With the likes of Simon Cowell and pretty much every advertising and marketing company on Earth entering the fray, it’s probably a good time to step back for a second and contemplate history, EDM, and the idea that the Titanic that is dance music is nearing the iceberg in short order, but that neither you, nor I, should be afraid. In 2014 feeling like a moment and era 35 years before, let’s recast Flosstradamus in the role of Giorgio Moroder, trap in the role of synthesized Italo disco, batten down the hatches, prepare for the worst, and begin.
All of the signs of the absurd notion that EDM is poised to crash have already been stated. It all starts with Daft Punk‘s “Giorgio By Moroder” from 2013′s Random Access Memories. Those who have discussed what makes the song excellent have all mentioned the idea that it involves Moroder discussing the moment when he decided to introduce synthesizers to disco. However, so many of us must love his accent more than what he’s actually saying, because in his statements, there’s a huge lesson:
“And I said, “Wait a second…I know the synthesizer – why don’t I use the synthesizer which is the sound of the future?” And I didn’t have any idea what to do, but I knew I needed a click so we put a click on the 24 track which then was synched to the Moog Modular. I knew that it could be a sound of the future but I didn’t realise how much the impact would be.”
As much as there’s a sense of wonder in that statement, in removing the four-on-the-floor drums and full orchestras from disco, it also created the space to let pop and mainstream culture into the sound. Once primarily the domain of ethnic minorities and homosexuals, the electronic nature of Moroder’s evolution gave disco a pop sheen that allowed for a deluge of producers and artists looking to make a quick buck to be able to do so by finally having an easy-to-mimic style of production. When dance had a space to move from independent to mainstream and from mainstream to entirely commercialized, the space for 1979′s wild Disco Demolition Derby Night in Chicago – arguably the great crash of disco and dance-as-pop – to occur.
Similar to Moroder’s shock about disco is Flosstradamus’s surprise over the acceptance of their trap sound in EDM. In describing their groundbreaking 2012 remix of Major Lazer‘s “Original Don,” Curt “Autobot” Camerucci told Stoney Roads the following: “We had just released the Total Recall EP before that and had taken some old hardstyle records and made rap beats out of them. When we released the Total Recall EP (on Mad Decent offshoot label Jeffrees), we started to pick up a lot of fans.” Continuing regarding trap-as-EDM’s breakout track, “when Major Lazer put out ‘Original Don,’ we hit up Diplo for the stems. That’s kinda all it was. We had no idea (of how big the remix would become) when we put it out, we made it in 20 minutes.” Continuing the story in a later interview with the Chicago Reader, Camerucci says, “when we started doing the EDM-trap thing, we almost didn’t expect to keep DJing like we did, we thought we were just going to be making beats for rappers. But now that came full circle and we’re making beats for rappers again.“
If one listened to Flosstradamus’ “Original Don” remix right now, it still sounds like the musical equivalent of nuclear fusion. However, as time has passed trap-as-EDM has turned rappers like “Mosh Pit” emcee Casino into the Mark McGwire’s of hip-hop culture, EDM being the steroid that allows them the power to redefine the industry in incredible ways. When disco was simplified, it opened the doors and let in everyone from rock stars to grandparents. Comparatively, trap-as-EDM is like turning those rockstars and grandmas into jacked-up batters in a baseball lineup. Frankly, to continue the baseball corollary, after seeing the tenth 500-foot home run, a game once based on tactics and strategy becomes boring when it becomes defined by the long ball.
At a certain point, just as remixing the theme to Star Wars assuring a pop hit was an issue, there’s a cause for concern when every 808 sounds the same. No, I’m not advocating for some enterprising urban music DJ to take to center field at Wrigley Field and burn laptops filled with RL Grime and Hudson Mohawke tracks (though wow, wouldn’t that be a spectacle?). However, I do think we’re nearing a point where someone, somewhere will seriously complain about sonic fatigue and generally hating ignorant rap music. In this era’s potential angst being completely dissimilar to the potentially racially and culturally-motivated anti-disco rhetoric, there stands a chance for trap – but not dance overall – to hit the iceberg, sink like the Titanic, and for dance music overall to survive.
In fact, it may be disco that saves us if or when trap dies out. Disco, dance-flavored rhythm and blues, club music, and a plethora of African and Caribbean and Latin/South American inspired genres are all thriving to various degrees because of the innovation and influence of the internet. Furthermore, because of the lack of significant public dislike of genres with gay/minority influences, dance has a space in which by growing wide and deep instead of being merely a rap-based and bass-heavy monolith. Thus, for as much as when the ship hits the iceberg, there will be a DJ shouting “turn up” instead of a band playing as it sinks, we as passengers certainly have a plethora of vessels available at the ready in order to discover dry land.
In both cases serendipity led to surprise, which had the after effect of fools rushing in. However, let’s all be aware that very soon, something terrible will likely happen in EDM, likely caused by a genre that many of us love to an obsessive degree. Again, as the trap Titanic sinks, let this article hip you to the fact that there are life rafts available, and when this emergency inevitably happens, all will not be lost.