By Ken Selander, For the Daily
Published October 7, 2013
Electronic music has been all the rage (pun intended) since its mainstream breakthrough around 2010. What makes electronic music so unique is that it’s largely unprecedented. For every other genre of music today, there has been some sort of imagined precedent or milestone set for that given genre by earlier artists, meaning that it’s rare that an artist or band can escape comparisons to other past groups. This constant urge to compare artists can be detrimental for musicians, because in some ways it deters creativity by making artists avoid straying from the beaten path. Many rock drummers, for instance, face a daunting comparison from rock aficionados to the drumming machine that is Neil Peart, which must be quite unnerving.
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Unlike most genres, electronic music does not date back much further than about a decade, and it’s difficult to compare it to most traditional genres of music. You might be able to make a weak comparison between electronic music and punk rock, simply because they have a subversive lifestyle connected with them; however, the strongest comparison you can make is between the emergence of electronic music and disco.
Luckily for electronic music, there is no beaten path to follow, and this allows artists to explore all forms of electronic music. It’s not unusual for an artist to have a whole host of songs that are nothing like each other. When Rush strayed from its usual sounds with Permanent Waves, a more radio-friendly album, many loyal fans flipped a shit.
Similarly, disco was a largely unprecedented genre at its birth in the late 1970s and could be whatever an artist wanted it to be. The spastically high-pitched vocals of the Bee Gees feature a much different sound than Rick Dees’s quacktastic and creepy “Disco Duck,” yet both were still regarded as perfectly acceptable disco music.
The biggest trial faced by both electronic music and disco is that people try to compare either genre to others, like rock or rap. While both disco and electronic music usually feature elements of either genre — like remixed verses from a hardcore rap artist like Tupac of Biggie over a filthy dubstep beat or the funky bass lines anchoring many disco songs — they are concretely dissimilar. There is no easy way to try and compare a guitar riff to a dubstep drop.
Trying to make such a comparison leads many music moguls to question the musical validity of both electronic music and disco. Many see dubstep and hear the harsh noises broadcasted by an old Gateway computer in an attempt to achieve dial-up connection and want to pull their hair out when they hear disco come on the radio.
Although many refuse to accept it, making a solid electronic song often is a long, tiresome process, much like piecing together a disco or rock song. Many critics claim that EDM producers are talentless and cannot even be put on the same playing field as “real” musicians (guitarists, bassists, drummers, etc.). This belief can be challenged by looking at the differences in music culture between the rock and electronic music genres. It’s important to note that the Internet did not yet exist during the heyday of classic rock. If someone had a shitty garage band, the only people who would hear it were their cranky neighbors. Rock artists usually only ever gain an audience through live performances and/or a record deal.
Simply by downloading some basic DJ software, any average Joe can attempt to create an electronic song and then use the Internet to make it available to millions of people world-wide. The visibility means that thousands of sub-par DJs and quality DJs alike can distribute their music to whomever wants to take a listen. Unlike rock, electronic music dominates online music-sharing outlets like Soundcloud that are extremely popular and host anyone who wants to create an account.