From The Chemical Brothers to Flume, it seems like we have more producers speaking out against EDM than we have food manufacturers dissociating themselves from corn syrup. And yet the tank-topped masses are flooding one music festival mainstage after another, and EDM acts are taking over Vegas residencies (although who actually liked dancing to Top 40 hip hop in a bandage micro-dress, anyway?). This all begs the question: What the fuck happened?
I find a few stances on this topic to be very valid and telling of our society at large. For those of you not into the electronic dance music scene, I’ve used multiple food-related analogies to try to paint a picture / torch a creme brûlée.
“Our music is not about the drugs”
Yes, everyone and their mom has read Seth Troxler’s open letter against EDM, festivals and hyped-up DJ culture. And it has nothing to do with Steve Aoki’s unwillingness to provide a gluten-free option for his face-cakings (at least that I know of? Is there a second part to his letter?).
Even Diplo, who’s become a pillar for mainstream dance music, banned kandi at his Mad Decent Block Party events. I mean, I believe demanding full-grown adults come to a festival solely to enjoy the music is like a chef banning patrons of his restaurant from Instagramming their food.
From a more “underground” DJ, to one every college-aged kid in a pair of Chubbies has heard of, it’s clear to understand why people wouldn’t want their entire careers and livelihoods associated with irresponsible and harmful behavior. At least standing out against it makes the point that, while this type of behavior may happen, it’s not the sole reason some people enjoy a certain genre of music.
“Get the bros off my dance floor”
I believe Nick Monaco stated it most eloquently in an interview with The Advocate when he discussed the “historical amnesia” around dance music in its present form: “Early ‘loft’ dance parties were, according to Monaco, effectually pressure-valves that allowed those marginalized by the dominant heteronormative culture to release their anxieties and engage in rhythmic therapy. The club was a space for those in that community to exist freely and openly.”
I think a huge demarcation here is that there is a difference between a club and an EDM/drug-fest. Even Sir Troxler (Seth, I love you!) wants people to get one thing clear: Clubs aren’t festivals. As a young person who enjoys going out to experience techno or deep house, I lump certain festivals and venues in with the Vegas clubs that display the same type of music. I simply steer clear of them the same way some people avoid McDonald’s.
On the other side of the chocolate coin, we have Carl Cox saying, “I don’t think it’s ‘underground vs overground,’ I just think it’s pop culture versus people who actually love the music.” Which means he feels the same way I do about “foodies” throwing bacon on something and expecting it to magically make a dish better.
“Our audiences deserve more”
Somewhere at the height of the recession, David Guetta went from being a tongue-in-cheek French DJ with a solid track record in the house genre, to a near-household name. I was actually pretty excited, as his frequent collaborations with African-American vocalists ushered in the house-meets-hip hop era that allowed for US listeners to even accept it on their radios. Then the floodgates opened.
It’s true that “music isn’t what it used to be” — or at least it’s been scientifically shown that music has gotten louder and more homogenous. The highly formulaic, easily digestible EDM on which DJs are currently capitalizing is a superficial and commoditized form of what some consider to be artistic expression. And this fluff is being marketed to a subsection of the population for whom the economy hasn’t gotten any better. Catering this music to a crowd of impressionable young people who already experience a sense of futility is similar to sending the message to working mothers that drive-thru meals are a suitable option for nourishing their families.
Currently, no mandate in the US exists that farmers or food manufacturers limit the antibiotics in their livestock or can’t sell toxic products to consumers (if any exist, they are loosely regulated). So, in the same way private purveyors or restaurants must take a stance that they are selling free-range or non-growth-hormone meat to their patrons, a host of famous DJs in the world are publicizing their stances that listeners deserve more.
As a longtime listener of various electronic genres, I was lucky enough to get started in an age when the music and the crowd stood for acceptance and open-mindedness. Which means when I see a sea of thousands of people fist-pumping to their hearts’ contents, I don’t want to rain on the parade. When I see millions of families across the US gaining their sustenance from Burger King, am I inclined to judge? Not really … because chicken fries are a borderline-genius product. However, I do think we deserve more than a $1 cheeseburger, and probably more than an Avicii track.