Year In Tunes: The 10 Trends That Defined EDM in 2017
Neither of Those Epic Reunions Happened – Obviously
b-b-but Alive 1997, Alive 2007, Alive 2017 right? It makes so much sense – how could they do this to us!? Turns out, the cycle is broken. 2016 was filled with stories about an upcoming reunion tour for both Daft Punk and Swedish House Mafia pegged for 2017. As 2017 closes, we know for sure all of those Daft Punk Alive 2017 stories were wrong and the SHM reunion leaks were fake news also. If you wanna stay on the hype train, you can always hope for Ultra 20th Anniversary Reunions though. Ultra is the perfect place for a SHM/Daft Punk reunion right?! Now for 2018, you can add Jack U to the demanded reunions list.
DJs Go Full On Pop & Won’t Stop
It’s already been said before but a great number of EDM producer/DJs have decided to chase new dreams. Pulse pounding festival sets just aren’t enough for these artists chasing pop culture domination and fame. In 2017 many DJs you probably loved back in 2014 aren’t even producing dance music anymore. These DJs have collectively decided that if you’re a pure EDM fan looking for energy and excitement, then they don’t really give a damn about you anymore.
The awkward result of this change shows up in mainstage festival sets, where the crowd is kinda just hanging out during portions of the “set”. Remember when Avicii performed at Ultra in 2015 and bored everyone to death with the awkward slow vibe of the performance? Well that is basically how most mainstage sets have become now that radio tracks are the goal. Rather than a 60-90 minute continuous mix that takes you on a musical journey, many sets are (1) pop or hip-hop vocals that build to a (2) future bass or trap drop followed by a (3) pause before the cycle begins again. In fact, the mainstage experiences are beginning to get so stale that a slew of reactionary trends are taking place that we are thrilled about.
Zedd, Audien, 3LAU, Major Lazer, Calvin Harris, The Chainsmokers, Marshmello, Tiesto, Tritonal
What does a DJ do when he or she already has a Facebook, Soundcloud, Twitter, Instagram, Podcast, Spotify Playlist, and label? Get an alias, of course!
Just as the previous post highlights the numbing down of the mainstream EDM scene, a reactionary force has occurred where DJs are creating or reviving alias projects where they can experiment with a new genre or be more risk-taking in general. You would think that this is a criticism since everybody is doing it, but who can complain about more artists returning to quality music? Nobody is making a new alias to produce sing-along tracks with Migos, are they? This is because the excitement of EDM from 2010-2014 can still be found on those side stages where these DJs want their aliases to perform.
Perhaps the most ironic thing about this topic is that the artist with the highest number of simultaneous aliases, Eric Prydz (4+), is also one of the most universally respected across the board. While aliases are now a bandwagon trend, we have a hard time criticizing it since the music coming out of these aliases is actually good. In some cases the aliases are well executed experiments in a new sound like Porter Robinson’s Virtual Self. In others there is very little distinction and the aliases blend together such as W&W and NWYR. Who knows what aliases will be revealed this year! Here’s just a taste of some alises.
Armin van Buuren = Gaia, Rising Star, Sander van Doorn = Purple Haze, Markus Shulz = Dakota, Arty = Alpha 9, Ferry Corsten = Gouryella, Porter Robinson = Virtual Self, Paul van Dyk = Aeon, W&W pres. NWYR, Oliver Heldens = Hi-Lo, Mark Sixma = M6, Afrojack = Kapuchon, Steve Angello = Mescal Kid, Carnage = 30 Racks, Martin Garrix = YTRAM
and of course Eric Prydz = Pryda = Cirez D = Tonja Holma = Fiol Lasse
No More Anons
In 2015 and 2016 everybody was all about anonymous producers popping up on Soundcloud and taking the
blog EDM community by storm. You had ZHU, Marshmello, slushii, Hi-Lo, Malaa, Galactic Marvl, and plenty more. The anonymity of the producer drove the project just as much as the music as fans speculated who it might be. In 2017, we are sick of anonymous producer gimmicks and we know who almost all of the anonymous DJs are now. The thing is, now we know that none of these anonymous producers were Skrillex or Armin or Porter Robinson in secret – they were just new kids on the scene trying to build some buzz. However, there’s still that rumor about David Guetta producing amazing music in secret – but still just a rumor. We hate to break it to you, but even Marshmello isn’t really hiding it anymore.
Jumping Off the Bandwagon is the New Bandwagon
Almost everyone who abandoned their subgenre (electro, hardstyle, trance) 3-4 years ago to take a stab at a main stage headline slot is now quickly finding their way off the main stage bandwagon and back to their roots (except for the DJs Who Went Full Pop). As the main stages become total snoozefests, all of the excitement and energy exists on the side stages. Not to mention many of these DJs that abandoned their roots a few years back had their time on top during the Big Room and Future House eras before being sidelined in the Future Bass, Dance Pop eras. Some of this is happening in the form of aliases (as mentioned above) and some are simply marking a return to their old ways. As with many of this year’s trends we point it out for being so obvious, but we don’t want to complain. This is resulting in better music and more interesting live experiences. We’re still waiting for Zedd, Calvin Harris, and The Chainsmokers to get the memo. We will know this trend has reached its absolute peak when Tiesto finally performs a trance set.
