In the eight years since we last listened to a Daft Punk LP, electronic dance music has gone from a casual, foot tapping interest to a full-blown, fist pumping darling in American culture and mass appeal.
Think about it. Human After All came out in 2005. Let me take you back to that time. Dubstep (and not even how we Americans define it) was still just beginning to bud in the UK. There was no trap, no brostep, no Skrillex and no Avicii. George W. Bush was still POTUS. Candy Shop, Hollerback Girl and Gold Digger were some of the year’s Billboard chart toppers (not to mention that Mariah Carey was super radio relevant). And, YouTube JUST became a thing (seriously, look it up).
Now, let’s come back to 2013. The world is quite a different place. EDM isn’t just some marginal genre that only Europeans or your weird-ass cousin listen to anymore. It’s on the radio. It’s in commercials. Your mom loves loves it. Your little brother loves it. EDM has become (dare I say?) mainstream.
And why? The simple answer is that dance music is easy to make. No, I’m not saying that you’re not talented, Bedroom Producer (you can sit back down). I’m saying that what it takes to make EDM has become extremely accessible. If you have a laptop, some software and the rare ability to hear sounds, you’re pretty much a fully-equipped, fours-to-the-floor, hit-making machine as far as dance musicians go.
And that’s an incredible thing for music. I mean, a person who can’t even read traditional sheet music can go out there and produce something that touches millions of people, inspiring them to dance, love and forget.
But it can also be a super fucking terrible thing, too. The EDM market is becoming horribly saturated. You ever get the feeling that every dance song, remix, and mashup you stumble across sounds identical to the last? You’re not alone. Even Diplo has ragged on how huff the state of dance music currently is.
Enter Random Access Memories, the latest love child of electronic duo Daft Punk (which officially came out today, by the way). Listen to it. Now, listen to it again. What did you hear? That’s the sound of something different. That’s the sound of innovation (even if retro-ly inspired). That’s the sound of two artists not trying to tap into a fad or appeal to anything remotely mainstream. That’s Daft Punk.
You see, we’ve become desensitized. Every wobble, every drop, every synth, every anthem-shaking, face-melting record that roars through our bass-heavy speakers has hardened our faces to become not so meltable anymore.
It’s funny. American dubstep’s sounds are often compared to the noises that a dial-up modem makes. It’s mechanical. It’s heartless. But, of course it’s the French robots that have given us a dance album that sounds strangely real. It’s alive. It’s human.
Daft Punk just threw everything we’ve become accustomed to about them (and the genre they’ve influenced for the past 20 years) out the window. There’s less samples, synths, and drum triggers on the album than there are orchestra, human vocals and live instrumentation. Some of it might not even make you want to get out your seat and jump around, but it makes you listen. I mean, really listen to everything that’s happening in the music. And that’s a beautiful thang.
I’m not really here to review RAM. I’m not even really here to tell you that Daft Punk did all those things intentionally because, they too, were frustrated at dance music. I’m here to say that the world needs more artists like Daft Punk right now.
The world needs more musicians that don’t buy into trends, that don’t try to make “hits”, that don’t make the same album twice or thrice over just because “it’s their style”. In the hyperactive, Internet-laced virtual reality we live in right now, there’s a new artist, a new song, a new “genre” that surfaces every cot damn day. And, guess what? Lately, today sounds like yesterday and the day before it and so on.
Fuck that. Innovate. Shake things up. Try things that don’t sound right. Make real, authentic music, no matter the genre. Inspire wonder and amazement and always push the boundaries, even simply for the sake of not doing the same thing twice.
Channel your inner Daft Punk and breath life back into your music. Because at the end of the day, even electronic music can be human (after all).