Swedish House Mafia’s legacy: greats or fakes?

If you expected DJ Sneak to silently notch up a victory after the weekend’s news…well, you don’t know DJ Sneak. “TODAY HOUSE MUSIC WINS!” the Chicago vet trumpeted through his Facebook channel following the Swedish House Mafia’s parting message to fans. In his self-appointed role of house music’s gatekeeper, Sneak is nothing if not persistent. What started as refreshingly candid criticism, though, has now started to sound more like sour grapes. For months, the DJ’s Twitter feed has been congested with swipes at the Swedes. Their primary offence? Misappropriating the term ‘House’ for their name.

Sneak laid out his position in a recent interview with online portal Meoko. “The difference between me and them is very simple,” he said. “While I’m organic, they are synthetic. While I do this for love and homage to the music and DJing craft, they constantly figure out ways to make it the most commercial noise they can make. Their main focus for creating is to make some hit. It is not about creating something original and soulful, it’s about following the calculated steps to come up with a hit for the purpose of their own success. What they are making and playing is not house music! Listen to the classics, look back at the history, it sounds nothing like the crap they are selling as house.”

There’s no doubt Sneak takes undercutting the Swedish House Mafia very seriously. But to what end? Were they really sullying the ‘true’ house scene? In a recent interview with ITM, stalwart UK producer King Unique argued that it’s not always easy to shut out the big guys and carry on. “It’s why you’re hearing DJ Sneak bitching on about the Swedish House Mafia,” he said. “When people feel like their value is being completely sidelined, they start bitching. But ultimately, it’s immaterial; if every single last person in house and techno denounced Guetta tomorrow, that’s a tiny voice compared to the people who think he’s fantastic.”

Sunday’s announcement wasn’t entirely unexpected. The three DJs have made no secret of the fact that their solo careers take priority, and certainly no Swedish House Mafia album was imminent. The expectation that they’d make an album seems to have irked the Swedes for years. “It’s very, very, very hard to make it happen,” Steve Angello said in the 2010 Take One documentary. “You know, Axwell’s working on his album, I’m working on mine, Seb’s working on stuff.” We picked up the topic with Angello again in 2011, when he took over inthemix as Guest Editor for a week. By that time, the guys had taken an extended break from the Swedish House Mafia following a frenetic Northern summer. “I hate to say that we’re working on an album, but I would say that we’re working on a lot of music,” he wrote. “I just hate this thing of: Let’s do an album.”

The Swedish House Mafia’s production output has hardly been prolific: a small suite of blockbuster records, a set-opener released as an Absolut Vodka tie-in and a collaboration with Knife Party. Of course, their studio handiwork extends beyond what you see on Discogs. Each Swedish House Mafia show features a roll-out of the trio’s custom edits, mash-ups and remixes. However, as Billboard has noted, the trio’s cachet lies in its ‘brand’ (now, there’s a term sure to rankle DJ Sneak).

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