With the release of their debut album Cross in 2007, the French electronic duo Justice achieved international attention for their funk-laden bass lines and creatively sampled lyrics. The group, composed of Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspard Auge, described the album as “opera-disco.” Cross was unique in that it stretched the borders of the disco genre using modern sampling and mixing, and ultimately the album earned a nomination for Best Electronic/Dance Album at the 50th Grammy Awards.
Last week, Justice released their new album, Woman, which follows a brighter, more singsong rendition of their old-school sound. As of now, the response to the new album has been mixed; while some reviewers champion Justice for exploring their creative liberties in their new adaptation, others hold the opinion that the album has sacrificed the character of the music that made the band famous in the first place. It’s easy to see where the criticism stands—Cross had a decided grunge in the atmosphere that made it stand out in the midst of indie-electronic music, and frankly that dirtiness is absent in Woman. Justice’s new songs follow a similar formula to their old, but end up feeling slightly less inspired than their 2007 counterparts.
Woman stays true to the band’s goal of retrograding; it’s impossible to deny that the music sounds like a freshened up version of 80’s synth-electronic, and there’s something incredibly charming in that. The fault lies in that the band seems to have fallen into the rhythm of conventional pop spiced up with cheesy, laser-sounding synth overtones. That’s not inherently a bad thing, but it seems sort of unambitious after the frighteningly unique character that the band managed to create for itself in 2007. For many of the tracks on Woman, the artist could easily be mistaken for Daft Punk; again, not an inherently bad thing, but not the type of originality that Justice fans had been hoping for.
There are a few exceptions to the larger atmosphere of the album. The song “Alakazam!” plays directly into the cheesiness of the synth, and comes up with something genuinely memorable as a result. It’s arguably the most disco-influenced song on the album, but plays into something much more dangerous and sexy; it’s equal parts funky and terrifying. A similar stand out is “Safe and Sound,” which plays on the vintage sound of choral-backed disco tracks. “Safe and Sound” is ambient, but airy and easy to listen to.
By no metric is Woman a bad album—it is just a slightly disappointing one. Justice are known for the originality of their sound, and it seems like the group has lost a little bit of their artistic identity as they’ve attempted to move on from Cross. The group have made a market for themselves in rehashed disco music, and they have clearly taken some liberty in exploring that. Even if Woman lacks the dirtiness of Cross, it provides all the funky bass lines and catchy melodies that a Justice fan would ask for.