Headhunterz, Showtek, Sander van Doorn, W&W, Afrojack, Gareth Emery
The Rise of Psytrance
A year ago most people, even within EDM, had no idea what psytrance was. The intensely energetic subgenre remained a favorite of the most serious trance fans, but the sound was too intense to leave the trance stages.
This year, that changed. Somehow in 2017 psytrance grew to dominate all areas of EDM. Overall though, 2017 was a huge year for trance as part of the reaction to the Chainsmokerization of dance music. The movement was spearheaded by Vini Vici and their rise that was guided by Armin van Buuren. Their collaboration “Great Spirit” from 2016 kicked everything off and their 2017 collaboration “Chakra” kicked things into high gear. Now, it’s everywhere – from being squeezed into numerous dubstep/trap sets to gracing the Tomorrowland main stage.
Psytrance is leading the way as EDM begins to shrug off the tropical house future bass mishmash that has grown so stale. Now everybody is trying to get in on the trance game as mentioned in the previous items and we couldn’t be more thrilled.
The Hip-Hop Infiltration of EDM Has Maxed Out
Hip-Hop has been creeping into EDM more and more since 2014, and who can blame them since all of the excitement and energy left hip-hop for EDM. By 2017 the worlds have almost fully collided, but some of the results are underwhelming. The dubstep/trap music scene has fully embraced hip-hop, incorporating the vocal hooks of pretty much every popular hip-hop track of the day in the DJ sets. The biggest hip-hop tracks get remixed by many of the biggest DJs, and hip-hop stars new and old are frequent special guests at festivals. These integrations work out well and are probably as far as it should go.
In 2017 this has shifted so far that some EDM festivals such as Life in Color Miami have replaced much of their DJ lineup with rap artists. Perhaps the peak (or, really, the rock bottom) of this infiltration was DJ Khaled‘s now infamous performance at EDC Vegas in 2017. DJ Khaled was booked on one of EDC’s more popular stages, and the cringeworthy result is now the stuff of legends. Hopefully that embarrassment was enough to remind EDM fans and talent bookers that hip-hop artists that do nothing more than hype over a beat are not fit for a dance music festival. Let’s leave DJ Khaled in 2017.
The Festival Market Bottomed Out Thanks to Fyre Festival
The festival bubble definitely popped in 2016 as we covered extensively, but 2017 saw what is likely the final round of festival killings before the recovery truly begins. It all came to a head because of Fyre Festival‘s spectacular flameout. It symbolized the height of festival insanity with exotic destinations, extravagant imagery and beautiful patrons. It was all built on a huge lie that got national attention when it all came crashing down.
The epic disaster spooked the market and made it harder for small or upstart festivals to get funding they need to operate. As a result, many smaller or less experienced festivals fell apart in 2017.
By all appearances 2017 saw the bottoming out of the festival market, and we’re already seeing the upswing. Electric Forest and Tomorrowland are now 2-weekend festivals going forward and we see indicators that TomorrowWorld and TL Brazil may return in 2018 or 2019. Sometimes you have to hit bottom before you can recover.
The Fall of Soundcloud
Let’s be honest; You don’t use Soundcloud nearly as much as you used to. It’s hard to explain why, but if you think about it you’ll realize that you’re using Spotify much more now. It’s not just that Soundcloud had money issues throughout 2017, but it has become much harder to find quality new tunes there. When did it become so bad at surfacing good new music? From SoundcloudGo to reposts flooding the feed, navigating Soundcloud has become more difficult than Spotify. Soundcloud also clamped down hard on unofficial posts, leaks, ID tracks, and liveset uploads to where many of the core uses of the app are withering away. These days if you want livesets you’re probably gonna end up on Mixcloud.
The biggest sign of the fall of Soundcloud is noticed from the blogger perspective. When artists and publicists send out information about their new track, they’re sending the Spotify link instead of Soundcloud. In fact, those new “multi-stream” links that are often posted include every streaming/download service imaginable, but they don’t include Soundcloud.
The Ode to The Aux Cord
The growth of EDM is largely owed to these AUX-cord DJs. From colleged parties, pool days, pregames, and car rides the AUX cord was key to the EDM fan. FM Radio is useless for finding good dance music and the AUX cord commando was always ready with some fire new music to show off to his audience.
Apple began killing off the AUX cord with the iPhone 7, but then Android manufacturers began following suit. Soon Motorola, HTC, Huawei, and even Google itself have abandoned the headphone jack. Now if you want to DJ your 20 minute road trip, a good 5-10 of those minutes will be spent getting added to the car’s bluetooth system. And there is no worse feeling than being at a party with a stereo system ready for your music, but you don’t have your ridiculous headphone adapter with you. Have you tried using your headphone adapter at the gym only to find that it slips out at the slightest tug? Unfortunately these things will only get more common as more phone manufacturers take the easy way out and drop the universal plug.
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