Does Electronic Dance Music Suck?

Should this guy be taken any less seriously than Buckethead?

There’s been plenty of news coming out of Coachella over the weekend.  And if the outrageous success of acts like The Swedish House Mafia or the appearance by a long-dead Tupac Shakur is any sign, our business of show is in for more groundbreaking changes.

Strangely, the hologram stuff is exciting to me.  Not because corporations will be able to whore out dead stars to money (which the will, with relish), but because of the options it will give live performers.  It’s the next step up from live stream concerts.  When they get it to the point of being able to do it in real time and let the performer react to the audience, the entire concept of live shows will be flipped on it’s head.  And I won’t have to travel as much.  :)

The success of electronic dance acts is something else though.  First off, I’ll say that I never want to dislike a style of music.  Music is music no matter the source.  But I’m having a lot of trouble connecting to the electronic acts.

Usually, when I’m not too hot on a particular artist, it’s because I’ve heard whatever they’re doing before, and better.  But you can’t say that about the electronic acts because it hasn’t really been done before in this form.  It’s much like when hip-hop emerged in the early 80′s.  It was funk and soul flipped on it’s head and reworked.  Same thing here.

The parallels I see?  Besides the obvious nods to hip-hop culture (even further watered down for suburban white kids?), there’s a classical music sensibility to electronic music.  They’re creating longer form works with little to no lyrics.  And I’d wager that it’s the first time in 130 years that an instrumental (using that term loosely) form of music has grown to popularity.  Jazz in the 60′s maybe coming close.  But not with the numbers the electronic acts are doing.  And even in jazz, 90% of the standards are lyric based and not strictly instrumental.

So I think it’s good that the people listening to this music are using a similar ear to classical music.  It is, of course, considerably more repetitive.  Mind numbingly so at times.

The composition chops are interesting, though they tend to use many of the same tropes over again.  It’s the build up/breakdown over and over that is the go-to for jam bands the world over.  And maybe that’s part of the dis-attraction for me.  I’ve listened to a few artists and heard the same ideas over and over.  Though I’m not ruling out the idea that my ear just isn’t familiar enough with it to distill the differences yet.

Electronic acts will take over the marketplace for the next few years.  No doubt about it.  The big question is the lasting power.  Will it be like jazz where, after a heyday, it exists as a strong genre on it’s own that plays to a small but devoted audience and re-emerges every so often in the mainstream?  Will it be like hip-hop where it becomes part of the DNA of modern pop music, but comes back to a more middle of the road type of composition?  Or will it be disco where in 10 years we’ll be looking back at it and laughing about how we could possibly listen to it.  Until another 20 years later when it becomes nostalgia, of course.

There is no more mainstream of course.  Which means nearly everything is coming down to the market level that jazz is at.  I think option number 2 is very possible.  With the way technology is running, these sounds will continue to be sloughed off into other styles.  Electronic singer/songwriter material?  It’s coming.  Lyrics will be the first things back.  As much fun as it is to dance to the music when all the lights and smoke are blazing away, people still connect with the words when they’re listening in the car.

To the untrained ear (and I count myself in that group at the moment) it kind of resembles disco.  A new kind of background music to Saturday night hookups with questionable fashion sense.

So as with any music I don’t understand at first, I’ll keep trying until I get it.  And I’m sincerely hoping that it turns out to be more compelling than I’m giving it credit for.  And if it does just turn out to be a non-chemical way to numb your brain, I’ll be happy to leave to those that need it.

Feel free to leave me some recommendations of who I should listen to.

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