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How Electronic Dance Music Is Changing Contemporary Culture


Electric Daisy Carnival. Ultra. Electric Zoo. These are among the many music festivals where you’ll find Millennials as electronic dance music (EDM) has risen in popularity in recent years, sparked by Gen Y’s desire to experience events “IRL” (in real life). This genre has exploded lately; in fact, the VMAs added the Best Electronic Dance Music Video category this year and college students are blasting these sounds all over campus. EDM represents a very Millennial mindset of mixing sounds and not being limited to one genre. In many ways, it’s changing the culture of music today as YAB member Matt explains.

How Electronic Dance Music Is Changing Contemporary Culture

It’s been said that Electronic Dance Music (EDM) is taking over the music world.

From Nicki Minaj’s “Starships” to Justin Bieber’s “As Long As You Love Me,” pop music has adopted a different sound thanks to EDM’s rise in popularity among Millennials, particularly college students.

Catchy synthesizers and heavy bass lines have become the trademark sound for the new generation of listeners who look to music for an uplifting shot in the arm. Mix a Calvin Harris or David Guetta beat with pop music’s trademark synthesized vocals and you have an instant radio hit.

Even vocal verses are no longer a necessity for pop listeners, as evidenced by the popularity of Avicii’s “Levels,” which dominated radio airwaves no less than a year ago.

Since Gen Y has unquestionably attached itself to EDM and claimed the genre as its own, it’s easy to forget just how far EDM has come from the days before it dominated Billboard charts. Now merged with the familiar sounds of pop radio, EDM has deviated far from its roots as a genre with an underground cult following in Europe.

An encompassing acronym that includes aspects of house, dubstep, and trance music, EDM has morphed into a genre of its own during its run of popularity within the past three or four years. And it has been wholeheartedly embraced by what Spin Magazine dubbed “the new rave generation,” a group of new EDM fans dominated by Millennials, who have ushered in EDM’s acceptance within the pop music world.

It’s a reality the new generation of EDM listeners finds revolutionary, but dance music purists find revolting.

For those who grew up listening to clearly defined subgenres of EDM, the prominence of such producers as Avicii and Skrillex couldn’t be more sickening. These two DJ’s in particular have been much maligned among EDM diehards due to their perceived inability to mix their sets live during concerts and their willingness to adapt their production style to the popular music world.

Skrillex, in particular, has been both lauded and criticized for combining his trademark scatty dubstep style with the work of such pop music icons as Lady Gaga and Ellie Goulding. While his unique production style garnered him three Grammys in 2012 — and a nomination for Best New Artist — he has gotten plenty of flak from dubstep purists who scoff when a Skrillex track is lumped into the dubstep genre.

Although his music is entirely atypical of what is normally heard on the radio, Skrillex, in many ways, embodies how the combination of genres has made EDM so appealing to Millennials. Skrilllex symbolizes a changing of the guard in the EDM world, in favor of DJs who choose to create their own distinct production style rather than limiting themselves to the confines of one particular genre.

But to many, the rise of artists like Skrillex coincides all too familiarly with the emergence of new fans, many of whom are connected with a partying culture synonymous with drinking and drugs. For many observers, EDM is still synonymous with the partying, “frat-bro” culture that is ever-present on college campuses.

But the real question is, why should EDM — or any music genre for that matter — be associated with a certain stereotype or group of people? The perception is that EDM lends itself to a potentially dangerous “raving” subculture, but why should we let an EDM concert become just another venue to party when it could be so much more?

Personally, I find that going to an EDM show is a truly unique experience, one that I don’t believe can be matched by any other genre of music. Perhaps EDM diehards will call me naïve, but I’m not drawn to a concert to see a DJ perform live; instead I feel the environment is worth paying for. It is an indescribable feeling to come together with complete strangers and share a live music experience by dancing your heart out, regardless of whatever it is you’re dancing to.

And I’ve never seen more people willing to dance their heart out than at an EDM show.

Amidst all the debates about preserving the past culture of EDM, one simple fact is often lost: EDM’s rise to prominence has spread the enjoyment dance music provides to a greater number of people. In the end, music is truly there to entertain and to provide an outlet from the real world for however long a given song lasts.

For what it’s worth, I find no other music genre provides a release like EDM. Every time the beat drops, an apprehension drops with it.

And judging by its recent popularity, a lot of people feel the same way about the music genre that is quickly redefining the music culture of Millennials.

    Matt Hursh

Matt has finally ventured into his first year of post-graduate life, which he will be spending in the greater Boston area teaching tennis and literacy to children in Boston public schools. His four years at Hobart College taught him that we can be certain of nothing other than the fact that we exist, and to cherish any day in which the weather tops 40 degrees. A sports fanatic, he loves to share his opinions about anything and everything media related, particularly the influence the media has on public opinion.