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My love-hate relationship with EDM

staff note

I love all types of music; I always have. The mixtapes I used to make for my mom (who else?) when I was little included everything from Hilary Duff to Nirvana to Stevie Wonder. I grew up in a musical household in a musical city, so it only makes sense that I would be musical, too.

Recently, my musical repertoire has included a lot of EDM. It’s an enormous genre, and the moniker “electronic dance music” does little to define a common thread between each song or artist. On one end you have synth- and bass-heavy dubstep, on the other end rhythmic, downtempo trip hop, not including the numerous other variations in between.

Despite the expanse of the genre, and the fact that a huge amount of songs produced today include some sort of electronic element, EDM gets a bad rap. You hear “EDM” and you think alcohol and drugs, you think frat boy with no rhythm. To a lot of people, it’s a cheap and repetitive form of entertainment, which is a reasonable criticism — the “slow start, gradual build-up and bass-heavy drop” equation tends to apply to a fair amount of EDM songs.

Because of these criticisms, which I often take as personal affronts, I’ve done my fair share of defending the genre. Its purpose is to entertain, to make you dance — it’s in the name. If it does that, what does it matter if it’s repetitive or unoriginal? You don’t listen to EDM when you’re trying to do some soul-searching; you listen to it when you’re trying to have some pure, hedonistic fun. That’s why it’s so popular at places promoting this kind of fun, like dance clubs and frat parties.

This defense, of course, relies on the premise that EDM is universally enjoyable to listen and dance to. Most of the time it is; you don’t have to know a song to be able to dance to simple, feel-good beats, and there are few things in music more satisfying than a good drop. Regardless of your personal feelings about The Chainsmokers, you can’t say their music isn’t catchy.

EDM is infectious, it’s energetic, and even if you’re just studying or working out, it gives you a sense of urgency and motivation. It would make sense, then, that these attitudes would be amplified in concert, as is the case with most genres of music. Listening to the music on your headphones is nothing close to having someone mix it live, or being able to dance along with hundreds of other people just as passionate about the music as yourself.

Unfortunately, that is not always the case. If EDM promotes pure, hedonistic fun, its fans tend to be fun-loving and, yes, hedonistic. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with this, and it’s a mentality that’s increasingly promoted in today’s culture and within the millennial generation. It does become a problem, however, when you stuff hundreds of these types of people into one room.

“Peace, Love, Unity, Respect” is the unofficial motto of the EDM movement. Like the rest of the genre, it’s great in theory and so much worse in practice. I’ve never been to a concert where I’ve been pushed, shoved and had my personal space violated as much as I have at an EDM concert. Like most people, I go to concerts to enjoy the music. But when everyone’s definition of enjoying the music is being at the front and stepping on and pushing as many people as necessary out of the way to accomplish that, it becomes a lot less entertaining. 

It’s happened at other concerts I’ve been to, of course — the experience isn’t unique to EDM. But instead of people pushing to the front to see the artist they like, at EDM concerts it seems a lot more like people selfishly trying to have the most fun they can possibly have at the expense of the people around them. It just doesn’t make sense to me when all EDM concerts really amount to are some people you probably wouldn’t even recognize on the street pushing a few buttons to produce music that would sound the same if it were being played from Spotify.

So I’ve arrived at an impasse: I like EDM music, but I don’t like people who like EDM music (probably one of the more hypocritical opinions I hold). I listen to it and try to support the artists I like but am loathe to go to any more concerts when all they really offer is bruises, unsolicited grabbing and — if you’re lucky— a cool light show to go along with it. Do I still feel comfortable defending the genre? Sure. I’m just not sure I inherently agree with my arguments after the disenchanting experiences I’ve had at EDM concerts.

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