Two-time Grammy-nominated DJ and producer Steve Aoki just dropped his long-awaited sixth studio album, Neon Future IV, and it's everything that fans have been waiting for. The next installment in his Neon Future album series continues where Neon Future III left off and straps us in for another long voyage through mankind’s technology-filled future.
The album's 27 tracks not only delves into Aoki's known interests such as biotechnology, electronic immortality and the mutually beneficial relationship between humans and machines, it also solidifies why he is a master of versatility when it comes to electronic dance music's many subgenres. Neon Future IV is filled with more dance-pop and radio-friendly collaborations than his previous albums, but it still has the DJ's electro house and big room flare along with some moombahton, reggaeton, trap, and future bass influences.
On the album, Aoki said:
"I have songs that are intrinsic to the DNA of what Neon Future is about and I have my club bangers and all this stuff, and they all work together, because at the end of the day they're all musical expressions of this period of time of Steve Aoki."
The first track of the album, "Closer To God," serves as a prologue to the journey we're about to embark on as it welcomes us back into this futuristic world. The song starts with a long speech that explains that in the neon future "we are searching into the unknown, exploring an ever-expanding frontier, trying to find answers to understand hope." It almost feels like a mix of the Star Trek and Twilight Zone openings. When it finally concludes, we're suddenly hit with chilling electric synths and eventually some solid techy beats.
"Closer To God" also melds Aoki's comic book series with his music. Kita Sovee, who's featured as the vocalist on the song and the album's last track, "Eevos Atik Foes Ireht," is the character who looks strikingly like the DJ himself in Impact Theory's Neon Future comics. When he debuted the comic book series back in 2018, he told fans at New York Comic Con that he thought the best way to portray the Neon Future albums' storytelling aspect was through comics. Now with both the comic book series up to its sixth issue and the release of Neon Future IV, Aoki's vision for his neon future world has fully come to fruition.
The next track on the album, "I Love My Friends," is the start of the dance-pop collaborations which span the first and a little bit into the second half of Neon Future IV. Easily a contender for this year's top summer anthem, the feel-good track featuring the electro-pop duo, Icona Pop, brings energy to the album with its positive vibes.
Going back to the early days of Aoki's imprint Dim Mak Records, "Halfway Dead," featuring Global Dan and Blink-182's drummer, Travis Barker, mixes pop punk with dance music and begins the long list of the many eclectic collaborations to come. Turning down the energy just a hair, "Daylight" brings the chill with its smooth synths and gives off that same carefree feeling the night brings as Tory Lanez sings, "Don't let daylight find us."
The next handful of songs consists of previous releases, but they showcase most of the subgenre variety Neon Future IV has to offer. They include Aoki's speed house collaboration with Slushii, "One True Love," a reggaeton/moombahton infused dance track with Maluma, "Maldad," a hip-hop infused trap song with Lay Zhang and will.i.am, "Love You More," a K-pop collaboration with Monsta X, "Play It Cool," his and Darren Criss' cover of the Dave Matthews Band's rock hit, "Crash Into Me" and his two most radio-friendly and heartwarming dance-pop tracks, "2 In A Million" with The Police's Sting and SHAED and "Let It Be Me" with the Backstreet Boys.
A lot of the new songs on the album also find themselves on the list too. "Girl" featuring Agnez Mo and Desiigner mixes middle eastern melodies and a lyrical hip-hop style. A tropical sounding track with acoustic guitars, "1 4 U," features the most unexpected vocalist on the album, actress Zooey Deschanel.
"Inside Out" with Felix Jaehn featuring Jamie Scott and "New Blood" with Echosmith's Sydney Sierota both tackle a more future bass kind of sound. However, "New Blood" straddles the line between the last of the dance-pop side of the album and the beginning of the more hardcore electronic sounding second half. The song has both easygoing pop-sounding verses and drops that have a more gritty tech texture than the previous tracks. And Sierota's mesmerizing vocals effortlessly fit into each.
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"Homo Deus" takes Neon Future IV in a more electronic and tech direction with its chilling electric synths and fast gritty electronic melodies. It also touches upon some of Aoki's futurism themes that he weaves into his music.
Like previous Neon Future albums that feature someone from the science community, the electro house song's vocals are provided by Israelian historian Yuval Harari. The song even takes its name from the historian's book, Home Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, which goes into mankind's current history and imagines what the future would be like.
"Terra Incognita" is another electro house song that has a similar featured vocalist in the form of an entrepreneur that deals with Aoki's biotechnology themes. Bryan Johnson is the CEO of a company that develops advanced neural interfaces and he also invests in early-stage science and technology companies.
Having a more science and space exploration vibe, the song is the perfect backdrop to Johnson's reflection of our evolution:
"We are at a defining moment of being human, how well we evolve, how well the interplay with us and our creations and machines happen over the coming decades. It's a remaking, it's a reconfiguration, it's a reimagination. The most significant opportunity we have is to aspire to an existence which exceeds our imagination."
Aside from the slowest song in the second half of the album, his previously released collaboration with Alan Walker featuring ISÁK, "Are You Lonely," the rest of Neon Future IV consists of Aoki's festival anthems and club bangers. This includes big room tracks like his and Alok's revamped version of The Chemical Brothers' "Do It Again," "Rave" with Showtek and MAKJ featuring Kriss Kross and his collaboration with Ummet Ozcan and Dzeko, "Popcorn."
Even towards the end of the album, Aoki still exudes energy and adds more subgenres to the list with hardcore/hard dance festival-ready tracks like "I Wanna Rave" with the Bassjackers and "Hava" with Timmy Trumpet featuring Dr Phunk. Not quite as fast, "2045," with Going Deeper, tries to keep up the pace with its future house and video game sounds.
The last two songs shift gears as our neon future journey comes to an end and bids us goodbye with the promise of future adventures. "Cut You Loose" slows things down and gives us hope for the future with its epic drops and Matthew Koma's soothing vocals as he sings, "I will love you at your worst, I will never cut you loose."
As a bookend to the album's first track, "Eevos Atik Foes Ireht" has the same slow beginning that has a sort of magical voyage wonder to it. However, when it gets to the last minute, it goes into a mishmash of trap drops and vocals shifting from both channels until it cuts out. It kind of feels like the teaser to more of Aoki's future experiments with his sound and the continued honing of his subgenre versatility.
Overall, Neon Future IV is a testament to everything that Aoki has accomplished thus far and his endeavor to bring more of the neon future world to his fans in the form of comic books, fashion lines, toy figurines and whatever else he ventures into next.
If you haven't taken the epic voyage that is Neon Future IV, you can stream it here.