The golden age of electronic music. To some, that was when Balearic House invaded the UK with its touchey-feely good vibes, when EDC was still held at the Coliseum, or even when Deadmau5 was still relevant. To me, it’s when there was an understanding that there were two styles of music: EDM and IDM. You know, either the kind you danced to or cuddle puddled to. It was that simple.
With the term “EDM” on loan by radio listeners, and “tech-house” somehow a divisive term amongst newbs, we’re missing that easy, catch-all grouping for house, techno and even drum n bass. And, as someone who talks about music quite a bit (case in point), I’m treading down the path of splintered subgenres, trying not to get caught.
Call me old-fashioned, but if I call house or dnb “EDM”, who is going to police me? People who listen to The Chainsmokers? I can’t even do a push-up, but that somehow doesn’t sound like a fair fight. At the same time, call me new-fashioned because I am a true, IRL millennial (lol) and just don't want to take the time to say “various subgenres of electronic music” whenever I talk about what the music I like … which I’m still doing, by the way.
For those of us who've been listening to electronic music even longer than the EDM mainstream takeover, and are originally from Europe (Hallo, Mutti!), we remember another time altogether: when all electronic music was called “techno”. The two were completely synonymous. However, unlike The Chainsmokers scenario, I doubt I could take on a DVS1 fan solo if they were to overhear me call Wolf + Lamb “techno”, no matter how many Club-Mates I had in me.
So what happened to us anyway? Perhaps electronic music is finally so big we can bask in our sub-sub-subgenres without having to acknowledge one another or worry about being lumped together. Maybe, the decline of the previously omnipresent downtempo room and more experimental genres such as glitch and jungle caused many electronic music listeners to explore fewer varieties of music. Now, we just listen to house, techno and (uh oh, am I going to say it?) tech-house. How many of your friends are sending you links to sweet hardstyle tracks, or forcing you out on Sundays for liquid dnb night? Also, what are those friends’ names, and can I hang out with them, please?
Labels aren’t always accurate, and people seem to be fine with it. For example, if you live in the USA, you may call yourself an American. But, if you ever travel to South America, you will be reminded that there are multiple continents called “America”. Now, I try to be sensitive to other people when it's convenient to me, but telling people "I am a citizen of the United States of America" isn't something I'm going to readily say over "I am American”. Also, imagine Lenny Kravitz singing, “Woman from the United States, Stay away from me” for a second, and cringe away.
So what should I call it? Techno, EDM, or "various subgenres of electronic music that are not currently featured in the Top 40"? I don't know. Perhaps '90s nostalgia will reach its next, natural step and we'll all start calling the whole thing "techno" again, which is fine if that also signals the return of Love Parade. The only thing I do know is popular music is so fickle, that by the time you finish reading this, Top 40 EDM will most likely be a thing of the past, and I can reclaim the phrase for its intended use: describing electronic dance music.