1. The Chainsmokerization of Dance Music
Yeah, I’m coining the term and this is the right time to do it. This dance music duo has taken the community by storm and catapulted into pop music in a way that basically no other EDM artist has (maybe Calvin Harris). In a way, their rise mirrors many trends in dance music in 2016. The best way to shed some light on this is to to look at the rebirth of SFX. In rebranding as LiveStyle, the new CEO said that festivals like Mysteryland would aim to become more like Coachella and grow out of the EDM-centric niche. So the brand that once represented EDM essentially signals that it is distancing itself from EDM to chase the broader pop audience. The Chainsmokers blew up because they stopped trying to be EDM DJs, swapping out lengthy musical journeys for a sing-alongs, TV performances, and celebrity swagger. We hear about how they want to date models, how they’re total bros, and and we wait with baited breath for their next single. They’ve achieved full on pop star status in a way most dance music DJs have only achieved in The Netherlands.
The DJ Mag Top 100 Awards are a good example of this. Even as recently as a few years back, the number 1 DJ was somebody you could guarantee was a “must see before you die” artist. This was because they were known to put on an unbelievable performance that transcended subgenres. Now, it has basically become a marketing/branding mechanism to shift the market to a new face and raise booking fees for everybody each year. Sure they’re fun but you probably don’t get a chill on the back of your neck if you see The Chainsmokers headlining a festival. The thing is, that’s no longer the point and if you care then they don’t expect you to be there anyway. The hotness in EDM right now is not about intensity, melodies, or even drops it’s about being as close to pop music and pop culture as possible.
2. In Memoriam
As 2016 comes to a close, EDMTunes pauses to remember the great festivals we lost this year:
3. DJs Get Political
There are so many talented DJs or artists with huge branding these days that it’s tough to break through the clutter and grab those blog posts or viral moments. If you’re a middling DJ with a ho-hum perfoming style, 2016 offered one additional way to grab the headlines and turn a forgettable set into a festival defining moment. Inject politics by calling out Donald Trump, and suddenly your 10 second diatribe is being broadcasted everywhere and you get 10 blog posts about your 2pm festival slot.
There are some artists that engage in politics without being classless, and it’s obviously their right to do so. Despite the good intentions of some artists, the vast majority of fans continue to chant “keep politics out of this”. Sure music held a “fight the power” sentiment in the past, but dance music’s lack of vocals provides a unique musical experience everybody can interpret it however they want and still enjoy it together. That’s part of the appeal, and injecting an opinion as objective into it is not very PLUR. Whether its an artist or a blog, the fans react in much the same way when political jabs are in baked in. Look at what happened with young Aussie Throttle when he was convinced to lend his track to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and he hardly had a personal opinion on the matter. This was a big political year, but at the end of it all don’t you respect the artists who stayed out of the fray? Could you reach a state of trance if Armin van Buuren told you he disagrees with your politics or that he despises somebody you support?
In 2016 EDM got somewhat close to getting a true fan, Marco Rubio, in the White House. Looking out at the political landscape of both parties, its safe to say he will remain the only EDM fan that exists on the political landscape for quite some time. As for the loudmouth artists looking for attention, we’re still waiting for all the promised moves back to Europe or tour cancellations, but to this point we have heard of none. Needless to say, we’re hopeful this trend dies in 2017 so we can get back to the music.
4. Everybody Produces Everything
If I told you I was about to play you a R3hab or Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike) track from 2014, you would instantly know it would be a hard hitting style track. How about if I told you I was going to put on a track from the same artist made in 2016? You’d have literally no idea what it would sound like (
but it’ll probably be future house). Last year around this time Future House was beginning to feel a bit old, and now the scene has moved on to Bass House, Future Bass, and Techno sounds. Their story is emblematic of the entire scene now, as producers chase whatever is cool at the moment. Sure this has been going on for a while, but the trend was always towards one style of dance music. First it was electro, then anthem house, then big room, then future house. Now there doesn’t seem to be one universal consensus about the hot genre. The result is a large swath of artists trying to live in different musical worlds simultaneously. Nowhere is this more evident than a cursory review of weekly podcasts on iTunes. Podcasts that used to be filled with hard-hitting gym music now bounce around subgenres and lack any sense of coherence. In fact, you’ve already seen some artists completely rebrand their podcasts and shift towards a distinctive style like Deniz Koyu, Gareth Emery, and Dyro – this is a good thing!
