From the Creamfields Festival goer who lives K-hole to K-hole, to the Radiohead snob whose ears start to bleed after 5 seconds of Avicii, everyone’s got their opinion on the oonts oonts. Dance music seems to be one of the most ubiquitous yet divisive genres. Sadly, I fear it has been horribly misunderstood and, if pitched properly, could truly be a label that unites us all.
What even is electronic dance music anyway? The David Guettas and Swedish House Mafias of the world normally come to mind. The pumping kicks, stupidly long buildups and obnoxious supersaw synths define that commercial sound that took pop charts hostage for the first half of the 2010s. However, what I’ve just described can be more accurately labelled as big room or electro house—two of the dozens of sub-genres within EDM. Although I admittedly can’t get enough of the stuff, it’s impossible to expect everyone to be into it, especially given how much the radio bombarded us with it for years.
The way “EDM” is referenced in casual conversation has been limited to only refer to this specific niche. The truth is that dance and electronic music encapsulates a whole lot more. Electronic elements are virtually unavoidable in modern music-making. Even the most acoustic of recordings is being passed through a computer at some point. Although I wouldn’t go this far myself, it could be argued that all music is electronic music.
What I do believe however is that dance music is not a genre, but a feeling. Moving our bodies is such a natural part of how we experience music, and it would be ridiculous to suggest that only one specific sub-genre deserves the label all for itself. Instead, my bottom line is this: if it’s music that makes you dance, it’s dance music. Doesn’t that feel so much better to say? It’s more logical.
As anyone who’s spent more than 20 minutes with me will know, KAYTRANADA is my one true fanboy obsession. His passion for dance music is just that: a passion for making people move through his production. I won’t explain further, just listen to this:
That has to be one of my all-time favourite songs. A classic thumping oonts oonts kick, combined with a stunningly musical sound world over top is absolutely my kind of thing. His production is so dreamy yet energetic, subdued yet vibrant. This is what dance music is to me. It makes me bop. But what’s with the “electronic”?
The truth is that for centuries, through all genres and cultures, music for dancing was created 100% acoustically. By the 1970s, funk and disco were the genres making people move—drum kits, guitars, bass… not a synthesiser in sight (at first). Once electronics were welcomed into the popular scene, it only seemed natural therefore to translate those existing rhythms to the new aesthetic, and so the two ideas intertwined, spawning early house music, Detroit techno and breakbeat to name a few.
Now, it’s almost instinctive for producers to turn to some form of electronic sound design to give tracks life and groove. This is essentially what new technologies are offering in the eternal quest to make people move. That little extra pump and sparkle speaks to us in a way other sounds cannot.
Your taste might be entirely different, but I am sure it speaks to you just as powerfully. The songs that you can’t help but move to are your dance music, even if they aren’t labelled as such. Go listen to that timeless bop you love, and reclaim your love for dance music. Even if it was taken away by some weirdly exclusive “EDM” culture, it’s ours to take back.
I could link a Spotify playlist here, but I might save those tunes for a radio show in the future!