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Guest Editorial: tyDi on EDM’s “bland, dumbed down and derivative” trend

We asked two renowned Australian producers making waves in America’s EDM scene – tyDi and Nick Thayer – for their take on a contentious topic: Does current EDM lack musicality? Here’s tyDi’s opinion on the topic – stay tuned for OWSLA-signee Nick Thayer’s reply tomorrow.

Like food, wine, and fashion, music is completely subjective to the listener’s taste. Some admire what others hate and vice versa. There’s no exact science when critiquing art, so I can only share my own personal opinion.

I feel that the current trend in EDM is slightly bland, dumbed down, simplified and a little too derivative; perhaps it could use more music theory? I’m sure most readers will know the sound I’m referring to – some have dubbed these songs as ‘bangers’. Whatever the name or genre they seem to me as though they lack musicality.

I’m not saying these tracks aren’t effective in the clubs because they certainly are! I play some of them myself (rather selectively) and the strong ones really stand out. However I’d love to see more producers out there who care about the art of songwriting, where a detailed knowledge of music theory shines through in both the production and the composition. I’m not talking about a loud kick drum, distorted bass and a screeching bendy sound… I’m talking about beautiful chord progressions astutely placed under a cleverly constructed melody with harmonies and intelligent lyrics; songs with a little more depth than a ‘sick drop’.

One could argue that these songs are out there and I wouldn’t disagree, it’s just that they’ve been shadowed by a mass of generic sounding dance music that may lead new producers to believing it’s all we’ve got. I come from a background where I studied music in university like it was a language, and learning the theory inside and out was of utmost importance. It led me to admire songs that you remember well after you’ve left the festival.

So I urge new producers to learn the theory; find out about key signatures, scales, chord progressions, harmonies, cadences, dissonance, rhythmic dissonance and how to use these laws of music to your advantage. I’m not saying to go out and get a degree, but maybe play an instrument or do some classes on musical composition. You won’t pick this up by throwing loops together that someone else has made for you.

‘Production’ is one thing, but that should come after the song is even written. I wonder if today’s trend in EDM is too heavily focused on the production of a song and not enough on the actual songwriting itself? When you know how to write good music, you’ll be able to do a lot more than just produce a ‘fat beat’, you’ll be able to make music that stirs people’s emotions, whether it’s party mode, chill, dark, melancholy, uplifting or heart shattering; knowing music theory means knowing a new language and speaking it with eloquence. I believe that intelligently composed songs have a better shot at being timeless.

Click here to watch a highlights reel from tyDi’s new chill-out album ‘Hotel Rooms’.