Has Dance Music Lost the D?

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Has Dance Music Lost the D?

First of all, after reading that title clear those filthy thoughts out of your head, because I’d like to get a little bit sentimental for a while. Lets go for a little trip in the Magic Schoolbus.

This is New York, 1984. Just as House Music was starting up in Chicago and spreading around the worl on a truly bubonic scale. These clubs and these break dancers came together in their Adidas originals tracksuits to celebrate the kind of music that had roots. The house music which came out of R’n’B, and out of Jazz and Blues, with catchy beats, funky bass lines and rhythms that made you nod your head out of pure instinct. It was the kind of music that Gil-Scott Heron said was ‘to dance by, music to jump up and down on’. And people did. Look at them. They danced to that music without a care in the world.

Flash forward to the 90’s. It’s obvious by now that Dance music has lost some of its innocence, and Rave culture has gripped the youth of the world. We’re starting to see signs of whats to come: excessive drug use, certainly a higher demand for these kind of events, bigger crowds. There’s something you can’t fail to notice though, and that’s that all of these people have room to move. Dance music is still actually all about being music to dance to, in the same way Punk music was music to fight to, and Britpop was music for angsty teenagers who still hadn’t figured out who they were. The kids in the crowd are twisting, they’re turning, they’re moving their arms and flailing whichever limbs are readily available at the present time to a cool 160bpm. They’re being taken away by the beat, while DJ’s are still mixing on Vinyl and playing proper bangers that were probably recorded using cassette tapes and. These raves were a special place, and as someone who was still unable to talk at the time this took place, it’s fascinating to watch. Let’s move on before I get all Misty-eyed.

Moving right on through the brutally modulated, head-banging noughties (geometric hoodies aren’t really my thing) and into the present day. Above is Hardwells set at Tomorrowland last month. Average crowd age: 20. Crowd size: 100,000+. Population density: 5 people/sq m. Seriously. Look at these kids. Packed in like sardines, with sweat, possibly jizz, chemicals and smuggled vodka flowing in equal measure. They have 1 arm up in the air to signify that yes, they are indeed listening to the music, and have the other arm either supporting themselves on the shoulders of a stranger they’ve just met, or on their phone either recording whats ahead of them or Snapchatting their exposed torsos around the world. My point is that either way, their other arm appears to be aimed solely at signifying that yes, they swear to god that they are absolutely listening to the music and dancing the night away, when they’re really not. Their legs aren’t even moving

What kind of music are they listening to though? It’s certainly some twisted version of House music. It’s cheesy, full of awful vocals and processed to hell. It’s being played by a truly mediocre DJ using equipment that has a difficulty level somewhere along the lines of a fisher-price toy. We’ve heard it all before, but at the end of the day it still makes you want to dance. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t nodded along to Avicii’s ‘Wake Me Up’ when it came through the speakers at work. There might be a very twisted definition of what constitutes ‘EDM’ nowadays, so much so that people still question the term itself. The fact remains though that it is still dance music at its very core.

So why aren’t these people dancing? When you look at that, you have to wonder where the dance has gone. It’s certainly still in the music being created by house producers, however commercial it may be now, but no one moves to it anymore. This needs to stop. These concerts have big sound systems which can raze buildings to the ground multiple suburbs away, and yet still people feel the need to go shoulder-to-shoulder in a way that means all they can do is jump. As far as I’m concerned, that’s not dancing, that’s a cry for help.

If you’re so restricted that all you can do is move vertically, a relocation is probably in order. If any form of forward, backward, side to side or diagonal movements are completely out of the question for you, then I doubt there’s enough oxygen getting to your brain to fuel the very few cells you have left. Please move away, and give yourself some space. Whether you’re chewing your face off at a trance gig, gabbering at Defqon or just generally being a twelvie at an Avicii gig, it doesn’t really matter. You might find it’ll be far easier to get the experience you once imagined.


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