With the new decade came the rise of dance music (‘rave’, ‘techno’, ‘EDM’…whichever name you use for it) into the mainstream powered by names like Tiesto, David Guetta, and Lady Gaga to name a few. People who once thought that dance music died out with disco, forever remanded to the underground, hear these names every day now along with the dance tracks made by them. News articles like this one were written as if to both harken its return in the early days of the new decade and to wish it along. The likes of Deadmau5 and Skrillex would come into the consciousness of people like middle-aged aunts and uncles, grandparents, and moms and dads across the country to eclipse names like 50 Cent and Kayne West as the younger generations around them began to dance to the new beat. Out with the old and in with the new…
Hip Hop died when it hit the mainstream, so say its earliest fans and makers. You wouldn’t know it if you weren’t part of that scene since it seemed like you couldn’t get away from it even if you wanted to. And the same would be said for all the genres that it eclipsed upon their mainstreaming, too; Nirvana brought us Grunge just as Elvis brought us Rock-n-Roll, and there were lots of people who didn’t think any of this was good for the music itself. So what is to come of electronic dance music?
“Techno” built the rave scene, loosely-defined as those two terms are by many. Illegally-thrown dance parties attracted only those who were in-the-know, and many of the dance tracks being played there would only be heard that one time as the records made of acetate wore down and the DJs playing them moved on to the next party. The arrival of burnable CDs and internet radio would allow for some producers, as the creators of this music are known, to make names for themselves within this scene and become proto-stars in their own right. It was seen as a virtue that names like John B. and Armin van Buuren weren’t even known outside of the dance music scene. Legitimacy was automatic if the music was good enough to be played at all. And the fact that this music seemed to purposefully be ignored by the mainstream almost seemed like an immunity to the whole notion of someone becoming a ‘sellout’.
‘Music festivals’, like little mini dance-music Woodstocks in their own right, would raise the consciousness of the masses toward the music almost as a natural progression of things. Meanwhile, divas who spanned generations would start playing with vocoders and teaming up with dance music producers to keep themselves fresh and relevant. And so the mainstreaming of dance music would begin.
A recent New York Times article talks about the dry, corporate under-the-hood developments taking place – as both the result of and the driving force behind – electronic dance music’s rise. Murmurs among dance music devotees show concern that this scene, too, might become co-opted, corporatized, overplayed and ultimately killed off. Underground music scenes tend not to have a #1 position to be filled by one superstar so much as many top spots for many different types of producers; house, DnB, trance, techno…. and as focus groups replace candy kids as the final judges of what songs should hold the top spots, many fear that the very essence of the dance music scene will be lost. Time will tell. It always does.