Electronic Dance Music sub-genre ‘Harlem Shakes’ into the mainstream
Skrillex. Avicii. Swedish House Mafia. These are some of the biggest names in Electronic Dance Music (EDM). They are also artists touring worldwide. Mafia even managed to sell out Madison Square Garden, which can hold over 15,000 people for their concert, in nine minutes, before tickets were officially on sale to the general public. However, despite these artists’ immense popularity, the EDM genre has never produced a number one song on Billboard’s Hot 100 music chart.
But this all changed with Baauer’s “Harlem Shake”, a true overnight success story. On Feb. 3, the song took off when a long-board group from Australia uploaded a video to YouTube. The video shows one member of the group dancing while everyone else goes about with their everyday lives. Then as the song ramps up, and the bass drops, pure insanity occurs. Everyone that was previously wearing everyday clothing is now dressed in crazy costumes. To some, this video seems utterly stupid and pointless. But does 25,355,428 hits sound stupid? And spending five consecutive weeks on the top of the Billboard Hot 100 doesn’t sound bad either.
Though it was the videos — and their incessant copies that led to the songs sudden popularity, there is an underground music movement behind the song. “Harlem Shake”. It resides in the sub-genre of EDM known as trap, which recently exploded in the EDM scene. Trap isn’t an unfamiliar sound to many.
Rap stars like T.I., Rick Ross, and Gucci Mane have all used trap beats in their songs. Trap, as defined by whiteraverrafting.com writer Ben Herbert, is “the combination of the strong snare and sultry codeine infused bass that truly epitomizes Southern trap music. It’s that rich ticking sound that drops in over a varied combination of heavy beats, vocals and drums sounds.”
Fellow trap DJ, Kennedy Jones, was happy to hear of the “Harlem Shake” success. “My first reaction was good for Baauer, I was excited for him,” Jones says about seeing the videos blowing up on YouTube, “because without the internet right now, a lot of people, unfortunately, would not be where they’re at.”
This is true, Billboard now even takes into account YouTube hits when determining their Hot 100. “[But] that’s not due to a lack of talent, or a lack of ability. It’s a lack of being able to put out good music without social media outlets.”
The trap movement has wedged its way into the MA community as well. Senior Derek Coughlin uploads trap mixes to Mixcloud, and sophomore Nick Terlizzi is working on creating beats from a variety of genres.
So why dubstep and house before trap?
“The logical answer would be that dubstep and house [were] being produced tenfold the amount of trap music at the time they got that spotlight.” Jones said. “My reason would be that house is American, it’s owned in Detroit, which was one of the first places to do house music. I think the old school ‘house heads,’ the people going to these house shows became label owners, and they were like ‘What happened to house? Let’s look at house’ and house started to grow again.”
As for dubstep, he said, “I think it became kind of a competitive aspect to the house scene and to the EDM scene in general. I think people heard it and said ‘Ok, what can we do to make this more American?’ So they made it bigger, faster, louder, stronger, crazier. Sort of more grandiose.”
But the main question that stands is, can trap last in the spotlight? Jones hopes so. “It already has a pretty good established feel,” he says, “a lot of the rap music that’s out, that’s trap style. People can recognize those drums, the hi-hats, the snare rolls and big 808’s.”
The fate of trap music hangs in the balance of the listener. Only time will tell as to whether or not it takes hold in the mainstream.
The “Harlem Shake” may have tumbled from the number one spot now, but the trap movement will continue to go strong, whether it thrives in the mainstream or in the underground.
Drugs are a presence at many concerts, no matter the genre of music. Unfortunately, the EDM scene is stereotyped by the general public and the mainstream media as being synonymous with drugs. But, like most stereotypes, it’s not fully accurate. While there is a present drug scene at EDM concerts, and sometimes the artists comment on and joke about that, not everyone present is involved in that scene. In fact, in the concerts that I have been to, a large percentage of the audience is not participating at all in the drug scene. They are just there to experience the music, and enjoy the atmosphere and positive energy; the stereotypes need to stop.
Two other EDM subgenres you might not know about
1. Drum and Bass
Often people have a hard time distinguishing drum and bass from dubstep. However it’s not as hard as you may believe, the key differentiation between dubstep and drum and bass is tempo. Whereas dubstep typically lies within the 138-142 BPM (beats per minute) range, drum and bass has a faster tempo of 160-180 BPM.
Big names: Pegboard Nerds, Loadstar, Metrik
2. Electro house
As indicated by the title, electro house is the child of the electro and house genres. It takes the club-ready beats of house music, and gives them a harder, electro-tinged edge.
Big names: Dada Life, Porter Robinson, Deadmau5, Knife Party