Critical favorite and nearly omnipresent dubstep producer James Blake has boldly stepped up to decry something popular for being popular. It looks as though he’s not happy seeing his genre being dragged through the comparative mud by other dubstep/bass producers who have the unmitigated gall to play up the “big room” aspects of the music, presumably at the expense of “pushing the genre forward” or “stroking its collective chin thoughtfully.”
“I think the dubstep that has come over to the US, and certain producers– who I can’t even be bothered naming– have definitely hit upon a sort of frat-boy market where there’s this macho-ism being reflected in the sounds and the way the music makes you feel. And to me, that is a million miles away from where dubstep started. It’s a million miles away from the ethos of it.”
As “disappointing” as it must be to see crowds flocking towards the subjectively shallow end of the pool musically, it’s equally disappointing when an artist decides that his version of something operates on a “higher level” than someone else’s. Trying to figure out what exactly is going to resonate with the masses is like throwing darts blindfolded to determine your roulette bets. Once the magic number is hit, though, you can reasonably expect that the bandwagon will fill up quickly because people are inherently social animals. We like what other people like and gravitate towards crowds and gatherings of like-minded individuals.
Just because this crowd is suddenly filled with the sort of people we wouldn’t normally associate with doesn’t inherently make the music in question any less important. It does seem to add a ton of kneejerk resentment, though. No doubt Fatboy Slim was somewhat horrified that 15 years of musical experience culminated with him being crowned “Fratboy Slim” after the success of You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby but at least he still seemed interested in making asses move when appearing live and looked genuinely happy to be the sudden center of attention. His followup (Halfway Between The Gutter And The Stars) might have been a bit too calculated, with its odd combination of dancefloor stormers and chaff-from-wheat “deeper” cuts, but when all was said and done, Mr. Slim just wanted to make you dance like a madman when he got behind the decks.
Now, if you’re anything like me (possibly a good thing, but the jury is still out), occasionally you’d just rather go out and get lit up, possibly partake of illegal substances (entirely optional!) and lose yourself for a few hours. Who’s going to hook you up? Someone who shows absolutely no sense of restraint when it comes to hellacious bass wobble? Or someone who’s going to spend two hours talking down to you with their record collection?
Even more insulting than the presumption of “popular=stupid” is Blake’s next statement:
“It’s been influenced so much by electro and rave, into who can make the dirtiest, filthiest bass sound, almost like a pissing competition, and that’s not really necessary. And I just think that largely that is not going to appeal to women. I find that whole side of things to be pretty frustrating, because that is a direct misrepresentation of the sound as far as I’m concerned.”
So, if I choose to follow this line of thinking, any music that’s more popular with x demographic is therefore exclusionary, no matter who makes up the underserved y. Trying to attribute sexism to natural selection is weak sauce and while it may grant you the attention of more “sensitive” types, it does little to dispel the “elitist” vibe being given off by this mini-rant.
Using that thought process, action movies are inherently sexist, seeing as they’re generally more popular with young men. (Which may also make them ageist.) Country music is inherently racist as it’s infinitely more popular with whites. The same for IDM. Is Richard D. James (Aphex Twin) a sexist simply because his music resonates more with males? Is Tori Amos deliberately excluding men by writing female-centric music? [Possibly, but let’s not let that derail a perfectly good argument/rant.] Does Bjork hate anyone considered “normal,” male or female?
As disingenuous as it is to decry a musical form simply because some practitioners are playing to packed houses of underdressed females (and males) and raking in Four Loko endorsement money, it’s even worse to try to hold your particular blend of the same genre up as a paragon of virtuous composition. This is nothing more than granting yourself a certain status that you’re not willing to bestow on other producers and DJs who have worked just as hard to get where they are as you have, Jim.
But you know what I really think prompted this brief defense of the Blake brand over all other brands?
I think that James Blake is worried that, thanks to a cockup somewhere in the spacetime continuum, he is actually Justin Bieber at age 22.
You know, that point where the Beeb forsakes his original fans by deciding he wants to be “taken seriously as an artist,” a move that in theory is a Good Idea, but in practice just means that Bieber now believes he is talented DJ who must Educate the Dancefloor by briefly dabbling in the current Underground Genre Du Jour.
This career switchup is affectionately known as Falling On Your Sword While Biting The Hand That Feeds You, as old fans flee to the next pop thing and potential “recruits” ridicule him for his presumption. This will eventually lead to the belated Return to Form which is greeted with a brief spike in sales, swiftly followed by deafening indifference for the next x number of years, at which point the multiple trips to rehab stop becoming a cheap form of publicity but rather an indication that Bieber/Blake may have A Real Problem.