Oh boy, have I missed out on EDM. Sure, you understand what this stuff is all about, I coaxed myself into believing. It’s just Avicii and Calvin Harris, Tiesto and Martin Solveig multiplied to the nth degree, right? Wrong. Three days at Ultra Music Festival Miami, soaking in unfamiliar sounds and certainly unprecedented sights has established that not only have I missed out on EDM but it is now just about the biggest thing that exists in music in the United States. Two sold out weekends of Ultra (at 55,000 people a pop) suggests that as the festival enters its 15th year, it has also well and truly entered the mainstream. There is no such thing as fringe-dwelling electronic music lovers anymore. If anything, my dearth of insight into the nuances of Bassnectar’s drops, Kaskade’s quality and Boys Noize’s awesome live show has confirmed my status as fringe dweller. Thankfully, the club is massive, pulsing and takes kindly to new members.
23 year-old Zedd, a Russian-German kid who’s been on the scene for only just over four years now, is now a lynchpin of the genre and is typical of its astounding reach. Having remixed a couple of Gaga songs off ‘Born This Way’ he was approached to produce her forthcoming ‘ARTPOP’ album. Having inked his own deal with Interscope in 2012, he also hooked up with Swedish mega-producer Max Martin to help Justin Bieber make a track with Nicki Minaj on which she is not completely repulsive. In a way, then, you might not have heard of Zedd in the formal sense (I knew the name and the tracks but lacked the association) but you’ve certainly heard him somewhere using pop as a wider frame of reference. That overlap between what was traditionally considered ‘dance’ music and pop is intriguing. The heaving masses at Miami proved the two are converging at an ever quicker rate. Zedd’s set on the main stage yesterday afternoon proved the fit is a good one.
‘Clarity’ is everything you’d expect from an EDM track. It opens with those soft chords and the anonymous female vocals (actually those of singer Foxes) that immediately dissociate the lyrics from any personal emotion. Instead, the universal sentiment that underpins all EDM – clumsily brandishing fat, blunt terms like ‘love’, ‘hope’, ‘memory’ – is prevalent here too. There’s also the growing electric drum beat, the synths edging their way up the pitch scale and that euphoric drop that, over the weekend, somehow never got old even given its frequency and predictability. There is also some element of football chant underscoring the bridge which might well add to the track’s anthemic quality. In any event, it was the go-to song for the world’s top-class DJs, each of whom appears to live in the others back pocket (or in their music libraries anyway), turning up on at least four occasions during different sets. Listening to it now, in my earphones, on the plane, it loses some of the rapture you get when it’s blasted at you and thousands of other neon freaks jumping in unison around you. Pop is pop for the radio, the shopping mall, the hold line. EDM is pop for the people.
Zedd – Clarity