Deadmau5: Triumph of the Will.i.am.

Now this is a smackdown!

It was redolent, he said, of the days when "a dark veil" hung over dance music, before he and others had "taken EDM so goddamn far". By this "dark veil" period, he presumably meant the 35 years when dance music had to content itself with merely providing a glorious, euphoric voice for disenfranchised minorities, being a genuine countercultural phenomenon, repeatedly revolutionising music and changing the face of popular culture. This, of course, was before it found its true, noble calling: soundtracking Las Vegas pool parties and providing music for gurning frat boys to mosh to.

Perhaps Deadmau5 appeals to a middle-American audience traditionally resistant to dance music because he seems to have taken a genre born out of a largely black, largely gay club scene and ruthlessly expunged any lasting sonic evidence of its birthplace. You can hear his style's roots in the big stars of 90s electronica, their respective sounds adjusted to cut them adrift from the music that inspired them. It's the Chemical Brothers without their love for hip-hop and Detroit techno; Daft Punk without their deep understanding of Chicago house; the Prodigy without their roots in breakbeat hardcore. What's left is bizarrely unfunky, unambiguous, unsexy and unreconstructedly macho: Maths or Fn Pig offer a noisy euphoria that makes you think not of the communal transcendence of the dancefloor, but a bloke from sales with his tie wrapped round his head, waving a can of Relentless in the air and roaring. It's house music that Frankie Knuckles wouldn't understand, but Finchy from The Office would get straight away.

For all his dismissal of pop's co-opting of EDM, Deadmau5 deals in an amalgam of sounds indistinguishable from those you'd find on a pop R&B single -- the distorted bass wobble of dubstep, Auto-Tuned vocals, 80s synths (including, on Channel 42, the kind of piercing electronic wail that preceded Ray Parker Jr's insistence that he wasn't 'fraid of no ghost), epic breakdowns. All this is set to beats that steadfastly decline to swing, a lock-stepped quick march across the dancefloor. It's The Triumph of the Will.i.am.

I don't think I've ever even heard a song by Deadmaus. Not that I was aware of, anyway. He's the guy with the helmet, right? No, I mean that other guy with the helmet.

Dubstep means progressive trance with 3 minute tracks instead of 20 minute, and the phaser-sound in the break replaced with wubwubs, right?

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18 Responses:

  1. Will says:

    > I don't think I've ever even heard a song by Deadmaus.

    If you're particularly adept at fast forwarding through commercials, possibly not.

  2. Erbo says:

    In deadmau5's defense, he does like Minecraft (and Mojang has added a note to that effect in their "loading" screen). He even has a Creeper tattoo on his arm.

    OK, that's not much of a defense. But still.

    • jwz says:

      Wow, the fact that a pop star plays scrabble or whatever has totally changed my opinion. Next thing, you'll be telling me he shops at supermarkets, enjoys television and wears a particular brand of socks. It's almost like they're made of meat.

  3. Jeremy Wilson says:

    I can't go more than a day without hearing wubwub somewhere.

  4. Mike says:

    I like most of the Deadmau5 that I've heard, in particular "Faxing Berlin" and "I Remember". Both songs aren't much more than formless washes of sound, but they are competent, smooth productions, which I prefer to the harshness of most electronic pop.

    That said, this article makes a good argument that what I find "smooth" is actually whitewashed and calculated. My illusions are shattered!

    • Jake Nelson says:

      Same here, basically. I've pretty much learned to accept that my musical preferences overlap with what some would call "good" music only occasionally and by coincidence.

      Also, regarding harshness, however much people may think it's interesting or edgy or whatever, putting sudden, severe pitch or volume spikes as some do now is equivalent to the horribly-ubiquitous white flash in videos: I say "ow, my (ears/eyes)!" and curse whoever thought it was a good idea, then avoid that painsource in the future. My nervous system is not your learning experience.

  5. Ian Young says:

    When I was younger, I thought EBN was cutting edge. Then they opened for U2. Even listening to Suicide just makes you look old these days. Someone somewhere hates everything you like. Morrissey hates the Ramones.

    I'm not defending Deadmau5 or Skrillex, my point is that all cool things get coopted by people who suck. From music to the Flop.

    So I think I'm saying "Yeah, but I gave up years ago".

  6. I heartily recommend deadmau5's 'Strobe' and 'The Veldt'. The latter of which is based on the Ray Bradbury story of the same name. They're not that wubwub shit that Skrillex peddles and calls EDM. I was pleasantly surprised. I dunno, might be your cup of tea?

  7. Dubstep is the new hair metal.

  8. Chris Brent says:

    Thanks for the description of dubstep that I've been searching for for a while now.

    • So happy to read some Deadmau5 bashing, for a change.

      Deadmau5 sucks and (as if sucking wasn't enough) also acts like a gigantic turd with a big venomous mouth.
      Whenever he's discussed of, everybody always says they adore his work. And I hate them.

      His work is effingly boring, and even in the (already quite brain-damaged) field of dubstep, he's washed up and pointless.
      And seriously, comparing him to will.i.am? Come on, will.i.am is fucking Beethoven compared to... that vector of entropy.

      • will.i.am can be successfully compared to Skillex though: (and maybe Dave Grohl, uhuhuh)

        - everybody says they're nice to work and play with,
        - they delivers hits (hits I can listen to without barfing) featuring the most sparse set of professional figures I can think of,
        - they try to spice their team-mates sound up a little,
        - they apply simple formulas to succeed in that,
        - those formulas kinda show their limits while at it, and the exact path leading to a single piece appears clear and evident, so ok, what becomes evident is that it's really a derivative happy, easy, listening.Something that's not really meant to last.

        But hey, they are nice guys.
        And sometimes they scores really big hits.

  9. Thirty years until a complete betrayal of a genre's best features? Not bad, considering.