Phillip Seymour Hoffman, playing the legendary rock journalist Lester Bangs in the film Almost Famous, once said the most brilliant thing about modern music.
"They're trying to buy respectability for a form that is gloriously and righteously dumb. The day it ceases to be dumb is the day it ceases to be real, and then it just becomes an industry of cool."
He then posited that the war is over; they won. The sad thing is, he's right, and if we update this to modern times, we need only replace "rock 'n' roll" with "EDM."
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Dance music in America has become so bloated and commercial, it's ceased to be the silly backbeat for drug use and underground escape that we all knew and loved.
It's mostly just silly noises and garbage lyrics strung together to resemble a feeling, but some would have you buy into the idea that EDM is a lofty enterprise that's greater than us all. To the people peddling this crap, though, it's not about making good music; it's about making money. And the poor kids who buy into their racket are straight delusional.
"We're Changing the World With This Music"
People seem to think there's a great togetherness unifying the human race because of the overwhelming commercial success of dance music. Last time we checked, "EDM" hadn't brought politicians any closer to shaking hands over the Great Aisle of America. The new Tiësto record won't #BringOurGirlsBack. All those plastic beads are destined (at best) for a landfill, never to biodegrade and certainly not to help fight against this recent national report on climate change. Y'all realize the world isn't just everyone on your college campus, but actually a collection of seven billion bumbling consciousnesses trying to eat, right? Things are bleak out there, and heading to TomorrowWorld is doing literally nothing to help your fellow man.
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"EDM" doesn't even unify people within EDM. We hear lots of talk about how people who prefer other genres of music are "basic" or "pretentious" or "on drugs" or "boring" or "only like it because it's cool." Music blogs are quick to point out that "EDM" is a catchall term used by marketers to lure 15- to 23-year-old kids into spending hundreds of dollars on paint-by-numbers tunes "produced" by carefully manufactured personalities. Dance music has no political or social agenda beyond making you dance, so why all the self-importance?
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"These People Are All Outsiders Who Finally Found Where They Belong"
Look ... We are that kid. This author went through middle school literally spit on, kicked, made fun of, tricked, jeered at, singled out -- all the good stuff that sucks about going through puberty. Life gets better, we don't hold grudges, but if there's one thing we know, it's how to tell a kid who's been through the ringer of adolescence from a kid who's always been invited to the party.
The people at these giant festivals? A lot of them would have lined the halls to kick our rolling backpack too. We don't give a shit that they're at the party. We don't own music, or good times, or even the right to bitch about how someone took our good time and filled it with drunk frat douchebags. We understand that nothing lasts and things change. But you know how nerds get angry when people who were never nerds call themselves nerds because it's cute or whatever? Some of us really did fight for our right to be ourselves, and if you think the socially awkward kids still aren't hiding in their own bedrooms, you're wrong. Most of these people in neon tutus have been beautiful their whole lives. Give it up.
"Every Minute Is Aftermovie Magic"
We've always found after-movies to be hysterically selective. For every girl in a flower bra shown dancing in slow motion, there's a dude in a tank top peeing behind a Port-A-Pottie. Where are all the people sitting down on a hill because they've been sweating for five hours and need a break? Where is that moment when you can't see over the girl on her boyfriend's shoulders? Or when your introspective fun is ruined by a kick in the head from a crowd-surfer? We understand such imagery doesn't sell as many tickets, but it's just as much a part of the experience.
In particular, we think Electric Zoo was really irresponsible with its 2014 trailer. Last year's final day of festivities was canceled due to the rape of a 16-year-old girl, the fatal drug overdoses of one 23 year old and one 20 year old, the near-fatal ODs of four other partygoers, and 31 arrests. If you watch the trailer, you'll see not one suggestion along the lines of "please party responsibly," "always travel in groups," or "don't take drugs from strangers." You could have at least dedicated it to those who passed. All we see is a bunch of pretty people in face-paint having the time of their lives.
See also: EDM: How to Succeed in Five Easy Steps!
"If You Miss This Party, You're Fuckin' Up"
Promoters love to tell you that their next party is going to change your life. Before it was our job to go to parties and be absolutely aware of everything, we would head out every time one of our fave artists came to town -- or anywhere within a 100-mile radius. We've been going to shows, raves, and parties for more than a decade, and we know we've forgotten entire nights out. Sometimes, it's hard to tell if we really saw that one DJ or just can't remember.
All this partying hasn't made us jaded, it's made us more realistic. Shows you remember forever, the ones that reaffirm why you fell in love with a style of music in the first place, are rare and magical. Unless you're really moved by a certain DJ or group, you don't have to see them every time they come to Miami (which, for a lot of these guys, is starting to feel like every other week). It's important to remember that there are other things in life that matter, like spending time with your family, connecting with people who live totally different lives than your own, or getting enough sleep. Once you've been to every festival, how do you even still care? Broaden your horizons once in a while, and don't let friends give you FOMO if you spend one night doing something else.
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"It's All About the Music"
If this scene were really "all about the music," there'd be no need for hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of stage productions. There wouldn't be such a rash of ghost producers and cheap copycats. People wouldn't feel the need to subscribe to some kind of uniform and look like everyone else. If this were "all about the music," more kids would be versed enough in lineups to recognize a name other than what's hitting the main stage.
Obviously, there are lots of fans with a real love for the music. But at the end of the day, Robert Sillerman invested $1 billion into a thriving marketable product. It's not anything at all about the music for businessmen like him. People should start saying EDM is "all about the bottom line," or at least recognize a cheesy ploy to manipulate your emotions for top dollar when you see one.
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Right now, dance music is essentially One Direction for people who outgrew the pre-teen market. If you want dance music to stay real, to stay authentic, to stay silly, and unmanageable by "the man," then you've got to do the Public Enemy, be discerning, and "don't believe the hype."
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Follow Kat Bein on Twitter @KatSaysKill.