HOW ELECTRONIC DANCE MUSIC HIT THE MAINSTREAM, PART I

By Rich Pilkington
PHOTO: ROBERT KOHLHUBER VIA STOCKSY

From the early days of Avicii and David Guetta to the recent successes of the Chainsmokers and DJ Snake, the last 5-10 years have seen Electronic Dance Music (EDM) move from the underground into the mainstream. Today's pop stars, Bieber, MØ, Rihanna and many others, are all jumping on the bandwagon. They're featuring and collaborating with the big name DJs to ride the EDM wave before it disappears from the top of the charts. Who can blame them? There's big money to be made, and big benefits to supporting themselves as artists and as brands.

In 2014, Cedric Gervais won a Grammy for his remix of Lana Del Rey's 'Summertime Sadness' and in 2015, Tiesto won a Grammy for his remix of John Legend's 'All Of Me.' Both of these original songs could not be further from electronic dance music, one an indie pop anthem and another a piano vocal ballad. Tiesto placed a drum loop on top of 'All Of Me' and it became a worldwide smash. This movement has encouraged EDM lovers to discover artists that they would not have listened to previously.

It's no surprise that I'm a fan of Bieber. Nowadays, when DJing, I continuously get asked to play the Biebs. A few years ago, I would have laughed it off and asked them to step away from the booth, but today, I play it. In 2015, Jack Ü and Bieber released their collaboration 'Where Are Ü Now?' and Bieber's whole career changed course. He has since gone on to release 'Cold Water' with Major Lazer and 'Let Me Love You' with DJ Snake. Both clear chart smashes, merging pop and EDM. The marriage of these two genres has successfully magnified Bieber's career, changed his image and shaped his future as an artist.

Skrillex boosted the popularity of Dubstep by taking influence from his rock band playing days, creating heavily distorted bass lines supported by dirty beats. You can't mention EDM without acknowledging Calvin Harris and his success. He took pop vocals layered on top of stabby chord progressions and paired the commercial with the underground. Even Avicii bridged together country and house music setting his name and brand up for life as a result of his 'Wake Me Up' with Aloe Blacc.

The stand out DJs have all claimed their spot in the hall of fame for one reason and one reason alone – originality. These artists created new sub genres, new sounds and their own identity that set them apart from their competitors. These key players, amongst others, shaped the progression of the movement carrying it from the less commercial club scene and onto prime time radio. These noteworthy artists have earned a place in the history books under a chapter entitled 'The Fathers Of The EDM Movement.'

So what's in store for the future of EDM? Guaranteed there will be many more electronic hits in the charts to come. Around half of the tracks on Spotify's Global Top 50 playlist fit under the EDM umbrella and a further dozen of them are pop tracks that are clearly heavily influenced by the genre. The stand out artists that will continue to have longevity in their careers are those trying to break the rules and find new collaborations between styles.

I myself write and produce electronic music and I work with a lot of DJs. There is a huge market still out there. At Coachella this year we saw Jack Ü, Zedd, RL Grime, Dubfire, Calvin Harris, Flume, KSHMR all playing the main stage. EDM will always remain in the headphones, in the clubs and at the festivals of the die hard fans, but it is likely that it will not remain at the top of the charts forever. One day EDM will die from the mainstream, but for now it lives on.

Below you can find a Spotify playlist I've put together of 50 tracks that I consider the biggest EDM tracks from the last decade – I'm sure you've heard most, if not all of these, and have even heard many in your Psycle classes!



Check Rich out on his website and make sure you're following him on Instagram!

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