This is the first edition of NQR’s new debate feature Point-Counterpoint. Whenever we’ve got two writers who disagree on a subject, we’ll invite them to duke it out. Hopefully, there will be a lot of very important topics debated in this feature. This is not one of them. Today’s topic is dubstep, the current trend in dance music, heavy bass, and loud noises.
Point: Dubstep is Pure Audio Excitement
By Todd Woodworth
I have heard dubstep described as sounding like robots having sex. People (idiots) use this as a negative description. I ask you to imagine how awesome robots must be at sex. Shit must be absurd. Dubstep is therefore brilliant, and if you don’t like it, go get your self a recluse’s shack and let the rest of us keep being awesome. The major reason that I’m a dubstep fan is that it’s most exciting thing that you can make happen by pressing play on an iPod.
For the beginners out there it might be best to start with a definition. Dubstep is characterized by an intro followed by drop in which the bass beat slows to half time takes on a monstrously heavy sound. We’re talking bass trying to liquefy your innards heavy. A teaspoon of dissonance or weird time signatures are often in order and wobble base (the whole BUUUHWUUWUUUWUUWUU thing) pretty much sums up the picture. If you’re a visual learner check out the prezi based on an interview with bassnectar. Bassnectar has since rescinded some of his comments saying that this definition is too rigorous, but the basics established here will get you on your way. If you don’t care too much for musical definitions, just remember the part about bass that will make your heart pound and pupils dilate.
Having stated my general support of this sublime art, I’ll consent that there are times when it goes a bit too far for even me. For example while the intro to Skrillex’s Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites is really phenomenal, the drop leaves my ears, if not actively wishing for, then at least anticipating death.
The reason that I’m into dubstep is mainly that it really is exciting. This structure of the music is built on the creation of anticipation and it realization. This really is the idea of a lot of music but dubstep takes it to another level. Consider it this way when you were ten or so, and the simple act of catching a frog was reason enough to scream with joy. Now, it takes attractive women, voluminous amounts of booze, or stacks and stacks of cash to even raise an eyebrow. Everything else, total flat line. But waiting for that drop makes you more anxious and excited than your first day of school ever, and the first beat of pounding bass is more exciting than Halloween on Christmas falling on the same day that you’re going on a date with Michelle Jenneke (I love you.)
Dub is also a blessing because there’s so much of it. My freshman year of college, there were a dozen popular party songs that would play every weekend several times guaranteed. I imagine that it’ll be the same story come this September, just with a new handful of songs that will be played into the ground. Meanwhile, there are trillions of dubstep tracks to liven your weekend with something new. Along with the huge volume of work there is also a great amount of variety. Everything from Doctor P’s big boss which is heavy as hell and admittedly makes more of the population run in fear to Deadmau5’s strobe which is airy and surreal. Very few musical genres offer this much variety.
So if you haven’t found dubstep that you like keep looking. There is a lot of of it out there and I won’t try to tell you that it’s all good, but I will tell you that there will be some that you like and when you find it, it will really get your engine going.
Counterpoint: Dubstep Sucks, But the Fact that I Hate it has Triggered a Mini Quarter-Life Crisis.
By James Grebey
As much as I really hate to see it happen, Dubstep is the new big thing in dance music. Everything has a dubstep remix. Not coincidentally, everything has a terrible remix.
A typical dubstep song will generally start pretty normally, with melodies and vocals and such. Then, after about 30 seconds when you’ve let your guard down, what’s known in the biz as a “drop” occurs.
Suddenly the music stops, and what I can best describe as extremely loud, overweight robots having violent, ugly sex starts. My esteemed opponent Todd views robot sex, perhaps correctly, as an amazing thing. But the problem is that these are not the sounds of an established and committed robot couple making beautiful love. It’s the sound of two robots with substance abuse problems angrily having at each other in the bathroom of a sketchy club. It’s just noise for the sake of noise, and it makes me want to throw myself into an oncoming train, because it will probably be quieter.
Todd mentions that there is a lot of variety in dubstep. He is wrong. If you can describe and encapsulate the entirety of your genre of music by going “buuuhwuuuhwuuhwuuh,” then variety should be automatically ruled out as a selling point.
Some people really love dubstep. I’ll admit that I can see the appeal of overwhelming noise late in the night at some party, but by the time I to get to that state I have much more serious problems.
In college Todd would regularly get into arguments with me (and the rest of our roommates,) over whether we should listen to dubstep, or, well, music. Even when our side lost this fight, I would always take comfort in the fact that dubstep was probably just a passing music phase, like crunk music, or the era of the mega-mashup. Like past musical dead-ends, it would be remembered as an interesting musical side road, or better yet, not at all.
But then a terrible thought hit me. What if this isn’t just a passing trend? What if this is the future of music? What if dubstep is the beginning of a new era of noise, and all songs will be dubsteppy in nature. This would be unfortunate for me for two reasons. The first is that I would need to continue listening to dubstep, but the second reason had a far more terrible connotation. If dubstep is the future of music and I hate it, is that the first step on the road to becoming a crotchety old man? I imagine that when Rock n’ Roll first came on the scene, the people who hated it felt like it was a travesty, what with all that dancing, non-wholesome lyrics, and old-timey 1940’s racism. Those crazy kids might be listening to that Elvis fellow, but I’m going to stick with more mainstream, adult music, not some dumb dangerous fad. What does this attitude mean for me? I’m only twenty-one, and I’m apparently already out of touch with what the young people like. This is especially disconcerting because Todd is older than me by a few years.
When I think about this horrifying prospect, I wonder if I should make an effort to adapt with the times, to try new things, go outside of my comfort zone, and expand my horizons.
Then I listen to a song.
Originally published Thursday, July 26, 2012