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In a lineup akin to the EDM version of the Met Gala, it's a blurry smudge on Ultra's 2022 flier that's causing the dance music hive mind to come unglued.

When Ultra organizers announced the first phase of the lineup, they also revealed a secretive closing performance by "one of the most iconic artists in electronic music history." And one name instantaneously became the consensus.

Considering his illustrious history with the brand, all signs point to Hardwell. The storied Dutch DJ performed at Ultra every year from 2012 to 2018, when he shockingly stepped away from the electronic music industry at the age of 30. In many ways, Ultra's mythos runs through him.

When Ultra announced a third wave of artists by posting a flier with the festival's headliners listed in alphabetical order, fans quickly noticed that the censored name was bookended by Gareth Emery and ILLENIUM. It's the closest you can get to a smoking gun without it firing.

According to Ultra's daily stage programming slate, if Hardwell is eventually revealed as the secret artist, he'll close the Main Stage on Sunday, March 27th after David Guetta and Armin van Buuren, among others. 

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Fanning the flames of the speculation are recent tweets by a number of Hardwell's collaborators, including KURA and Timmy Trumpet.

The tweets' timing certainly has the feel of a bellwether, but it's too soon to queue up the "it's happening" memes from The Office. It's important to note that Ultra organizers have not yet confirmed a performance by Hardwell at the time of this article's publication.

It's worth noting that Hardwell teased a return to the stage during an impromptu appearance at the 2021 Amsterdam Dance Event, where he reconnected with many of his electronic music contemporaries, like KAAZE.

"This is not official yet, but he’s coming, he's coming," said KAAZE, who has released dozens of songs on Hardwell's Revealed Recordings imprint, at the time.

Earlier this year, Hardwell celebrated the 10-year anniversary of "Spaceman," the generational dance anthem he released just two months prior to his Ultra debut in 2012. If there was ever a time to dust off the headphones, it's now.

Ultra Music Festival will return to its longtime home of Bayfront Park March 25-27. You can purchase tickets here.




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