Cashmere Cat knows what pop music is supposed to sound like. He just doesn't care.
That willful disregard for convention is what makes the Norwegian producer's debut album, 9, so exciting. Not to say it throws out the pop entirely — the album is full of potential and realized hits, like the beautiful Ariana Grande-featuring "Quit" and the already-popular Selena Gomez collab "Trust Nobody." But Cashmere Cat's productions are just zany and out-there enough to thrust the album into experimental territory.
And if you experiment with sugar, the result is going to be sweet — no matter what.
9 is a short trip through Cashmere Cat's kaleidoscopic, musical mind, the same one he's been teasing in his eclectic, world-blending DJ sets for the past five years. With plinking, whirling synthesizers, scattered, bouncy percussion and layers and layers of vocals from some of pop and R&B's biggest names, it's an album that has all the perfect ingredients and then some. In some ways, it's like a weird, hazy version of Now That's What I Call Music!, a compilation of today's biggest pop stars filtered through the creative imagination of Norway's most prolific producer.
Over the past several years, since moving to the United States, Cashmere Cat has worked with all the names listed on 9's tracklist and more — including Travis Scott, Kanye West and Charli XCX. And while none of those artists appear on the album, the versatility gained from those studio sessions is the ingredient that holds the record together.
Each song here has a distinct sound and feel — from Ty Dolla $ign's soulful crooning on "Infinite Stripes" to future superstar Camila Cabello's slumber party-turned-rave anthem "Love Incredible," it's a testament to Cashmere Cat's skill as a producer and curator that nothing feels out of place. In fact, what could be scattered and disparate turns out to be a 35-minute jaunt through the some of the strangest, catchiest pop songs in recent memory.
If the album has a weakness, it's in the addictive quality of pop music. You just want more, and the small, seductive teases like the instrumental loop at the end of "Infinite Stripes" that never develop into full ideas don't help. The album also reveals the near-extinction of the producer's bright, quirky instrumentals with which he launched his career. Every song here has a vocalist — except for the vintage Cashmere solo piece "Victoria's Veil," a song that seems to exist solely to remind us what we're missing.
But 9 is most enjoyable when it's accepted for what it is — a pop album. Sure, the songs are wild and occasionally less-than-accessible, but behind the ADHD production of Cashmere Cat's feline mind, it plays like an incredible real-time remix of a Top 40 radio station.
It's an album that tries to please everybody, and it comes really damn close.