The emergent genre you’ll hear at 2012 festivals, and the spectre of Studio 54
Every year, between October and December, major studios like to release their Oscar contenders… It’s a time of year where releases are characterized by serious writing, director-driven filmmaking, and demanding acting.
Every year, around January, I think we’ve all noticed the trend that major producers like to release their festival anthems — those samey, major key, busy, vocal pieces that we’re all supposed to get good ‘n used to so we can travel across the continent without hearing anything unfamiliar.
I can think of two that got their “official” drop dates in the last couple weeks; Avicii ft. Nervo – You’re Gonna Love Again, and Thomas Gold and Dirty South ft. Kate Elsworth – Eyes Wide Open.
I can list a lot of differences between each song, mainly the trademarks any producer might leave on his tracks — the reverb heavy, staccato, and up-swinging synths sit on every track by Bergling has ever done, from his Tim Berg days to the Avicii era; Messrs. Gold and South maintain a much more even, melodic (slightly discordant) feel. I think, though, that I can say what I’ve been dancing around: both these songs, while examples of fine craftsmanship, are different only in content (different notes, different words), and in terms of stylistic tics. Because each song does the exact same work, and will likely appear in the same sets in the coming months (and especially festival season), they suffer from fundamental sameness.
I think that the fundamental, and I do use that word again deliberately, similarities between these two songs tell us something minor and innocuous, what makes a successful song, and something major and insidious, which brings to mind George Santayana’s aphorism “The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again.”
So — common elements of two songs tailored for broad, festival appeal. Listen to the dynamic, pitch corrected (female) vocals delivering uncomplicated messages about realization of human contact (assurances one will love again, “close my eyes I’m next to you,” etc) and thinly veiled references to MDMA. Notice the repetitive, build-drop verse structure. Every chord is, of course, major. I think we have a new genre emergent from the explosion in popularity of house music — House-less Music.
Houseless Music, that is, music that is designed to be played in fields at festivals and for crowds of tens of thousands in impersonal arenas is a marketable commodity with its own superstars (SHM, Avicii, Alesso, just to name three Swedes) and the radio airplay (and broad appeal) of an Eminem song five years ago.
Despite their different backgrounds, House-Less superstars Afrojack, Alesso, Avicii, and Calvin Harris are all billed near the top of the 2012 Coachella lineup. Ten years ago, the only act like this near the top billing at the same festival was Tiesto.
Okay. Electronic Dance Music is the new Rock’n’Roll, and has a broad “arena” genre emergent from its own popularity… in other Obviousness News, the sky is blue, America will pursue its foreign policy interests in Asia, and coffee tastes great. However, this realization brings me to my next point about history, and its repetition.
According to a certain 19th century German whose surname rhymes with “sparks,” every epoch contains the seeds of its own downfall — in terms of history, it is oppression that leads to uprising, but in terms of music, it is popularity that leads to the dreaded uncoolness.
It was the backlash against over-commercialization that killed Disco and made mention of its name a tauntable offense. It was the backlash against crass materialism that forced inventive hip-hop underground. Pop killed rock in the same way that Darth Vader killed Anakin — the personality was entirely subsumed, but the form (five piece band with a guitar and a singer and rock-beat) was largely the same.
It will be the backlash against contentless, uncomplicated, and fundamentally (there’s that word again) samey arena filling House-Less songs that come out every year between January and March in our world’s perverse version of Oscar season that will lead us all dancing and raving to march into the sea.