Preparing the soundtrack for the dark and bloody Halloween night we heard a friend of us joking: “Want some spooky music? Play EDM, it scares away everyone!”. This one-liner marked the beginning of a lengthy discussion over the role of big room house, epic house, electro house, progressive house and other aliases of the equivocal genre. After continuous blasphemy and disparagement you’d expect from underground minds in respect (in disrespect, to be more precise) of EDM we eventually came to a surprising conclusion: the existence of this music and the subculture it procreated is justified and even beneficial, to a certain extent. Let me explain you why.
While enjoyed by millions of passionate youngsters, EDM is regarded as the plague of today’s clubbing culture. Simplistic and soulless, it is said to bring discredit on the electronic scene as a whole. Those who don’t appreciate house beats at all get another reason to question if these sounds deserve to be called “music”. Adepts of other genres, techno above all, lordly proclaim that the tunes they love is for savvies while EDM is for blockheads and brandish the caricature of David Guetta’s piano that has only one key. Of course, it can’t be denied that EDM often sounds too primitive… but think of minimal techno as it was at its height some eight years ago – wasn’t it sometimes just as monotonous for the ear of a non-fan? Meanwhile, it wasn’t considered primitive – on the contrary, it was and still is seen as music for intelligent clubbers.
Probably, what irritates us with EDM is that it’s so loud, pushy, noisy and hence gross. We can tolerate the “one key piano” in techno or acid house, because their key has a different pitch and conveys a different message. The EDM “one key” is the sonic projection of a teenager who is told he isn’t allowed to do something, so the teen is jumping, thumping fists against the wall and screaming: “But I will do! I will! I will! I will!” – and it goes on like a drill plunging into your brain.
EDM is the sound of the youngest generation of clubbers and festival-goers, and the youngest are always subjected to the most severe critics. Can you remember any youth subculture that was not blasted by adults? Come on, it’s inevitable.
Indeed, EDM is not the most sophisticated and gratifying kind of electronic music. But let’s have a look at its social meaning: first and foremost, it is a happy culture. It encourages kids to be sociable, active and good-looking, it doesn’t nurture depressed lazybones. Yes, such music sounds often too primitive – but the easier it is for boys and girls to get and absorb the positive message.
Emo rock and gothic rock might be more intellectual and more elaborate than big room house, but they foster teens to develop a pessimistic outlook on the world, to cry and moan and, sorry to say, cut their veins from time to time. Punk rock might be witty and very energetic, but it is coupled with vandalism. In this sense EDM is a good thing just because it spreads good vibes.
“It spreads Molly!” – angry parents, we know your concerns. Drug overdose is not an integral part of dance culture, but its deplorable side effect that should be overcome as soon as possible. And, by the way, it was EDM that triggered the beginning of the drugs discussion on the large international scale – the problem was hushed up for years, even though youth subcultures of the previous decades consumed drugs from weed to heroin in no smaller quantities.
Should we wage an all-out war on drugs and ban them? Should we educate teens about drug consumption? Should drugs be legalized? Thousands of people who don’t belong to electronic dance community do drugs, but it didn’t push governments and society to action. It was the usage of recreational drugs by clubbers that brought the problem into the limelight and might change the status quo.
No one knows how sustainable EDM is and how long it will remain popular. Even its most loyal purveyors start dismissing it. Calvin Harris revealed his intentions to turn his back to the beats that helped him establish the record for the most UK top 10 hits from a studio album and create something more underground.
Avicii admitted that EDM “has gotten to a point where everything sounds the same” and “loses touch with what music really is”. When the stalwarts abdicate the genre that made them rich and famous, doesn’t it mean that the genre is doomed? Well, it depends.
When Tiesto gave up trance, who was the one to suffer – trance or Tiesto? Luciano is not associated with minimal techno anymore, but he used to play and produce minimal. It’s natural when some artists feel constrained within the terms of their “native” genre and decide to move on.
We personally don’t like EDM, so our opinion upon its cultural, not social values can’t be unbiased. But there is a reliable criterion to evaluate how good a genre is: let its fans judge it in 20 years. Music that we listen as youngsters shapes our personalities, moulds our values and beliefs.
Time goes by, and in two decades we reevaluate the soundtrack of our youth: we grow royally ashamed of certain tracks which lyrics we used to print on our t-shirts, while we are still proud and nostalgic of some other tunes. Will the kids who cried with joy waving glowsticks at a Swedish House Mafia gig still be keen on re-listening their hits in 25 years? Or will they regard it as a shameful mistake and try to erase it from their matured memories? Time will show.
And so. Even though we don’t like EDM, things are not that bad at the end of the day. There is no tragedy in kids listening to EDM, their parents being mad at it and the adepts of other music genres looking at these kids with scorn and arrogance. The negative impact of this subculture might consist mainly in four aspects.
First, the kids shouldn’t impose their music tastes on others (which means don’t blow your speakers with Krewella when I’m listening to Jeff Mills in my headphones!!!). Second, there are too many fake DJs milking this genre for a quick buck – guys, you know who you are, and you aren’t cool at all. Third, people must rave safely, especially if drugs and alcohol are involved. Fourth, teens should grow up duly and discover the wonderful world of music that is way broader than the build up and the drop. And this is when we, committed connoisseurs, should engage and educate them. Tolerate EDM as an unavoidable part of the growing-up process and don’t blame kids for being kids.