By Piya Sinha-Roy
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - French DJ Martin Solveig caught the attention of the U.S. music audience last summer with his infectious dance hit "Hello," but he also has bigger plans -- to inject comedy into electronic dance music.
"Smash," the fifth studio album by Solveig, is the DJ's first record to get a U.S. release following his hit song "Hello," featuring indie artist Dragonette, which became a staple tune on airwaves and product commercials.
Solveig, 35, joins a growing list of European DJs such as David Guetta, Avicii and Swedish House Mafia who have crossed into the U.S. popular music charts as electronic dance music exploded into the mainstream last year.
Grammy Award-winning Los Angeles DJ Skrillex fused dubstep and grime -- derived from London's underground hip-hop scene -- while Dutch DJ Tiesto built his reputation playing traditional electro-house tunes.
Solveig, however, is not quite sure how to describe his own sound.
"Among the electronic music artists, I'm not the one who has the most recognizable trademark sound because I often use different elements and instruments," Solveig told Reuters. "I haven't invested in creating a signature sound, but if that's a good or bad thing, I don't know."
In his music videos, the French DJ shows a funny streak, throwing comedy into upbeat, catchy dance songs in a mix that has become his trademark.
For the "Hello" music video, Solveig squared off with fellow DJ Bob Sinclair in a tennis match on France's famous clay courts at Roland Garros stadium, with cameos from tennis stars Novak Djokovic and Gael Monfils.
"I love to mix reality and fiction all the time ... it's a little bit absurd and very ironic and some people don't get it, but it's the style of this project," Solveig said of his fusion of music and comedy.
While Guetta recruited some of pop and R&B's biggest names for his dance record "Nothing But The Beat," earlier this year, Solveig chose to collaborate with emerging artists for seven of the ten tracks on "Smash," including Dev and Bloc Party's Kele Okereke.
"I have a very vocal-orientated way to feel and listen to music. I write songs myself and I sing, so when it came to the lineup of singers, I was looking for singers with very strong vocal personalities, rather than necessarily very big artists or very famous singers," Solveig said.
"Smash" was released digitally on Tuesday with the CD version due out on September 18.
FROM PARIS TO MADONNA
The explosion of electronic dance music (EDM) was crowned at the 2012 Grammy Awards, when EDM was given its own stage at the annual ceremony, and DJs such as Tiesto and DeadMau5 are headlining arena tours.
"It's totally out of the blue, we were not expecting this anymore, we thought probably that the time has passed. For a very long time, (EDM) was more for the European market ... and then a few tracks really crossed over and they made the difference," Solveig said.
The DJ rose through the ranks of the Parisian club scene in the late 1990s, following in the footsteps of French EDM exports Daft Punk and Guetta.
He released his first four studio albums between 2002 and 2008, infusing electronica with rock and drawing on influences like The Beatles, Police and Lenny Kravitz.
But it was with "Hello," that Solveig scored his biggest hit, crediting it with opening doors for him in the United States.
The French DJ's rising success was noticed by pop superstar Madonna, who recruited Solveig to produce three of her songs on her album "MDNA," including the single "Give Me All Your Luvin'."
Solveig himself is performing at festivals in the United States and Europe this summer as he continues to ride the wave of "Hello."
"I'm the happiest man on earth. I'm making music, having fun, I'm living my passion and it's a great, great moment so I'm enjoying every bit. From there, I don't know, I have no idea," the DJ said.
"I know that I'll always make music because that's what I do ... it's just putting my energy in the right place - that's probably my biggest challenge."
(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy, editing by Jill Serjeant, desking by G Crosse)