Of Dubstep and DJs

The day after Thanksgiving, I attended a concert featuring headliner Breathe Carolina, as well as two supporting acts I had never be­fore heard of. One in particular, Big Choco­late, was especially intriguing. Introducing himself as “an American music producer,” he clicked a button on his Mac and proceeded to head-bang for the entire set.

I should precede the rest of this article by saying that I have a very eclectic palate when it comes to music. Though I primarily write about the comparatively obscure rock and metal genres (as I seem to have cornered that market among both Maroon-News staff­ers and the Colgate community at large), I listen to everything from rap to R&B, coun­try to classical. Even the precious few genres I generally dislike – instrumental jazz and blues among them – are musical endeav­ors for which I have nothing but respect. Surprisingly, the one genre that I not only outwardly loathe but have little regard for, however, is dubstep.

When I say “dubstep,” I am referring not to the genre in its purest form, but to the many fine-line derivations thereof, as well as any kind of music that is entirely or almost entirely computer-generated and created by a DJ. It’s not that I don’t like elements of elec­tronica (I was at the aforementioned concert to see Breathe Carolina, after all) but I find that not only does every song sound the same – grating – but seems accompanied by a holi­er-than-thou attitude from the self-described “artist” who gave it birth.

As someone who not only has tremendous respect for musicians, and a flautist myself, I find it incredibly offensive to true artists that DJs demand the same approbation. It takes a lot of guts to put yourself out there and per­form, especially if you lack musical talent. But from what I can tell, all DJs lack said talent; in my opinion, dubstep sounds like something any five-year-old could put together if left alone to toy with Garage Band. And the result of that, unsurprisingly, is considerably less than musi­cally appealing. If a DJ has real talent, he should prove it. He should create something using le­gitimate musical elements and/or instruments and perform it, at least in part, himself. (And yes, I am aware of Skrillex’s previous work with From First to Last, but for the purposes of this article, I am referring to his more recent solo pursuits.) The attitude becomes even more in­sulting when a DJ requests equal credit simply for remixing another artist’s song; isn’t that akin to praising oneself for butchering another’s art?

I know that dubstep has its place in the club, though I’m not sure of the justifica­tion for that either. What happened to the heyday of dance-pop and electronica (al­beit with live-music elements)? Why have Deadmau5 and Skrillex eclipsed the overall much more popular (and talented) Lady GaGa as the party music of choice?

Though music does, of course, have a technical definition, I define it for myself in a broader way: aside from having one or more live-music (i.e. non-computer-generated) elements, I must, even if I do not like the music myself, understand on some minute level how someone else could possibly like it. And to me, dubstep not only fits those criteria on a song-by-song basis, but as an entire genre. Add to that the fact that everything sounds the same – including the song and album titles (com­pare Skrillex’s “More Monsters and Sprites” to Deadmau5’s “Moar Ghosts N Stuff”) – and the case against dubstep becomes even more compelling.

So am I crazy for taking a genre inexplica­bly beloved by my peers (and current youth culture) and deeming it noise instead of mu­sic? Perhaps. But after enduring a uniform-sounding set by Big Chocolate, what should have been a valuable opportunity for the per­former (I cannot in good conscience say “art­ist”) to win new fans not only confirmed all my prior biases, but strengthened them. And until I find a redeeming quality buried with­in the robotic basslines, synth and screeches, I’ll continue to count being alive as a central component of live music.

Contact Alanna Weissman at

[email protected].