From the Outside: Crossing Over
I wish I could say I’ve had time to go out and party again since the last From the Outside installment, but it just wouldn’t be true. I’ve been spending more time at my desk than I care to admit (and daydreaming about summer concerts and the possibility of attending my first festival!). But the good news—for all of us—is that thanks to the many online listening tools at our disposal, musical exploration can happen even when you’re sitting at your desk.
Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately: the intersection between EDM and pop music. I love pop music (seriously, name any Ke$ha song and I can sing it—badly). Where this love came from I’m not sure: is it my passion for the dance floor? My affinity for hanging out in gay bars that play top-40s hits? Anyway, one thing that even EDM-newbies like myself have noticed in the past few years is the way genres from techno to dubstep have crept into the pop music scene. Britney Spears’ new songs all sound like dance-club remixes of themselves. LMFAO (sigh, I wish they would get back together) started out in LA’s electro house scene, as is evident in all of their most-popular songs. Of course, these artists are more on the pop side of things. But it got me wondering who else would fit the category, coming from the EDM side.
The first name that came to mind: Krewella. Their insanely fun hit “Alive” was absolutely everywhere not that long ago, including all the pop stations I have pre-set in my car. At first, I imagined “Krewella” was some cute 17-year-old rising star who had been groomed for fleeting success by a major record label. But something told me that wasn’t it—it just didn’t sound like a generic cardboard-cutout pop song. Sure enough, turns out Krewella is actually an EDM group with a style influenced by dubstep, drum and bass, and house among other genres. Catchy on the radio, and I bet they put on a killer live show too. Perfect.
So who else is out there bridging the gap between EDM and pop? The name Avicii has popped up in my circles from time to time, and upon closer examination, he’s behind that “Don’t Wake Me Up” song that’s been stuck in everyone’s head for weeks. The Swedish DJ has actually been experiencing massive crossover success for quite some time now—I looked up his 2011 hit “Levels” and suddenly remembered a long stint of having that one stuck in my head too.
Then I recalled Scottish DJ Calvin Harris (I know, big name to everyone else, but I’m new to this, okay?). I personally have associated his name most with that ultra-catchy collab he did with Rhianna, and “I Need Your Love” with Ellie Goulding jumps to mind as well. Harris is another expert in balancing the crossover act, having garnered respect, admiration, and most importantly, the attentive ears of people on both sides of the EDM and pop-music fold. And then there’s Zedd, the Russian-German producer and DJ best known for his massive hit “Clarity” featuring Foxes. It’s starting to look like just about every song I haven’t been able to get out of my head in the past couple years has been a pop-EDM crossover.
I don’t even necessarily love all of these songs. Thanks most likely to things like Pandora playlists at restaurants and bars I’ve worked at or frequented, I’ve heard many of them to the point of annoyance. But their success is an interesting trend nonetheless. I think the stage has long been primed for these kinds of crossovers to occur, and pop music has tapped the talents of successful DJs for quite some time now. However, what I’m seeing now is that successful EDM artists are attaining pop-music success not through working on a Britney Spears track, but through tracks of their very own. The lines are getting blurry indeed, but the crossover trend doesn’t signal the death or even the weakening of EDM. There will always be purists, underground acts, and tracks that are just too interesting to receive any mainstream radio play. This trend is simply evidence of how massively popular and versatile some of these EDM genres are.
At any rate, the crossover trend is good news for me. It’s an easy in, a way to encounter new artists and songs simply because they’re getting playtime in the circles I already frequent. It doesn’t mean I shouldn’t still do my research to turn up new things that I would never hear on the radio, but it’s one way to explore. For the rest of you who are new to all this as well, the pop-EDM crossover can be a good way to get started. You’ll recognize the radio-friendly traits, like catchy choruses and relatively short playtimes, but you can also see the beauty of electronic music in the way these songs are crafted for maximum dancing pleasure. And the recent tendency of even previously non-EDM pop artists to borrow from house or dubstep shows that several EDM genres aren’t really all that fringe anymore. Some people stress about their favorite genres popping up in “mainstream” songs. But I’m all for genre-mixing and anything that makes pop music more fun to dance to. It’s like a big party, right? The more artists on the radio, the merrier.