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Dance music is fighting for its soul. The charts are filled with tracks (Rihanna, Flo Rida) that borrow from the ecstatic trance and pulsing grooves of electronic dance music. The last time pop was so infatuated with the dance floor was 1979, the year disco died.
This time around fans are more savvy about what’s real and what’s just radio. But the flood of new fans and industry cash has pushed the scene to a new level of soul searching. There’s so much demand for EDM that pop stars are now DJing.
Consider that Will.i.am and Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas are now performing DJ sets, not to mention the likes of Calvin Harris, the British dance-prop crooner whose music is genuine and sublime.
And yet, why do we need a star like Harris to DJ at Electric Daisy Carnival, as he did Saturday at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway? He evolved as a singer, not a spinner. And his set last night — before it was cut off by organizers concerned about high winds — was of the press-play variety.
Sure, Harris sneaked in a few outside tunes, such as Basement Jaxx’s “Where’s Your Head At,” but his session was mostly a showcase of his own songs, including call-and-response moments.
Here’s a guy who can sing, and he wasn’t singing! He was playing CDs of himself singing!
Does anyone else find that wrong?
It’s bad enough that Kaskade, Deadmau5, David Guetta and Swedish House Mafia play predictable “sets” of their own tunes for giddy followers, but at least they’re not the ones singing on their own tracks. (They collaborate with guest vocalists.) They have some excuse for why the music isn’t being performed, or at least aided, by live vocals.
But all Calvin Harris needed was a microphone.
If dance culture — and not just the outsiders here, but organizers of EDC, DJ agents, and labels — continues to pursue this greatest-hits style of pop-star DJing, we’re going to lose a generation of kids who should be experiencing the journey and eclecticism of DJ culture.
It cheapens the music. Remember 1979? Dolly Parton did disco — along with everyone else. This time the gatekeepers should keep it real. Put real DJs on the decks. Let pop stars perform with microphones and bands. Yeah?