Electronic Dance Music, also affectionately known as EDM, is one of the fastest growing genres in the world.
It’s also a clear college favorite and for good reason. The genre has produced more than its fair share. Who didn’t love “Latch” with Sam Smith on the vocals? What about the many singing in the shower sessions led by Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be”? And of course, EDM has gifted us artists like Kygo, Calvin Harris, and now, the Chainsmokers. That said, why does the world’s most college friendly genre suddenly feel so stale?
It’s Too Formulaic!
The main culprit of EDM’s sudden staleness (besides the exorbitant amount of money involved) is their insistence on formulas. That sounds me a bit algebraic but allow me to explain!
I’d be wrong to say that every EDM song sounds the same. They don’t. However, there is a clear strategy that the entire industry adheres to. It goes like this:
- Get a female to sing the vocals
- Have the subject matter involve some sort of love interest (failing or otherwise)
- Insert drops in the song
- Rinse and repeat
Now if you’re telling yourself that this guy has no idea what he’s talking about, maybe you’re right. Initially, when I wrote this article, I wasn’t even sure whether it was true. So, to test my theory, I looked at the biggest act in EDM right now, The Chainsmokers, and reviewed their two biggest hits, “Closer” and “Paris”. Here’s what I found.
They May as Well Be the Same Song
Kind of astonishing, but the songs are nearly identical in their structure. They both begin in The Chainsmokers’ frontman Andrew Taggart bemoaning his shortcomings with women.
“We were staying in Paris/To get away from your parents/And I thought, ‘Wow/If I could take this in a shot right now/I don’t think we could work this out” – “Paris”, The Chainsmokers
“Hey, I was doing just fine before I met you/I drink too much/And that’s an issue, but I’m okay/Hey, you tell your friends/It was nice to meet them/But I hope I never see them again” – “Closer”, The Chainsmokers
That leads, of course, to the eventual female voice that comes in to harmonize. In “Paris”, uncredited singer Emily Warren plays the role of female harmonizer. Halsey stars on “Closer”. Then comes the beats drops, another superficial verse, and perhaps one final beat drop and then, the end.
That’s not to say these two songs aren’t great. They’re practically go-to songs on the party playlist. The problem arrives when every song in EDM becomes similar to this. Unfortunately, for the most part, it has.
Bring in new voices especially ones that are outside the realm of EDM. Of course, there will certainly be misses but more, offhand, I’d say it works more often than not. Look at DJ Snake’s “Let Me Love You” for example. The angelic voice of the Biebs alone makes the song feel different. Major Lazer managed to achieve the same on (coincidentally) another Bieber assisted track too: “Cold Water”.
If Bieber isn’t exactly your style (which is more than understandable), keep looking to other genres. Hip-hop has provided a figurative reservoir of innovation. “Turn Down For What?”, while annoying now, was a revelation when it released. In fact, they still play it at the Dome to get us pumped. It’s basically this generation’s “Who Let The Dogs Out?”.
Major Lazer–proving to be a constant innovators themselves–teamed up with Nicki Minaj and PARTYNEXTDOOR to create the tropical-influenced “Run Up” single. The summer vibes are exactly what the cold campus of Syracuse needed. However, all of these examples pale in comparison to (what I consider) the GOAT of EDM songs so far: “Slide”.
The song takes the most talented R&B singer today in Frank Ocean and combines it with not only two thirds of the hottest group around (Quavo and Offset of the Migos), but also has one of the world’s best DJs to bring it all together in Calvin Harris. It’s catchy, the subject matter is unique (who creates a hook about a painting?), and the three flow seamlessly throughout the song. It’s ridiculously fresh and I grin ear to ear every time Ocean begins crooning.
As a college student, EDM has provided hit after hit for our listening pleasure. There’s nothing that compares to the release of another great song. However, to avoid getting stale, EDM needs to decide whether it wants to continue to play it safe or take a risk. The next year will let us know where it stands.