I was scrolling through the interwebs yesterday when I came upon a column that made me cock my head in confusion. The words were plain and simple and staring me right in the face, but they didn’t seem to make sense: “Why Electronic Dance Music Sucks Donkey Ass." In today’s rapidly changing musical landscape, it is impossible to ignore the crossover into mainstream that Electronic Dance Music or “EDM” is experiencing, whether it’s being unable to escape Clarity on the radio or the literally hundreds of music festivals stopping in every city of every state this summer. Declaring an entire genre of music to “suck donkey ass” had me leaning to believe that this may be an author of questionable authority on the subject just from reading the title, or at least simply attention-trawling to incite conversation, which I am more than happy to continue.
According to the article, the “fast-spreading epidemic” of EDM is “ruining the state of modern music one grueling fax machine squeal at a time” due to four things: bad DJ names (which the author then says isn’t enough to judge an entire genre on exactly 6 sentences later), the idea that drugs are the only reason it’s popular, the only instrument is a play button, and the fact that “it all sounds the same." I won’t even address the first point since the author was kind enough to nullify his own statement, but allow me to systematically disprove the rest of the points and possibly provide a bit of insight into what this whole “EDM” thing is about.
Don’t call it “EDM." People who don’t know about dance music call it “EDM” and write uninformed articles about why it sucks.
I’m gonna start from the top and give you guys a little bit of insight from someone who is fairly immersed in this scene: no one calles it “EDM." EDM is a phrase thrown around by people in suits looking to make money on kids 16-22 and kids 16-22 who decided this music was “cool” now and was going to go throw on some neon stuff and dance around because “everyone else is”.
Drugs are not the only reason it is popular. Saying so is a cheap and lazy way to give some sort of opinion that will be seen as “brash” or “controversial”.
Part of me legitimately wonders if the article's author has even been to a show, a rave, a festival or anything that resembles the scene that he finds himself authoritative enough to write about. I would love to offer out a spot to him on my own dollar to bring him to a show and try and educate him about the scene. As Kanye West once said “I’m not here to convert athiests into believers," I simply want to stop this sentiment from travelling around mainstream culture and staining the scene further than it already has. To give you an idea, 330,000 people went to Ultra Music Festival this past year and there were only 167 arrests. More than half were simply people trying to hop the gate to get in and were caught which means that this only applies to .00025% of the entire attendees over the course of two weekends.
I’m not attempting to say that drugs are not part of the culture, doing so would be like attempting to ignore the fact that many people go to bars simply because they can drink a ton of alcohol there. As a matter of fact, plenty of people's initial introduction to the scene comes in tandem with a special night with a girl named Mandy, but for every story that begins that way, there are countless stories of people who rave sober and the two entities of drugs and dance music aren't exclusively tied to one another.
There’s way more than just a play button. Seriously.
I’ll spare being long-winded on this subject and let videos do the talking but let me explain something first. There are essentially three types of “equipment” a DJ can use in todays day and age. When you see the guy standing behind the booth at festivals jumping up and down, he’s very often not doing anything. The most commonly seen setup is a CDJ setup with a mixer inbetween; it looks like this.
In order to use these, you simply have to set tempos equal to eachother, hit the play button on track you’re trying to bring in the first beat of the measure, and manipulate the highs, mids and lows of the track you want to take out to make the transition as seamless as possible. This is why people think all there is is a play button. Below you will see performances by “EDM” artists on the other two options: turntables and Launchpads. While turntables allow you to scratch and manipulate the entire song precisely, Launchpad performance allows you to play and control every individual voice of the songs and create on the fly; both have potential for some amazing results. See examples from DJ Shiftee and (at the time 15 year old) Madeon for an example of each.
It Is Currently All Sounding The Same And No One Likes It
I feel awful for anyone who has been subject to the iPod of an “EDM” fan on a long car ride because "EDM" fans do not listen to dance music as listening music. This guy tries to make the point that all of the music sounds the same and in part he’s correct. I’m the first to admit it. The Beatport Top 100 is the iTunes of dance music and is a list created by the same people that market “EDM” to kids who like “EDM” and pack out festivals with generic DJs who are supported by the same people who don’t know anything about the scene. Recently a satirical mashup was made by a SoundCloud artist named Daleri which mashed 16 different songs together over the course of a minute all of which sound embarrassingly alike. If all of the "EDM" you listen to sounds like this, you may want to adjust your tastes slightly.
To clarify, the point he makes is that the first 60 seconds of all dance music tracks sound the same and this perfectly illustrates how unknowledgable he is on the scene. The first 32 to 64 bars of almost every dance track known to man is purposely designed this way to allow DJs to mix from song to song, not to be listened to on their own; you can simply solve this problem by listened to “radio mixes” which cut out those first 60 seconds. While I’m not going to go on a long-winded rant about why DJ Flaffle sounds nothing like DJ Stoodabaker (or whatever examples he used), I’m simply going to leave 3 songs here that are considered “EDM” and you can tell me if they sound exactly alike in the comments.
Randy McRandell's real name is actually Christian Randell and he runs ThatNewJam.fm with the rest of Team TNJ. BroBible Radio comes out every Thursday and you can follow him on Twitter for more like this!