Bass House seemed to be the next step in the evolution, but bass house seems to have been a one-trick pony like Melbourne Bounce or Tropical House. Those artists are drifting into Techno-style sounds or Dubstep now. The innovation seems to be occurring somewhere on that cutting edge. Pretty much every producer tries their hand at everything to see what sticks. One week a producer releases a future house track, then 2 weeks later they’re teasing a bass house track, then a future bass track, then a completely non-EDM style hip-hop track. The most common move these days is to release a toned down pop-centric mix to a track, and follow it up with a remix from the original producer which hews more closely to club music. A good example of this comes from Axwell tracks released this year, particularly “Belong” and “Dark River”. It’s gotten so bad that even individual tracks incorporate 2 or more styles to reach every niche. It’s hard to keep those bases covered these days.
You probably have a mental image of a list of producers that fit the bill on this, and it’s sad because many are destroying whatever respect you had for them before. On the other hand, it allows you to feel more respect towards the artists that stick to their guns even if the sound isn’t cutting edge anymore. Are we reaching a post-subgenre period? Let’s see what 2017 holds.
5. For the 10th Time, It’s Not Happening
You know how everybody lately keeps talking about “fake news”? These stories about Swedish House Mafia reuniting in 2017 are the perfect example of this. Some outlets absolutely reveled in writing a new SHM reunion post every other week, and many fans were duped every single time. These bloggers aren’t dumb, and they know the likelihood is minuscule. It’s partly that we all want it to be true even when reality tells us otherwise. It’s also partly that blogs want to be leading if it ends up being true.
The desperation has gotten so bad, a well-known EDM blog ran with the SHM reunion story merely because a festival included them in an artist preference survey. The latest round of the same rumor says they will play at Ultra, despite Axwell Ingrosso already being billed on the lineup. That means the only possibility of this being true (ignoring everything else) is if they pull a “surprise” a la Jack U in 2015. The fact is the icy relationship between Steve Angello and his former bandmates is quite obvious if you actually pay any attention. If you saw their documentary and you see the trajectories the 3 have taken, you should understand why this isn’t anywhere near close to real.
Daft Punk is a trickier topic for one weird reason. It’s going to be 2017 – and even the most cynical of Daft Punk fanboys penciled in 2017 for the long-awaited return of the robots to the stage. The evidence is clear: first, there was the Alive 1997 show and live album. Then in 2007, there was Alive 2007 and yet another paired live album. Daft Punk are deliberate above all else, so after years of failed expectations everybody was just waiting for them to pull the trigger in 2017. While it still might happen, there is literally 0 concrete evidence that it will.
Oh yeah – and Tiesto isn’t going back to join Ferry Corsten in Gouryella.
To best illustrate this point, here are a series of blog articles rehashing the same rumors over and over again (we are not immune unfortunately – business is business). The vast majority of these were from 2016.
BREAKING: PROXIMITY TEASES THE RETURN OF SWEDISH HOUSE MAFIA IN 2017
AXWELL HINTS AT SWEDISH HOUSE MAFIA REUNION IN NEW INTERVIEW
CONFLICTING REPORTS SUGGEST A 2017 SWEDISH HOUSE MAFIA REUNION COULD BE POSSIBLE
Clever Fake Reignites Swedish House Mafia Rumors
Swedish House Mafia’s Lunch Date in Los Angeles Raise Hopes For a Reunion
Daft Punk Tour Rumors Resurface Around Alive 2017 Website
Another Swedish House Mafia Reunion Rumor Shot Down
COULD FIREFLY FESTIVAL HAVE LET IT SLIP THAT SHM IS TOURING IN 2017?
DAFT PUNK’S RUMORED 2017 ALIVE TOUR, HERE’S WHAT WE KNOW
Multiple sources say Swedish House Mafia is reuniting in 2017; manager denies it
6. Rise of the New Supergroups
While you’re wondering if this time Swedish House Mafia might really get back together, there are worthy successors forming right under your nose. Swedish House Mafia began as 3 producers began spending more and more time collaborating together and eventually performing together. If you watch the scene, you’ll notice this is happening among several groups of DJs.
First and foremost you have Jack U, who burst onto the scene in 2014 and closed out Ultra Music Festival only a year later. Their rise spawned a huge rush in the industry to imitate their style. Then you have the Pardon My French crew consisting of Tchami, DJ Snake, Mercer, and Malaa. They tour together, they collab together, and they all fall under the same management. For now they continue on in their separate roles, but we have no idea who Malaa even is.
The closest you have to a potential new-age SHM comes from the so-call “Bass House Mafia”(don’t forget where you heard it first). This lingering super-trio consists of NGHTMRE and the Slander duo. They already collab and perform together all the time. The ingredients are there, all they need to do is make it official and we could have a new super trio.
