Is the Longevity of EDM at Risk?
Is the Longevity of EDM at Risk?
While EDM has been around since the late 70’s, the last four or five years imploded with this music genre in a vast majority of countries. Despite bursting into the bubble of popular culture, it seems that some have reservations about its longevity. Has EDM plateau’ed? Is the next logical step a steep decline?
Let’s start with a small history lesson shall we? The 70s, chest hair, gold chains, bell bottoms and roller skating included, brought us the parents or grand-parents of EDM – disco. Remember the days rocking out in your convertible, top down, to the sounds of Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby”? Maybe that was just my dad. The traditional orchestration of the 70s then progressed to the digital age whichever you prefer during the 80s and 90s. The 80s, aside from the array of neon and teased hair, EDM scene started to wane in popularity and replaced by the sounds of funk, RnB and hip hop. While it hid in the undergrounds of North America, more specifically Chicago, Detroit and New York, it made a splash in the Euro culture. The mid 90s saw a reemergence of dance music into mainstream North American air waves through acts such as Moby and the Chemical Brothers. Fast forward to today, the 2010, is that what we call them now? Do we call them the 2010s or the 10s? Both sound awkward…I digress. Nowadays, their music including the world of pop, rap, hip hop, rock…name it, they want in. Other than perhaps up and comer, Lorde, who has recently described David Guetta as, and I quote, ‘gross’. Although, she did say she would be interested in collaborating with Diplo, so I guess we can include her in this category regardless. Now my point is moot. That being said, I think it’s safe to say that EDM is now considered pop culture. Does that mean EDM is oversaturated and will slowly fade into oblivion?
The Editor in Chief of dubstep.net, Albert Berdellans, wrote a blog post a year ago about EDM becoming a “victim of its own popularity” and that all involved are to blame not solely the fans but the producers, the agents, the promoters, the DJs, and ghost producers who sell their music to bigger names in the industry. He claims that the world of EDM has become all about fame and recognition where the art of music has taken a back seat in terms of priorities. Fans are more likely to shell out big bucks for names they recognize and therefore artists spend more time on the road as opposed to the studio creating fine tuning their skills. Let’s be honest, we live in a superficial and materialistic and we enamored by the very thought of it, of the fame, the bright lights, the bottles popping, the props, the throwing of a cake Aoki style, it’s all about the show and the entertainment value. This can be explained by the existence and demand from 2 very different types of fans. You’ve got the fans that are looking for a claim to fame and a good time. On the other hand, you’ve got the underground devotees who still prefer to live in a rave culture that revolves around being with friends and feeling the music rather than the popularity of the DJ. Berdellans claims that the EDM world is in dire need of more mature and meaningful messaging in its music.
The always outspoken Deadmau5 recently chimed in on this issue with CBC and the Huffington Post. Joel iterates that while EDM may still have a few glimmers of hope, it’s on thin ice. He is concerned with the complacency of some artists and those who claim to be DJs but in reality push buttons. He also feels that there is a lack of risk taking and that a majority seem to want to take the easy route of simply playing the same types of sound. These reasons lead him to believe that this genre of music is eventually bound to fade. He wants to challenge DJs, producers and whoever involved in EDM to try and push the envelope to create something different. Despite his disagreements in recent years with Skrillex and Avicii, he has nothing but praise for them on what they are currently doing with respect to producing something completely different, for being unique and taking a chance on something that’s never been done before.
Speaking of Avicii, his risk of mixing electronic music with a country component was a big risk for the young self admitted insecure DJ. When he first played “Wake Me Up” at the Ultra Music Festival in Miami this past March, the reaction to his new sound wasn’t all glitter and rainbows. However, by the time September rolled around and he performed at the iTunes London Festival, this song was welcomed with cheers. With this comes a learning curve which is that while fans may not be receptive at first, they can learn to fall in love with a new style. This takes time and the willingness to take a risk…a risk Avicii was clearly willing to take which has obviously paid off. While giving a very exclusive interview with The Guardian U.K., Tim Bergling mentions that he wants to be able to provoke people with his music. He identifies with Deadmau5’s opinions with respect to the EDM world playing it safe. He reiterates the lack of originality and risk taking resulting in the same sounds being repeated over and over. He wants EDM to be about the music itself and not about the dirty drops or the sick beats. He makes this evident when referring to Las Vegas as a cheap product of the EDM craze when compared to Ibiza where it’s about passion and realism.
To play devil’s advocate, David Guetta and Paul Oakenfold are not as cynical and both believe in electronic music’s future and its endless possibilities. During an interview with CNN, Guetta outlined that EDM can only grow from here and refers to the success of hip hop as a point of reference to illustrate the fact that EDM still has a long way to go before it reaches the accomplishments of hip hop. Oakenfold stated to Rolling Stone Magazine (http://www.rollingstone.com/music/videos/paul-oakenfold-on-edms-growth-we-built-the-foundations-up-20130416) that music was meant to be shared and that being a part of pop culture shouldn’t hold negative connotations since the goal of music is to make something that everyone can enjoy. That being said, he still challenges others to create something distinctive and original. Moby has also chimed in last month to the Huffington Post that EDM is about the experience, it should ‘feel like an entire body and soul have been opened up by the music and the experience’.
It seems to me that there is unified premise among all involved which is the room for growth in terms of creativity, passion and meaning in music. Risk taking can be embraced by the fans whether it be creating a whole new genre by adding country sounds to a house beat as is the case with Avicii or whether it is a more hardstyle genre by increasing the bpm to 150 à la Headhunterz. While we can’t please everyone and criticism is part of the gig, EDM can keep moving forward and grow if those who make music choose to do so as well.