EDM History Repeats ItselfBy Luke Winkie
Fuck what you’ve heard; EDM is not an evil thing. I mean, sure, I get the contempt when the world’s proletariats don neo and crush into one another at the bi-yearly Nocturnal Wonderland herd, but I bet I’m not the only one tired of hearing upturned dudes mourn the death of the definition of dubstep. Yeah yeah, I’m sure you were an E-head before it was cool, but that’s not the point. Their rave is not that different from your rave, and the worlds are actually much closer together than what your favorite message board might make it look. So, in order to promote cultural unity, here are five 21st Century EDM bangers and their ‘90s, classic warehouse-rave sister songs. Let’s prove that we can get along.
Avicii – “Levels”
Okay, so this is probably the wimpiest song of all time, and not just because it’s ground zero for the proliferation of that “Oooooh, sometimes I get a good feeling” sample. Those synths are so hilariously sensitive, the fact that it came from a 22-year-old Swede named Tim actually makes a lot of sense.
COUNTERPART: The Time Frequency - “Real Love”
But hey—cheesy, heart-swollen dance music certainly isn’t exclusive to 2012! “Levels” looks straight-up subtle compared to The Time Frequency’s ’92 bombshell “Real Love.” Say it with me: “Give me real love, give me what I need, and together we can take it higher.” That’s an all-together-now hook that looks awfully gaudy on paper, but feels perfectly measured after midnight. Softie club anthems are nothing new; Avicii and TTF were making high schoolers cry in the exact same way.
Benny Benassi – “Cinema”
Every rave generation needs their goofy, hedonistic flair to take the heat off the other, more straight-faced cascades. Or maybe, more succinctly, every rave generation needs a producer who’s willing to call himself "Benny." “Cinema” is some dippy techno-fart that draws a bizarre metaphor between a woman and a theater because, of course, our protagonist “never knows what movie you’re playing.”
COUNTERPART: The Shamen – “Ebeneezer Goode”
But anyone calling Benassi singular in stupidity is remarkably shortsighted, at least as long as “Ebeneezer Goode” is still in public consciousness. The Shamen’s 1992—erm—“classic” might be the Socratic ideal form of the oft-obscured subgenre of “dorky white British dude rapping.” Like “Cinema,” it sounds more suited for Nick Jr. than any druggy parties, but it still got the kids going. It actually hit number-one in the UK, which proves that nobody had any taste, ever.
Calvin Harris – “Feel So Close”
I actually first heard this song in a commercial for the San Diego Padres, arguably the squarest sports franchise on the West Coast, if not the entire world. I suppose that’s the work of desperate marketing, but it does solidify Calvin Harris’ yacht-electro ballad as the premiere entry-level EDM jam.
COUNTERPART: Opus III – “It’s a Fine Day”
Honestly, 1992’s “It’s a Fine Day” served the exact same purpose. Breezy, bouncy, stimulating your weird dad while simultaneously not bothering your mom—essentially re-envisioning some old, forgotten a cappella pop song into an irresistible house epic. Calvin Harris and Opus III were both without agenda or antagonism, thriving on approachability. After all, there’s always going to be a market of dance music for people who don’t know they’re listening to dance music. I mean, sure, Opus made the better music, but that’s not the point.
Afrojack – “No Beef”
Afrojack is a perfectly dumb name for somebody who makes perfectly dumb music. Most of his songs cut through any buffers—shame, reality, general cognition—and, instead, deal in goofy diva hooks and brainless, slingshot grooves that keep your Spotify firmly set to “private.” If Diplo’s Twitter feed made noise, it would probably sound a lot like “No Beef.”
COUNTERPART: M.A.N.I.C. – “I’m Coming Hardcore”
M.A.N.I.C. was one of those entities that apparently produced music, but nobody has ever seemed to figure out who they (it?) were. That didn’t stop DJs from playing it thousands of times through the early ‘90s—anonymity was just part of the game back then. So from those roots, it kind of makes sense that “I’m Coming Hardcore” is essentially a distillation of every rave trope in the dictionary. Rainbow synths, a rumbling piano backbone, vocal samples like “The rhythm is hot!” There’s always going to be a role for dudes to generate a bunch of DJ filler and, in that sense, Afrojack and M.A.N.I.C. are brothers in arms.
Skrillex – “Bangarang”
Maybe you’ve heard of this one? “Bangarang” turned a dude who spent his early-20s playing guitar in Warped Tour lifers From First To Last into an absurdly famous international superstar. It has to be one of the most beguiling crossover success-stories in music history. It’s also the song that took his moniker off of Pitchfork’s blacklist, and got Spin to call him one of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.
COUNTERPART: The House Crew – “Euphoria (Nino’s Dream)”
So this is a bit of a stretch because, admittedly, these two songs don’t sound much alike, but there always has to be the flagship tune that gets the critics interested in—or at least talking about—your scene. For classic rave, it was the schizo, vaguely Jock Jams-ian “Euphoria (Nino’s Dream),” a song packed with so many frenetic, over-caffeinated flips, it’s no wonder it set the ninth graders wild. “Euphoria” arrived in ’93, right around people started talking about the warehouse kids with a degree of seriousness, and “Bangarang” showed up at the end of 2011, right when the EDC crowd showed some staying power. Sure, there’s a generation gap, but in terms of historiography, they’re peas in a pod.