7. DJs Need a Documentary (or Doc Series)
Last year the latest DJ requirement was a record label and/or a podcast. By this point, almost every single DJ has a record label and a podcast so how can they differentiate themselves now? The answer is a documentary of some kind. Now in order to be a top caliber DJ, it’s almost required that you have either a fully fledged documentary with a theatrical release or you have an ongoing YouTube documentary series (or both).
This trend started a few years back with Swedish House Mafia and then Hardwell, but in 2016 it really took off. Hardwell came back with a 2nd documentary, Martin Garrix had one, and Steve Aoki had one was that actually really good. For the lower key producers, there are YouTube series. Laidback Luke runs one of the most extensive vlog series, but there are also series from Headhunterz, Dannic, Martin Garrix, and Don Diablo. If you want to take things a step further, there are a number of DJs hosting their very own masterclasses, like deadmau5, Jason Ross, and Dyro. So to be a headliner level DJ in 2017 you’re expected to have a Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Livestreams, Soundcloud, Label, Podcast, and now a video series or a masterclass. Not exactly the lowest barrier to entry.
8. Hollywood Still Doesn’t Get Us
When the EDM boom was hitting its highest commercial point, everybody wanted to cash in on some sort of movie or TV idea to bring our culture to the movie screen. The first major foray in 2015, We Are Your Friends, was an epic fail financially. However, the industry wasn’t ready to give up in 2016. Netflix took its own crack at dance music culture with XOXO, which launched to heavy buzz but was ultimately even more vapid than We Are Your Friends. The problem is that Hollywood only understands the cliche aspects of our culture, which don’t show too well to the outside world. That’s why all of these movies center on a lowly bedroom DJ getting a big break, finding love, and encountering lots of drugs and neon along the way. All of these movies have some aspects that ring true for us, but only in the same sense as a meme on Instagram.
Hollywood tried again to harness our culture by finally giving us the EDM Awards Show we deserved. We all know how EDM is unfairly snubbed at The Grammys or other award shows, because only a tiny sliver of dance music is even nominated. Dance music has so many subgenres it could easily have its own awards show, and Fox was ready to make that happen. Sadly, the Electronic Music Awards show that was scheduled to air in April 2016 was “postponed” at the last second to Fall 2016. Needless to say, Fall came and went without a peep about the awards show. It might be another victim of the bubble bursting, or Hollywood might have realized they have no idea how to represent out scene on TV.
9. All About Streaming
This year was massive for technological changes in our scene, and most of it revolved around streaming in one way or another. Streaming was a common thread through most of the developments. Festivals and concerts tried to incorporate VR and 360 video streaming into their production with mixed results, but it will surely be improved over time. Besides those streams, Facebook live streams became another mandatory task for DJs. From festival sets to interviews to the weekly podcasts, Facebook streaming is everywhere. Now the platform is going to add audio streaming, which should have Soundcloud pretty worried.
Streaming music continued to reign supreme as torrents took their final kill shot with the end of the famed What.cd. SoundcloudGo launched to the dismay of pretty much everybody. We thought it would protect our DJ sets from takedowns, but we were wrong.
A different king of streaming also had a big year as Apple mandated Bluetooth streaming to wireless headphones with the iPhone 7. The AUX cord has officially been put on notice, but Android manufacturers that tried cutting the AUX cord have already released updated versions with the legacy plug returned.
10. Dream Collaborations Become Real
The coolest thing about dance music is that your greatest fantasies can really come true (no, we’re still not talking about Swedish House Mafia). Fans have been clamoring for legends Deadmau5 and Eric Prydz to collaborate forever, and we got a first attempt back in 2014. In 2016 the two put their heads together for a mindblowing collaborative show that graced Tomorrowland. Now in 2017 the collaboration will continue. Eric Prydz wasn’t the only heavily desired collaboration Deadmau5 worked on in 2016, because he also teamed up again with Kaskade for the follow up to “I Remember”. “Beneath With Me” was teased out forever, before it was unceremoniously released to the confusion of deadmau5. In any event, it turned out to be one of our favorite tracks of the year and we hope Joel and Eric produce a track soon too.
Of course the other dream collab that came true this year was Porter Robinson and Madeon’s Shelter team up. These two both started out producing intense complextro and both moved into much different live shows with similar visual themes. Fans have been begging for them to work together for years, and this year they gave us a track and an entire collaborative tour. Unfortunately “Shelter” is the only track we will get out of this collaboration, but it ended up as our Track of The Year.
*The opinions in this piece do not reflect those of EDMTunes as a whole*