2013 In Review: The Beginning Of The End Of Pop’s EDM Era
If 2011 is the year EDM-pop broke out, then 2013 is the year it broke. EDM, dance music, electro, dubstep, whatever you call it, it’s not over, of course. But that particularly exhausting strain of EDM-infused pop — the buzzing synths, wobbling bass and that now-predictable moment of tension before the whole arrangement crashes down in euphoric grandeur — is in steady decline, now a tiresome trope on the level of late ’90s rock singers emulating Eddie Vedder. Poptronica’s hegemony has ended, with unpredictable diversity filling the void as pop necessarily sheds its molly-soaked skin.
The tipping point came at the end of the year with the release of two major albums by two major stars. First ARTPOP, which found Lady Gaga wringing every last drop of blood out of steroidal laser-pop, trying to do it more baroquely and frantically than everyone else on the charts. She pretty much achieved this, but it was self-sabotage — Gaga smothered otherwise strong songs and hooks with a phalanx of squelches and bloops and over-synthesized digital fuckery. We had hit peak EDM.
Rising up on the other end of that seesaw, then, was Beyonce. Rather, Beyonce. Bey was never a candidate for the electro fad, but on December 13 we saw just how far her music stood above the manufactured noise of her contemporaries. Rather than compress everything into a coked out, high-energy bender, Yonce let her songs unspool over languid atmospherics and squishy beats. There was art in her pop, and also room to breathe. The staggering sales numbers dwarfed ARTPOP‘s, suggesting listeners have grown tired of the constant endorphin rush; thus, the greatest accomplishment of Bey’s fifth album ambush may very well be that it served as the knockout blow sending EDM-pop to the canvas.