Zedd Tickles Ivories on Drop-Free 'Letterman' Performance

Foxes, Alvin Risk, string sextet lend emo tinge to EDM-free rendition of "Clarity"

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Philip Sherburne WRITTEN BY
Philip Sherburne

When Skrillex told SPIN, "Electronic music isn't a fucking genre, it's a platform," his protégé Zedd clearly must have been taking notes. The young German producer may have made his name on the back of remix contests, singles for Skrillex's Owsla label, and flash-bang laptop sets at gigs like Ultra Music Festival, but his recent album Clarity suggested a desire to use his EDM cred as a springboard into straight-up pop music. His appearance yesterday on Late Night With David Letterman proved that he's made that jump.

Zedd traded his laptop and controllers for a gleaming concert grand; guest singer Foxes, practically glowing in her white lace tunic, stood front and center behind the mic. To drive home the point that this was Very Serious Music made by real, live people, a string sextet was on hand to provide the requisite sweeps and swells. (Poor Alvin Risk, who sang backup vocals, barely made it onto the cameras, a fact which only served to highlight the Where's Waldo? aspect of his outfit. At least Letterman complimented him on his scarf.) Those listening for a glimmer of Zedd's electronic-music roots could find it in a subtle percussive pattern that functioned more as a click-track than a serotonin stimulator.

Despite some speculation to the contrary, Zedd isn't the first artist from the electronic sphere to perform on late-night television; Moby played Letterman way back in 2000. By that point in his career, Moby had already proven himself as comfortable with alt-rock as rave or ambient music, so his full-band, funk-lite performance (featuring Gwen Stefani, at that) wasn't as unexpected a 180-degree-turn as the dulcet sound of Zedd unplugged. (Not to be outdone, Fatboy Slim took to Letterman's stage in 2006 backed by a gospel choir and a juggler.)

But while Zedd may have proven his mettle as a pop performer and songwriter, one moment of the broadcast suggested that it may still be an uphill battle for the German musician. After congratulating Foxes on her performance, Letterman turned to acknowledge Zedd with a hearty, "Auf Wiedersehen!" That's a hell of a way to mark the rising star's arrival.

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