Music and beer are funny things to blog about. Everyone has an opinion, so while some of us think one way, you are sure to have an
entire group of people who think the complete opposite of you. I talk about craft beer and good music. If my consumption of different products were the only thing that drove the economy, things would look very different in the world around us. But, due to the differing tastes, I really have very little influence on what is popular or “trending” in society. All I can do is give you my opinion on it, and let’s face it, that means very little in the grand scheme of things.
As my regular readers know, I’m a middle school teacher. This job technically keeps me in touch with what is popular amongst our youth right now. I of course teach a particular demographic, so it is more a cross-section of what is actually popular. It is, however, a fair barometer for the climate of our youth. A couple of months ago, some of my more musically interested students began to ask me my opinion on dubstep. I had no idea how to answer that question, since I had no idea what they were talking about. Sure enough, I started to hear and see the term all over the place. Right before we left for Christmas break, on movie day, some of my students treated me to a cellphone version of a few dubstep songs. I can honestly say a cellphone speaker is the least complementary instrument through which to play dubstep, but it had me interested in why this was even becoming popular. I thought this was called club music, electronica, or techno. I needed to search deeper.
Doing a real quick search of the internet tells me Dubstep has been developing for the last 14 years. Although it certainly has only gained popularity in the states in the past year or so. Originating in the UK, it is classified as electronic dance music that has tight productions, heavy bass lines, and reverberant drum patterns, clipped samples, and occasional vocals. I still don’t see a lot of difference between it and the electronic club music I typically dislike. Either way, I have found a few different ways in which dubstep is handled.
Skrillex seems to be at the forefront of the American dubstep boom. He is up for a Grammy for best new artist, and he is definitely the one my kids talk about the most. His style seems to fit the description of dubstep to an essential T. He has really heavy beats, he plays with the flow of it to make it seem slightly jarring at times, and he utilizes a lot of sampling. Having listened to his music a little and also seen his videos, I feel like his music on the album is a little boring, repetitive, and predictable. It seems to follow a loop and contains very little vocals. It really focuses more on a heavy beat. However, watching his music video to the song helps to make it slightly more interesting. It’s like watching the action sequence in a Resident Evil movie. Ultimately, I feel like this is a great example of what I don’t like about dubstep. I can’t imagine sitting down and just putting this on for an extended period of time.
Another dubstep artist that essentially rubs me the wrong way is James Blake. Don’t get me wrong, put on a Blake album and then put on a Skrillex album, and I promise you would have no idea they are even close to being in the same category. Evidentially, based on some of my research, Blake considers artists like Skrillex to be frat-boy dubstep. There is definitely something I love about that statement, but if Skrillex is frat-boy, I would love to know what you consider James Blake to be. It has to involve something pretentious in some way. James Blake seriously puts me to sleep. I really try to not be judgmental when it comes to the music scene, but seriously, this guy is just plain boring to me. Blake leaves out the heavy bass elements completely and instead lets his shaky voice do most of the work. It’s definitely different from Skrillex, but I wouldn’t say it makes it any better.
Finally I come to the closest thing Pitchfork enjoys that is close to the current popular dubstep. SBTRKT is yet a much different form of dubstep. He seems to find some middle ground between the really bass driven sound of Skrillex and the pretentious sound of Blake. This anonymous gentleman seems to be more capable of finding a sound that a lot more people can enjoy. He definitely uses a lot more singing in his composition than Skrillex, but his music is more listenable than James Blake. I can actually imagine putting it on in the car and thinking I don’t want to shoot myself or fall asleep. I have to admit that it still really isn’t all that great to me, but I think that this particular artist could perhaps grow on me.
I know dubstep is far more than these three artists; however, I find it interesting that you can pick three rather prominent artists in the genre and find things that they do completely differently. I wouldn’t be surprised if some reader, fan, came along and put me in my place when it comes to the history and everything of dubstep. I’m not actually trying to smash it as a genre. I like that music is still developing; however, I’m still not a fan of this genre. To me, it isn’t far enough from the initial components that influenced it. I may never understand dubstep really, but I guess there is a chance it’s here to stay. Maybe it’ll be the next ska!