The Wonders of EDM

Destin Piagentini

Staff EDM Advocate

EDM is short for “electronic dance music.” Even if you don’t know exactly what EDM is, I’m sure you’ve heard of it before. EDM is defined by its high-energy instrumentals, catchy melodies, and excessive sampling of popular songs and voice clips. It evokes an image of drunk 20-somethings cutting years off their life for one exciting evening in the local dance club. It’s blue, red, green, and purple lights on the faces of everybody in the building. It’s the vibration in your chest every time the bass melody hits. It’s learning how to read lips because the music is too loud to hear anyone. The most classic example I can think of is the late Avicii’s “Levels,” though much of EDM has bled into the most prominent contemporary pop-songs in smaller ways. Hopefully, you know what I mean when I say “EDM” by now. I’ll just come out and say it – I love EDM. It’s my favorite genre besides punk (I know, I have weird combinations of tastes) for some very specific reasons. And, because I have a captive audience in a paper that’ll let me write *whatever* I want, I thought it might be fun to advocate for EDM and tell you why EDM is so special.

EDM is a good reminder of the best parts of ourselves. It (good EDM, anyway) is very complex music, and a lot of the sounds used are just not possible in live music. Not only does EDM use enormous amounts of digital instruments to achieve its sound, it also layers effect-upon-effect on each of those instruments to achieve the bright vibrance that is characteristic of the genre. Keep in mind, this is separate from the actual music writing itself. Melodies must be catchy and chords must compliment them. To top it all off, a lot of EDM artists choose not to let their songs be mere instrumentals, but to add lyrics as well. The idea I’m trying to convey is that good EDM songs are created by extremely talented musicians who, ironically, may not even know how to play a real instrument. The complexity of an EDM song is a great example of human ingenuity and creativity – a thing that, when working to its full potential, reminds us of our species’ best characteristics.

EDM has a very specific tone. Like I said before, the sounds it produces are intended to be bright and energetic. It’s got a ton of personality, but it also feels naturally hopeful. It’s difficult to explain, but the images that EDM evokes are very much rooted in contemporary society. EDM has only been around for the past twenty years, so it is such a new genre compared to most others. It’s grown up with us, and, in many ways, it feels like this generation’s attempt to define itself, and the world we want to create: That bright-colored world I was talking about before. Our daily lives don’t quite match that description, though. It’s a bit weird to juxtapose that imagery with the greyness all around us in New York City, but it is a description of what the world can become during our lifetimes. 

EDM tries to evoke a sense of grandeur. A pretty big component of EDM is a song’s “drop” where everything tends to just go crazy. There are melodies on top of melodies and chords on top of chords. There’s a lot of other ways EDM can evoke that sense of grandeur, too. Some artists create slow sections, adding a variety of sounds until it builds on itself. The particular feeling that the “drop” produces is important to the tone of the genre because it gives off the sense of something greater than the sum of its parts. It is also just a huge dopamine rush for the listener, and it arms its audience with the feeling that anything (ANYTHING!) is possible. It’s a feeling a lot of us live for, and it is never any less magical when we feel it.

At this point, though, it’s time I come clean. The type of EDM I described in the first paragraph is not something I listen to, and it’s not why I love EDM. EDM, to me, has the highest highs and the lowest lows of any genre I can think of. The attributes I listed are above are nothing without an artist who knows how to use them. The best artists in the genre, then, are those who deeply understand everything I laid out. My favorite EDM artist is Porter Robinson. Robinson, who started out making just energetic instrumentals, is one of the most powerful artists of any genre because he knows how to use EDM’s strengths to his advantage. His music is complex in ways that can leave you in amazement and awe of the fact that someone, somewhere made this. Porter uses the brightness in his songs to give you a feeling of happiness and bliss, while also going all-out on the big moments to capitalize on it. The best part about Porter, however, is his lyrics. The messages he chooses to fill his songs with (often sung by a pitched-up version of himself) are ones of the importance of tomorrow, the cruciality of achieving something meaningful, and the strength of one’s individual identity. There are other artists similar in this style (check out Rezonate!), but nobody uses the tools of the genre better than Porter. What results is a feeling no other genre has ever made me feel before – a feeling that there’s magic in both our big and small interactions with the world. That is the importance of EDM: It’s why it has *profoundly* changed my life and why you should listen to it, too.

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