Why Steve Angello “Going Indie” Could Help Underground Dance Music Go Mainstream

Image via Steve Angello on Facebook
Image via Steve Angello on Facebook

One year ago, one of the most anticipated drawing cards of Miami’s Ultra Music Festival was what was considered to be the “one last” set ever by Swedish House Mafia. One year later, Steve Angello, a house music legend and one-third of the trio, is on the cusp of releasing an artist album that may be the clarion call to sonic diversity in the big room and festival sectors of dance, and ultimately provide a clue of EDM’s progression.

In a recent interview, Angello says “I’m a little allergic to where dance is going now,” and also promises to be “a little indie with this album,” continuing that “it’s very minimal in production. It’s very scaled down, very melodic. It’s a little melancholic. I’m Swedish. It’s dark 90 percent of the year there. That definitely comes through.” As well, in name-dropping Chic, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, and Daft Punk as artists with unique and iconic sounds – a goal that Angello is striving for – his vision is lofty, but for those of us who have long wondered about the moment where the underground would break through to the mainstream, the future may be now.

Within the past five years, indie and underground dance – especially with a pronounced American influence – has begun to burst at the seams with what are likely intriguing concepts to the 130BPM hyper-compressed, car alarm, white noise, build, drop, lasers, fireworks, and balls of flame scene. The idea that tempo has become important (without a drop in the energy of a track) is huge. There are certified bangers that can (and if you attend a live Major Lazer, Flosstradamus, or Skrillex set, for instance) work in the big room or festival space between 70-140BPM. If Angello is looking to create music that retains the funk of say, Swedish House Mafia’s “One,” but wants to head in a downtempo, yet still dance-worthy direction, the now well-mined indie space between 90-110 BPM is wide open for exploration. Big room zouk bass, tarraxinha, twerk, or moombahton-inspired tracks by Angello could happen, and if they do, it shouldn’t be surprising. If he’s looking for an “iconic” sound, head back into his history and find his remix of Robin S.’s “Show Me Love” with Laidback Luke. There’s soul, there’s funk, there’s that now indie-familiar touch of tropical heat. In name dropping artists with legendary mainstream top 40 hits, it’s clear that his intention is to move in a similar direction. Taking his soulful and funky history into the range of 110 BPM may find an easier space to occupy in top forty formats than the now possibly irritating repetitive thump of 130 BPM bangers.

Indie-loving producers like Diplo are super-early to the table and have arguably been absorbed into urban radio and recognized as the auteurs behind the hits. Thus, the space exists for an early adopter and skilled adapter to indie ideals to be a very visible artist-producer and take the lead at the top of the charts. Intriguingly, Angello says that his intention is “not an attempt to create pop or hit songs, it’s straight music.” What he does not mention is that if EDM’s run at the top of the pop charts continues, that the absorption rate of traditional dance standards into pop styles can only exponentially increase. Therefore, it stands to reason that Angello’s desire to make “straight music” dovetails nicely with current trends and provides his artist album – if meeting the unique standard that he clearly has set for his creativity – a relatively unimpeded shot at the top of the Billboard and global charts.

Likely moreso than any other album of 2014, Steve Angello’s release is one to keep a close eye on. As he says in his interview, he has “been part of making dance music mainstream.” In this being the case, he’s likely the best-equipped person to create the best indie-informed sound to take dance’s pop ubiquity to a brand new level.

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