music.
Sweet Like Honey
Once again, ZHU showcases his singing and songwriting ability over beautiful piano melodies before the atmospheres become intense, signaling a change in emotion and catching the listener by surprise.
Yours (with Arctic Lake)
One of the most dreamy tracks on the record, the London pop trio Arctic Lake adds celestial vocals on top of heavenly synth work, creating a euphoric high.
ZHU then turns right and takes you deeper into the dark aspects of a nightlife filled with alcohol, drug addiction, and harsh encounters of living hard and fast. While chasing the thrill and glamor of nightlife, there is a fine line between light and destruction.
ONLY (with Tinashe)
Only has the vibe of leaving it all on the dancefloor while looking for love, even if it’s just for the night. Surfing between a multitude of genres, ZHU displays his production skills while hypnotizing the dance floor.
Zhudio54 (with partywithray)
As an homage to Studio54, the birthplace of Disco, ZHU creates his own version of disco with a modern twist and dark techno undertones. You can imagine the prolific strobe lights flashing before you as your lost in the sound.
Good4U (with Kota the Friend)
ZHU then adds hip-hop to his repertoire as he teams up with Brooklyn Rapper Kota the Friend stimulating your senses with resounding piano chords and restless beats.
I Need That
ZHU closes out with the hardest track on the album as heavy bass, and gritty disoriented saxophones drive the listener into a chaotic bliss that somehow makes sense. It is here the message of Dreamland 2021 comes together “I feel it drippin’ tonight, I feel it all in my body, My hands can feel all the rhythm oh,” ZHU sings as Dreamland 2021 comes full circle and ends back to the dancefloor, getting lost in art and expression.