Four years after stepping away from the EDM scene that made him a global star, Hardwell will once again take the stage in Miami next weekend at the Ultra Music Festival, Billboard has learned.
The Dutch DJ-producer will close the three-day festival as a “special guest” in the final slot on the main stage at 9 p.m. on Sunday March 27, according to three people familiar with the matter.
Hardwell, real name Robbert van de Corput, rose to fame amid the hands-off commercial explosion of dance music in the United States from 2012 to 2018, headlining major festivals like Ultra and TomorrowWorld and by organizing high-flying residencies. places like Hakkasan in Las Vegas. He produced a slew of high-energy progressive house and big-room dance hits like “Spaceman” and “Apollo.”
A spokesperson for Ultra did not respond to emails from Billboard. Anna KnaupHardwell’s manager, declined to comment.
The Dutch DJ’s Ultra performance has been rumored for months, and the festival has made it no less obvious, having put a fuzzy name between the letters ‘G’ and ‘I’ on its alphabetical list of artists. . Announcing the lineup for Phase 1 of the event in February, organizers said Sunday’s closing act would be filled by “one of the most iconic artists in electronic music history.” DJs Kura and Timmy Trumpet, who have released tracks on Hardwell’s Revealed Recordings label, also teased a possible Hardwell comeback on Twitter.
Hardwell was in talks with Ultra about making a comeback, with new music, at the 2020 edition of the festival, which was canceled, along with the 2021 event, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report. source. Knaup says Hardwell was “never confirmed on the previous Ultra.” (With the pandemic raging, a lineup for Ultra 2021 has never been announced and artist managers and agents have said Billboard that booking offers for the show have not been made.)
Sources say Hardwell will be debuting new music at this year’s festival, and that his new sound is a departure – or evolution – from his previous, business-focused work. Hardwell’s friend and fellow Dutch DJ, Laidback Luke, said Billboard in October that he had heard some of the new music, saying he was “so proud of himself, and his new album is going to be amazing”. (Knaup would not comment on the new music.)
The songs on which Hardwell is credited as a lead artist have drawn 240.3 million official US streams, according to Luminate, formerly MRC Data. He has four top 10s on Billboard‘s Top Dance/Electronic albums chart and six entries on Billboard‘s Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart, with “Dare You” featuring Matthew Koma peaking at No. 16 in 2014.
In September 2018, in a surprise move, Hardwell, 30, told his Instagram followers he was taking a break from touring and other musical obligations to spend more time with friends and family. He hails from Breda, the Netherlands, which is also the hometown of Tiësto, who helped Hardwell early in his career.
In his Instagram post, Hardwell said he decided to “clean up [his] schedule indefinitely” because the pressures of intense touring had become like “an endless roller coaster ride”.
The laid back Luke said Billboard that Hardwell “just wasn’t happy with what he was doing anymore. To him, it was just like the same old thing over and over again. And he wanted to free himself from that.
Hardwell’s decision to stop being a touring DJ roughly coincided with the creation of a DJ backing band by fellow Dutchman Armin van Buuren. The group met twice a month on Zoom during the pandemic, in English- and Dutch-speaking groups that featured mostly male DJs, including Laidback Luke, Don Diablo, Dave Dresden (of Gabriel & Dresden) and Brazilian DJ Alok, according to sources. The support groups were meant to deal with mental health issues, including the stress of fame and touring, say three people involved with the groups.
What’s less clear about Hardwell’s Ultra show is whether it represents a comeback or a one-off. Knaup declined to say whether the DJ plans to tour the rest of the year or has lined up residencies at major clubs.
While this is the start of a comeback, it won’t be the first time Ultra has served as the launch pad for a major act’s revival. In 2018, after retiring five years early, Swedish House Mafia closed out Ultra with a surprise performance, with Axwell telling the crowd from the Ultra stage that “it’s Swedish House Mafia for life, this time. “.
After a three-year absence, Ultra is back this year with a sold-out Miami event at Bayfront Park. Like most festival companies, Ultra suffered substantial losses from pandemic cancellations and was hit in May 2020 with a class action lawsuit over its refusal to issue ticket refunds.
Taking place in March, Ultra acted as a festival where dance artists often debut new music at the start of the year. As well as the Swedish House Mafia, it has already hosted surprise guests, including Madonna, Slash and Deadmau5, who replaced a hospitalized Avicii in 2014.