By Jacob Katel
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David Guetta might have changed the entire sound of commercial pop, and Deadmau5 may have gotten legions of clubbers to don faux rodent heads. But there's no question that right now, the hottest name in electronic dance music is Skrillex, born Sonny Moore.
The polarizing artist has been alternately praised and vilified for his take on dubstep, which, frankly, bears little resemblance to the genre's beginnings. But while haters are gonna hate, even the most grudgingly puritanical ravers have to admit this asymmetrically haired dude sorta deserves his due. So here are ten reasons not to hate Skrillex.
Skrillex is better than screamo. OK, Moore has a well-documented screamo past. And yes, that is funny. The band for which he was lead singer, From First to Last, specialized in an intense kind of naked angst. It seemed like a good idea if you encountered the genre in your teens and early 20s. But the whole thing is sorta embarrassing now. Any move away from sing-screaming about topics like body dysmorphia and overwrought relationship drama is a step up.
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He made it cool for kids to dance again. Sure, someone from the rock world comes along every five years and "makes it cool for kids to dance again." So what? Skrillex is the pied piper of the so-called scene-kid generation. Out with the pop-punk bands, in with laptops and raves. This is a good thing 'cause the latter-day Warped Tour acts were sounding pretty stale.
Skrillex can almost single-handedly revive careers. We're looking at Korn specifically. Those who remember Jonathan Davis and company might not see this as a good thing. But when the nu-metal giants wanted to reappear and look relevant, they tapped Skrillex and went dubstep. Yes, they've worked with other producers, such as Datsik. But it was the Skrillex brand that snagged the attention of kids who were still in elementary school when Korn reached its peak in the late '90s.
He's actually been into electronic music for years. Though he became famous in a rock band, Moore grew up attending both punk shows and underground dance music parties in his native California. And while Skrillex was his first production project to break out big, the ex-screamo kid had been releasing electronic stuff for years, either under his given name or various aliases such as Twipz.
The Skrillex sound doesn't suck like other dance music. As everyone rushes to copy the patented David Guetta urban-pop-house mash-up sound, most also-ran producers are doing it totally wrong. Dance music may rule Top 40 radio right now. But most of it sounds like rejects from Ibiza and South Beach circa 1999. Skrillex's growing mainstream popularity at least brings a darker, less painfully chipper sound to the mainstream. If anything, it's more appropriate to our time than urban-pop-house's willful escapism.
His label, OWSLA, is predicting the future. If Skrillex got a nice hype handout from Deadmau5, he's paying it forward with his own label, OWSLA. So far, the imprint has released music from all kinds of new interesting names, including Dillon Francis and Porter Robinson.
He can make a remix eclipse the original track. Benny Benassi's "Cinema," a melodic dance track featuring Gary Go, is a nice little love song set to a four-four beat. But Skrillex's remix turns it into a completely different beast — a chopped-up slice of madness that combines dubstep 2.0's trademark wobbles and bass-drops with old-school hardcore and acid-house flourishes. In this version, the vocals become disembodied and ghostly, floating in a compelling, goosebump-inducing fog. Even the most hard-hearted dance music fan has to agree it's more exciting than Benassi's original.
Oh, yeah, he won three Grammys. One of those was, in fact, for his "Cinema" remix. (The other two were for Best Dance Recording and Best Dance/Electronica Album.) But whether the Grammys are bullshit or not, enough people took notice of Skrillex's impact to recognize him for it. It's just too bad he got weirdly left out of the live broadcast's dance music segment.
He's a superstar and he's relatable. During the last wave of superstar mega-DJs, around the turn of the millennium, many of the biggest names were known for acting like prima donnas, taking private planes, and just generally behaving like overblown rock stars. Not so with Skrillex, who still comes off like a regular kid raised on punk. Even after his Grammy win, he tweeted encouragement to fellow bedroom producers.
He has people talking about electronic music again. If you truly love dance music, is that a bad thing?