Yesterday, while finishing up some torturous video projects, my friend came to my rescue with a hypnotizing track released by Usher just a few hours before. The track is titled “Climax” — a collaboration with up-and-coming Philadelphia-based American DJ and producer Diplo. And as they say, “There is a whole world living in that song.”
The synergy between artists is a unique phenomenon. When artists collaborate, there is a limitless number of outcomes that can spear off of one chord, lyric or melody. We’ve seen this synergy inspire some of the greatest songs in history: Jim Morrison and The Doors, Nas and Lauryn Hill, The Roots and Erykah Badu, etc. However, lately there seems to be a systematic and pre-calculated spawn of new “collaborations.”
There’s no doubt that a new craze has begun: the idea of taking the “underground” and making it cool in the mainstream. And perhaps there were no greater “underground” music genres than electronica, dance or house. But in recent years, artists like Rihanna and Ke$ha have tried to channel some qualities of electronica and brought them to your nearby radio stations.
But the biggest issue was when I had to wonder if the “soul” in music was becoming secondary to the content of the music being produced. As artists slowly replaced their lyrics and voice for beat- and dance-friendly songs, I started to wonder if the concept of making music was dumbing down from something unique to the point of pure annoyance and regurgitation. More importantly, what roles are artists like Usher playing in creating a platform for DJs like Diplo?
To help me clear up some issues with the concept of the two worlds, I asked my cousin Timothy Thai, a DJ himself and creator of Dance or Die Productions, on his thoughts on the collaboration between established artists and DJs:
“In reality the top 100 DJs are in fact, producers. French Producer DJ David Guetta has now overcome Netherlands number-one Armin Van Buuren as the most popular DJ in the world. How? Look at his music — it’s all over the radio and is being played across the world globally. Why? He is producing what the mainstream wants.
A big part of it is through collaborations with big name artists such as Nicki Minaj, Akon (‘Sexy Bitch’), Flo Rida (‘Where Them Girls At’), Usher (‘Without You’), Kid Cudi (‘Memories’), and the list goes on and on. Looking at all those songs I just named; so much of the market can identify those artists. These are really big pop artists that millions of people listen to and by collaborating with such big names, DJs can also bring recognition to their own music.
Artists such as Armin Van Buuren, Tiesto, Deadmau5, Porter Robinson, and many others, have stayed away from mainstream and producing the sounds and songs that they strive to produce and want to produce. Their sounds have also reached the top charts of places such as Beatport.com where the ‘underground’ or people in the ‘scene’ will recognize these artists. We can compare these artists with so many amazing bands in other genres not getting as much radio play, like The Shins for example.
But when it comes to mainstream and radio/media, only names like David Guetta are recognized and everyone else is still the ‘background producer.’ Diplo and Afrojack are creators of ‘Look at Me Now’ with Chris Brown and ‘We Found Love’ with Rihanna. However, the majority of the time, these songs are still being claimed and perceived as Rihanna’s tracks or Chris Brown’s tracks. DJs have always been around. These artists aren’t new.
Why are DJs blowing up now? Media has so much to do with it. So much of the new generation spends their time on computers on blogs, Tumblr, Facebook, and are always looking for ‘NEW’ music. If it wasn’t for social media and websites like Tumblr.com, or Facebook.com, these artists wouldn’t be where they are now (Diplo even said that in the interview with Billboard magazine).
Corporations used to have control over almost everything. Controlling what music gets released, what style is being aimed for, how much, etc. Tracks would go through so many tweaks and fixes before [they get] released. Diplo, Skrillex, A trak and all these new DJs are just posting raw sounds or finished tracks that only they have worked on. And what they wanted to produce, it’s not going through stages of tweaks. It is being judged for what it is. Crazy thing is they post it for the internet which then goes viral. This is the new generation. Anyone can be famous; you just have to be good.”
If you have any questions for TIMOTHY THAI, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org; to share your endless love for Usher, e-mail email@example.com. For everything else, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.