Dillon Francis’s social-media presence, composed of a plethora of one-joke comic characters created on Vine and Instagram, demands that you make an opinion of him. And the same could be said of the chopped-n’-screwed synthesis of moombahton and trap on which Francis has built his musical reputation. Early songs like “Masta Blasta” and “Falling Up,” what with their rattling snares and tremulous saw leads, are likely to get slapped with the dismissive “brostep” tag, while more patient listeners may praise those songs’ occasional moments of subtle melodic and textural sophistication, reminiscent of M83’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming.
On his major-label debut, Money Sucks, Friends Rule, Francis attempts to eliminate all this divisiveness by making the Swiss Army knife of party albums. Need a buzzy club-rap rave-up? There’s opener “All That,” which features Twista and exemplifies Francis’s so-stupid-it’s-smart appeal with its head-slappingly turgid lyrics (“We gon’ party/Get retarded/Hella women, hella bottles poppin’”) and pre-chorus drops flavored with delectable G-funk synthesizers. Need a cheese-ball, lighter-waving house track? The Chain Gang of 1979-abetted “When We Were Young” is armed with an undeniably rousing vocal hook that adds heft to the track’s otherwise tired pleas for nostalgia. Need a bass-heavy paean to vegetable-oil spread complete with female robot voices quoting iconic ad campaigns? Then the formidably heavy, “#SELFIE”-ripping “Not Butter” is for you.
Money Sucks, Friends Rule’s lowest-common-denominator pandering isn’t a detriment in and of itself. The problem is that Francis is such a studied assimilator of pop trends that he runs the risk of erasing his personality from the tracks altogether. The DJ Snake collaboration “Get Low” is a too-obvious retread of “Turn Down for What” and “Love in the Middle of a Firefight” desperately grasps for radio play with its melodramatic phrasing and cloying na-na-na hooks. Even the Major Lazer-assisted “We Make It Bounce,” probably the best of the joint productions on the album, merely sounds more like a melodic Major Lazer track than a true melding of styles. When Francis’s idiosyncrasies are able to fly free (as on the pitch-shifting “I Can’t Take It” or the gleefully manic “What’s That Spell?,” which features a crowd of Ultra Festival attendees spelling out the word “fuck” in what is probably the best fusion of Francis’s music and humor to date), Money Sucks, Friends Rule begins to feel like less of an EDM survey course and more like a Dillon Francis album.