From ‘Sandstorm’ to ‘Turn Down for What’: give EDM a chance

Aeryn Kauffman, Columnist

Saying you don’t like electronic dance music (EDM) is like saying you don’t like rock, pop, rap or any other large, diverse genre of music. Whether you want to dance, work out, party or drive fast, it’s the perfect music for that, and you can find a subgenre of EDM you’ll like.

There’s a long and rich history to EDM dating back to as early as the 1960s, and in 2020, there are a ton of subgenres to choose from. For those who like vintage arcade games, there’s chiptune. For the cardio-obsessed, there’s drum and bass, such as Pendulum’s music, which has an average beats per minute of 165-180, perfect for heart-thumping running and biking.

Been to a football game? Every sports lover can get down to “Sandstorm” by Darude and “Kernkraft 400” by Zombie Nation. 

When I worked at the post office and I spent all day performing repetitive motions, my favorite was house such as deadmau5, with a beats per minute rate of around 120-130. According to the Mayo Clinic, that’s a heart rate of a brisk walk. It’s great for if you want to focus on a mindless task and move quickly but not manically, like how I feel sometimes listening to drum and bass. 

EDM has been in my life for a long time. The first EDM song I ever heard was “The Hampster Dance Song” by Hampton and the Hamsters, released in 2000. I didn’t know how to classify that song back then, so I didn’t know it was EDM. I just knew I liked to dance to it, and of course, I liked the vocal effects.

It wasn’t until high school that I started seriously getting into EDM, with the rise of Skrillex. Though Skrillex isn’t the type of EDM I usually listen to these days, I loved his “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” and recognizable sound. He’s managed to keep himself in the limelight by collaborating with rap and pop artists such as Rick Ross, Ty Dolla $ign and Justin Bieber, but I listened to him mostly in the height of his fame around 2010-12. 

It was then that I began to hear intense criticism against Skrillex and, apparently, EDM as a whole. I think for a lot of people, Skrillex may have been their introduction into EDM, and because of the (admittedly) obnoxious sounds in some of his songs as well as the perception that it isn’t as difficult to produce EDM as, say, playing an instrument, many people wrote EDM off as brainless and lacking musical complexity. This is likely because EDM is often made using a computer.

Why are we so amazed at what we can do with computers and smartphones except when it comes to music? We all roll our eyes when we hear “young people these days, with computers making school/work/life so easy for them,” so we should roll our eyes at people who say EDM isn’t music.

If you have any sort of formal musical training, you can tell who knows what they’re doing behind the computer and who doesn’t. Further, it takes creativity, patience, originality and musical knowledge such as chord progressions to produce good EDM. Artists such as GRiZ, The Glitch Mob and The Prodigy use real instruments, if that’s important to you. 

Don’t get me wrong, though. Tiësto, Aviici and Calvin Harris are still great. Just because EDM is often made on a computer doesn’t make it any less musical.