EDM Needs An Intervention
Dance music’s spazzy little brother has grown up embodying all the worst aspects of his elder kin
Everyone’s got a friend or two who has completely bucked the notion of self-improvement. Their douchebaggery seems to snowball and you wonder why the hell you still hang out with this person. You’ve unfollowed their crazy updates on Facebook, you’ve tried dropping a hint to mutual friends, but nothing keeps them from sucking you up into their wake of chaos.
For many, this describes the current state of EDM, dance music’s spazzy little brother who has grown up embodying all the worst aspects of his elder kin. If you think these words harsh, consider that this guy demands a tiny country’s bankroll for largely unspecial work. He attracts people you’d never in a million years want to introduce to your most respectable mate. And he throws dessert at people for fun.
To that end, you’re overdue for an intervention, EDM. You’re making us all look like assholes. Here are five ways this pop expression of dance music can save face in the new year to bring about some much needed change.
1. Slow your roll
Note the double entendre, it’s double intended. Let this be EDM’s motto in 2015. The brain-stabbing happy hardcore synths betwixt blazing trance-diva vocals and drops that would induce heart trauma in anyone over 40 are not cool. The production severely lacks anything resembling musical quality and is instead a sonic circus. Musically, EDM needs to learn to rein it in: Let it slam against their ear drums, not make them bleed.
As a culture, EDM is addicted to misbehaving, not rebelling. It’s less Jonny Rotten and more Justin Bieber. From stage diving antics, to corny cutouts of DJs heads at festivals to endless accusations of performers simply hitting the play button, there’s more to gawk at in EDM than to celebrate. Slowing down and being more thoughtful could bring the focus back to music quality, and the culture—always a result of the product—could begin to repair. On the more literal side of roll-slowing: I don’t care if you’re 6'5 and 300 lbs, you don’t need more. Give. It. A. Minute.
2. Learn your roots
This is usually an intrinsic human desire, but an alarming number of fans have never thought to explore the music’s roots, an irony considering the increased accessibility of music and information since vinyl’s heyday. For example, house music (Translation: of the ‘Deep,’ not ‘Swedish Mafia’ variety) lost its greatest legend in Frankie Knuckles last March. The man was so revered he got a street and mural dedicated in his name in Chicago after his death. As Frankie and initial purveyors of house music were so inspired by 70s disco, EDM too can take inspiration from the road they paved and bring that into not only the production but into the vibe of the ‘scene.’ This is probably the dance music O.G.’s biggest pet peeve aside from the wide-open drops and ear-curdling snyths: EDM doesn’t seem to know or care about how it got here.
3. Take the popularity in stride
EDM is the new pop, you’ve likely heard this declared at least a few hundred times by now. Turn on your local mainstream pop radio station at 8 p.m. on any night of the week if you need convincing. Electronic beats have always had a place in pop—from 80s Madonna to 90s Janet and Britney in the 00s—but those stars had moments with dance beats as part of an emerging subculture. Pop as an umbrella genre is now fully encompassing dance to the point it feels like a production requirement. So at a time when EDM is the pop standard and makes ‘legitimate’ rockstars out of its performers, fans are in the spotlight more than ever. Mainstream news outlets now cover deaths at fests, whereas media attention around raves only really surfaced in the early 00s.
Dance music puritans feel the torch has been passed (or snatched, depending on your level of jadedness) and fans should uphold the ethos of ‘Peace, Love, Unity and Respect.’ This hippie mantra is a tough hand-off when today’s parties are million-dollar machines attracting a food chain of backwards-hat-wearing bros and girls in boyshorts with black frisbee retinas. Historically, EDM fans come from a long line of passionate dancing fools who want to see them have fun but uphold the coolest parts of the parent culture, even if that means it can’t be observed in a dirty warehouse. This means taking care of each other at your most vulnerable, knowing your party limits, and expressing yourself in interesting ways (see: Burning Man).
4. Stop eating garbage
Let’s be clear: There is no actual place on earth where a David Guetta remix of a Dada Life track featuring Sebastian Bach is even remotely necessary or desired (Young ‘uns would know Bach as a guest star on Trailer Park Boys and not the silken-haired lead singer of 80s metal band, Skid Row). Like a ravenous 5 am diner binge after the club, EDM wants to eat everything. It takes the best parts of drum ‘n’ bass and grime and emits dubstep. It takes the tender parts of trance and the jackin’ parts of house and techno to make its most pop incarnations. And it even leans on random rock riffs to really get the party started. Scale it back. No more binges. Pick a few exciting ideas and work with those—“deep” house is doing well with this lately. You’d be surprised at what a little breathing room affords.
5. Try pants
Whether you’re on a job interview or going to the grocery store, this is usually the first rule of thumb in life. Somewhere along the line—likely with the advent of the desert raves out West—ravers around the world decided dancing was more fun without skivvies. This is probably true but that doesn’t mean you need to force others to attend your no-pants party. Back in the day, raver chicks were badass tomboys in visors and stovepipe phatpants who could move like they were floating on the dancefloor. In no way is this condoning the resurgence of phatpants, but it’d be nice to reinfuse into raving some killer style beyond highly-decorated undergarments. You don’t need to look like the lovechild of a Las Vegas showgirl and Tinkerbell to look hot. If you’re good, your dance moves will do that for you.
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