January 2, 2012 by DJ Elroy
I decided not to go party on NYE, largely because most of the shows had flyers like this. And like every year, by the time the drunken clubbers realize they don’t actually know the words to Auld Lang Syne, the temperature will have dropped into the single digits and the only warmth will be found in strong drink and a room full of sweaty bodies.
And that just didn’t sound fun this time around. Maybe I’m just getting old. Or jaded.
So how has 2011 treated electronic dance music in the US? Overall, I’d say it’s been a big year. But does big always mean good? The “scene” is finally getting recognition by the mainstream pop culture. Everyone from MTV to SPIN magazine to USAToday has jumped on the bandwagon, touting how amazing electronic music in general (and dubstep in particular) is. Where did this new sound come from, they asked?
But is this really what we as a counter-culture want to be known for? Is it healthy? Or is this just something natural in the cycle of music — something that can’t be stopped and must be endured — before we can come full circle?
I’m reading SPIN’s feature about the “New Underground” hip-hop culture (Dec 2011 issue), and I’m wondering if dance music will be run thru the ringer like hip-hop before it finally goes back underground itself. I want to say “gets back to its roots”, but that’s not really accurate. There is no going back, only forward. So much has changed from the days of mixtapes, turtables, and warehouse parties. No, it will never go back to “how it was”, not only because of the new technology, but also because of things like new music, new trends, new fashions, new laws, and a new corporate interest in the lifestyle. And a new generation of clubbers.
After all, hip-hop culture spawned from the urban lifesytle and the four elemenets. It took MTV to bring it to the masses, but once it broke, it was everywhere. It came to dominate the pop culture, TV, radio, movies, games, clothes, cars, clubs, and seemingly everything else it touched. Then it became diluted, over-produced, and manufactured. The original artists were pushed out by a new generation that seemed more interested in fame and fortune, with test-group music, pop hooks, and cookie-cutter beats from the usual suspects. It was taken from the streets to the board rooms.
Can the same be said about electronic dance music?
Now it seems some pioneering hip-hop artists are taking it back underground.
It’s not a concious decision in most cases. It’s simply the way the music industry has changed. Artists don’t need the backing of the big labels anymore, and while having big label support might mean a bigger buzz and access to the popular flavors of the day for guest work and collabs, it doesn’t do much for street cred anymore. All todays acts need is a DIY attitude, social media, and the internet.
And of course, you’ve got to have a great product. Good just doesn’t cut it anymore.
So how far along this curve is EDM? There are still plenty of amazing DJs and producers, but the public seems to only be interested in those that have succeeded financially.
So are we stumbling down this same path? We started out as an “underground” culture (and in some places still are). We’ve had some commercial success and have broken out into pop scene with TV spots, commercials, awards shows, nominations, etc. The bigger artists are now being picked up by the Major Labels. But will there be a backlash? Or a diluting of the music? Will we go back underground? And how bad does it have to get first?
Keep it real. But is this the “real” we want?