Thursday, July 31, 2008

Dance Sub-Genres and Pop Remixes

At the moment, I'm stuck in an airport in Chile on a 12-hour layover. An overnight bus-ride followed by a bumpy flight over the Andes means that I am physically exhausted from lack of sleep. And after 7 weeks of research, I am also really tired of thinking about my dissertation. Given the above, I thought I'd talk about something else that has been on my mind lately: dance music sub-genre loyalty.

Last summer, one of the students in my electronic dance music class called me out on something I never would have expected. To paraphrase, he said that fans of a certain electronic dance music sub-genres will always find pop music remixes within their preferred genre to be more emotionally evocative than those from others. It was the always that stuck with me and inspired my current train of thought.

In most dance music scenes, genre loyalty is fairly important, especially for the DJs involved. I have always been honest about my loyalties: when it comes to dancing, I'm a tech-house girl. This means that I enjoy most variants of house music as well as detroit techno. What really gets me moving (at times involuntarily), however, are the meeting points between the two genres. House is really my first love when it comes to dance music, mostly because of the genre's honesty about what it is really about: making people move with a four-to-the-floor beat that is unmistakable with soulful vocals on top. So when I hear a particularly well-executed house or tech-house remix of a pop song from the other end of the pop music universe that I already like, I go nuts and I need to dance. (This once happened when I was listening to a DJ mix tape while driving and I nearly crashed the car... One more reason why I no longer drive...)

But if I take my student's comments to heart, my current favorite dance remix is way out of bound for me: DJ Tiësto's remix of "Crosses" by José Gonzalez. I already liked "Crosses" in its original format, but the Tiësto version has had me bouncing around South America for weeks now. For me, the song is way more haunting and intense in its dance-floor version in a way that is entirely rare for me. I think it might have to do with just how spare the original production was for the quiet acoustic sound of Gonzalez's recording. But by adding the four-to-the-floor THUMP-THUMP-THUMP-THUMP with a gradual (yes, progressive) development more typical to trance during the track's six minutes, the urgency of the song just pops right out.

I love this remix way more than I should. I have avoided Tiësto (and trance) for years. He's the kind of trance DJ that is so legendary for appealing to the sub-genre's base. I am no trance loyalist. I teach the music, and I like some of it, but I would never attend a trance DJ event. I dunno... maybe tech-house shows my age. And when I talk to other house fans who avoid Tiësto, they have the same reaction to this dance mix. They like the mix but feel a little surprised that something by a anthemist like Tiësto would work so well. Yet there it is.

I don't really care about it when I listen to the mix and can't stop moving. Perhaps all this harping on sub-genre loyalty is inaccurate when it comes to pop music remixes, and maybe if Kaskade or Miguel Miggs had remixed this song I would be that much more elated; however, I believe that remixing a song to the point where certain emotions emerge with that much more force is a talent that requires skill. I have been humbled by Tiësto: he has reminded me that there is no room for genre loyalty when you just want to move.


Thokozani said...

Jees you just keep getting more and more familiar!

I am also an unapologetic house music fanatic and will not even dare to enter the realms of techno or trance. Their closeness to house though is sometimes too defeating.

I would like you to respond to this comment because I am currently doing some work on House Music in South Africa and would be very keen to hear your opinion on a few things.

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