Living in Nashville is both a curse and a blessing for people making dance music. The curse is, of course, the overwhelming focus on country music and the traditions associated with it. The blessing is a plethora of singers and songwriters looking for a break and willing to experiment. Nashville is a songwriting town, so if you are a producer who makes a great track, finding a singer to write a topline is just an ad on a bulletin board away. Sylvane is the more upfront/aggressive pseudonym of Lenny B, who is better known for making commercial remixes. On “Light Me Up,” he flips the focus of progressive house. Whereas tracks by Zedd and Avicii are normally passive, meaning they that play in the background with a mellow energy, this track uses a lot of the familiar stadium/progressive sounds but transforms them into something energetic and aggressive with electro, but not a standard soundalike festival banger track. While you can hear a hint of country in Sweet Melissa’s strong vocals (especially in the last syllable of each line), the lyrics take the track from club to radio-friendly pop. Both remixes are similar to the original but manage to focus on a different flavor (or influence of another producer). If you are wondering what an Arty remix would sound like, check out Dennis Pederson’s mix, and if you are a fan of Walden, then Jus Jack & Oza’s will be your mix of choice.
Gone are the days when a single record or track becomes the record of Winter Music Conference. With a multitude of DJs playing hundreds of parties, and often with exclusive tracks that they just finished, it’s even hard to pick out records heard multiple times over the week (though Hardwell’s “Dare You” and Deorro’s tracks both seemed to be in high rotation). So rather than a record of the conference, here are three common themes that surfaced throughout the week.
Eat Sleep DJ Repeat – not such a healthy lifestyle
Early in the week, the Showtek brothers hosted a meal and beachfront workout where they stressed that eating healthy and maintaining a regular fitness regime kept them in shape and focused for the demanding lifestyle of a touring DJ/producer. As the week drew on, it seemed that DJs were dropping like beats – Avicii hospitalized for a ruptured appendix and gall bladder removal, Afrojack hospitalized for being “dehydrated and overworked,” and Stefan Engbloom of Dada Life rushed back to Sweden for abdominal surgery.
Talking to DJs, there became a clear distinction between those who lived the party lifestyle and those who chose to abstain or minimize. 3Lau mentioned that he quit drinking at shows in order to keep his head on straight and to balance the pressures that come from touring. Anna Worstell of Five Knives mentioned running daily as her way of maintaining physical and mental fitness while the Firebeatz duo focus on eating healthy and getting enough sleep. Sander Van Doorn shared that he schedules a few weeks of escape to get back to his normal life off the road.
Banger After Banger – Everything Sounds the Same
A common complaint about EDM became a standard talking point of the week – why does everything sound the same? Afrojack explained it most succinctly. “A lot of young kids start producing and they hear what what works. The essence of effectiveness of EDM at this moment is really obvious. If you want to be on stage and DJ, they use their brain and make a song that sounds like this. (They think) I’m going to go to Miami and someone’s going to pay my ticket to DJ, so I’m going to make it sound like this. Fuck being creative and original, that’s why a lot of the stuff sounds the same.” Though he was also quick to point out how Avicii’s new sound took things to a new level and the upcoming albums by Calvin Harris, David Guetta, and himself also sound different and will raise the standards as well.
Looking Forward and Looking Back
EDM is always about what’s new and next, so the rise of a younger generation of DJs/Producers is no surprise. Leading the way is 17 year-old Martin Garrix, whose monster track “Animal” has become this year’s “Levels.” At the Spinnin press conference, Scooter Braun (manager of Justin Bieber), Martin, and label-head Eelko van Kooten spoke of their plans for his career and that as a member of the EDM generation he has a better feel for what the kids want. Even with the commercial crossover, Martin is staying true to his roots and is still the “same Spinnin artist that he was before.” Scooter also stressed that Martin is having “the time of his life” and “living his dream,” and “our job is to make sure that never changes.”
While Martin conquered both the Ultra Music Festival and Spinnin Sessions at Nikki Beach, he was joined by a whole generation of underage and barely legal DJs/producers who were on just about every bill throughout the week: 3Lau, Jay Hardway, Reid Stefan, Paris & Simo, Walden, Julian Jordan, and Audien.
Celebrating the legacy of dance music is always a part of the week, and Wednesday night hosted two concurrent events – Brobot with Junior Sanchez & Friends and A Night at Studio 54 with Jellybean Benitez. Todd Terry’s set at the Brobot party was the perfect lesson in house classics expertly curated and flawlessly mixed by “Todd the God.” A Night at Studio 54 reunited three legendary DJs of disco- Robbie Leslie, Tony Smith, and Jellybean Benitez for a night of classic disco which had Yuca packed until “Last Dance.”
Just as classic music was celebrated, so was classic artwork. British Producer/DJ Seamus Haji’s wearing of a Keith Haring DJ shirt led to the Uncle Sam’s store selling out of stock twice during the week.