Waiting for the payoff: dance music and the ‘now now now’ culture

1 Jun

There’s something frustrating going on with dance music at the moment…

I love dance music. Absolutely love it. I’m well aware that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, so if this doesn’t interest you then no worries at all. If you do find yourself curious about what I’m trying to say though, try and listen to one or two of the links I’ll probably put up to get a decent idea.

The classic dance formula is build-build-build until the listener is salivating for a break. Start off nice and gentle with some beats and effects before stoking the atmosphere high and bright. The reason for this is probably the fact that the creation of dance music and the common use of drugs like ecstasy and speed went hand in hand (time is notoriously slippy when you’re dancing with soundwaves rippling inbetween your fingers), but trust me; if you start off with enough confidence and an open mind you don’t need drugs to understand or engage with a good dance track.

It’s an absolutely euphoric thing to leave yourself at the mercy of a ten minute build up before exploding with a well timed uplift in the music. The first time I went to a DJ I wasn’t much into it: I had raised myself on a steady diet of rock, blues, jazz and fusion, so I wasn’t expecting much. I had a drink, stood somewhere with a decent view of the stage and relaxed into a mild head-bop. After a little while the DJ dropped a hi-hat on top of the original beat, and my shoulders started to move. “Fair enough” I thought “…I’ll go with this, see where it takes me”. Twenty minutes later he was still playing that one song, with that one rhythm, melody and arrangement but had transformed it into something that had me dancing like a lunatic. I was hooked, hypnotised and happy.

Unfortunately the classic formula has been replaced with the musical equivalent of tourettes. Where once a DJ would seduce and tease the audience with carefully crafted moods and atmospheres, nowadays more and more of them are simply slapping a new song on the decks every two minutes so the crowd can deliriously enjoy the euphoric break again and again…without having put any effort into the build up.*

*(and, of course, most dance music nowadays sounds like someone humping your ear with a syncopated chainsaw…god help us, what happened to the beautiful stuff? what happened to the orchestral samples, the carefully crafted arrangements…don’t get me wrong there are still a few great pioneers out there, but they’re a lot rarer than they were)

A classic example of this is the fashionable pretty young thing who marches through the club and arrives on the dance floor already throwing their hands in the air and screaming that it’s the best night of their lives. The fact that they’ve just arrived, are barely two shades past sober and have done nothing more than awkwardly stumble out of a taxi doesn’t seem to matter to them. They want the break, that delicious break, and they want it now now now so they won’t feel so awkward about themselves.

The awkwardness is all part of it. It’s an essential part of it. Stepping onto the dancefloor, painfully aware that the music is calm and subtle for a reason: so you can invest in the build up. Trying to find some comfort in yourself during those first few minutes when there’s not much to dance to. Learning how to relax and forget about the crowd surrounding you while you explore what way your body wants to move with the rhythms.

But no, the fashionable little things want to dance like they’re having the time of their lives, so that days later when the pics are put up on facebook they’ll look back on them and think “god I look, like, so good there…these pics look like they belong in a magazine; we had SUCH a good time!!”.*

*On a hopefully brief sidenote; it doesn’t matter anymore whether it actually was a good night or not, does it? all that matters is if the pictures tell a good story. It doesn’t matter if you spent half the night talking to some idiot about the weather, or wasted two hours on a hot piece of ass that was actually pretty dull and boring, or lost your friends for half the night while you went for a smoke outside as long as the pictures tell a good story. “hey wow: there’s like, tonnes of pictures where you’re all, like, looking at the camera and posing! you must have had such an amazing time!!…


“…but wait; there’s another one!! good times, good times…”

(It doesn’t matter that between the photos, they all just stood around and bored each other to death by talking about themselves and their latest drama…god no)

It’s a horrible indication of the way our culture is warping itself. We want the payoff: we want it now now now, one after the other in quick succession but have no time to invest in the build up; the essential, enjoyable build up. Without really knowing the investment, you can’t appreciate the profit. And obviously that goes for personal development too…how satisfying is it to achieve something, knowing what you had to go through to get it?

Here’s an example of the good stuff. It’s not going to be the same seeing as your sitting infront of a computer (the atmosphere of a good club with good music and mixing makes all the difference), but have a look if you feel like it.

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2 Responses to “Waiting for the payoff: dance music and the ‘now now now’ culture”

  1. Everyday Culture June 6, 2011 at 9:59 am #

    “barely two shades past sober”, haha good description.

  2. offthefrontporch June 21, 2011 at 4:11 am #

    I’m not a huge fan of dance music, but I really appreciated this critique of it–your description definitely made me more tolerant and aware of parts I’ve found slow or too long. There’s a good reason for those parts. They’re keepers.

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