Monday, February 28, 2011

Usher, Ke$ha And More Help Dance Music Go Pop In 2010

But is it here to stay? Our music-industry experts weigh in.
By Akshay Bhansali

Photo: Andreas Rentz/ Getty Images

In 2010, pop princesses, R&B icons and chart-dominating newcomers all danced to the same beat. Not only did dance music go pop, but pop music caught the club-music bug.

Between Katy Perry's "Firework," Ke$ha's "We R Who We R," Rihanna's "Only Girl (In the World)," Enrique Iglesias' "I Like It," Usher's "DJ Got Us Fallin' in Love" and "OMG" and countless other singles, established artists definitely looked to dance beats for surefire hits. And two of this year's biggest success stories in music were Jason Derülo and Taio Cruz; could there be a soul left in this country who hasn't heard "Dynamite" or "In My Head"?

The love went both ways, with dance music's biggest stars finding mainstream success this year. Dance-music maestro deadmau5 took up house-artist duties at this year's VMAs, and Swedish House Mafia and Usher teamed up for a medley of their gems at the American Music Awards.

So how did this happen? We caught up with some music-industry experts to get their takes.

"You definitely saw tempos go up this year," Jon Caramanica of The New York Times told MTV News. "And I think what you had are a lot of producers who are really familiar with nightclub stuff. They are familiar with Europe. Things are happening on a more global scale now."

"I think everything from Europe, and sometimes even Asia, it comes to America, and we just adopt things a little bit slower," said Jared Eng of "I think it was just a change. People like different types of music at different times. And dance was of this moment."

Noah Callahan of Complex magazine added: "I think 2010 saw the merging of the pop and dance genres. Pop artists realized that there were best practices that could be borrowed from dance music. And, ultimately, [all] pop music that has been made in the past 20 years had ended up being remixed for the club by dance artists. I think they basically just cut out the middleman and went straight there."

Dance music being introduced into the hip-hop and R&B realms was particularly notable this year.

"I think David Guetta kind of at the end of last year and the beginning of this year spearheaded it," said freelance writer Julianne Escobedo Shepherd. "He produced a lot of tracks. I think as trends go, people revile 'unst-unst.' But it's just coming back around. Big-room techno was a way for people to get decadent in a year that no one could get decadent."

"You have someone like, who's like, 'Well, I spent all this time in Ibiza, and this is what they are doing,' and he wants to find a way to bring that into his music," Caramanica said of the Black Eyed Peas mastermind. "R&B especially became dance music. And especially with your Jason Derülos, Taio Cruzes. Guys like that would have literally been blocked at the border two years ago. That would not have made it through customs. And now all of a sudden they have #1 songs. I think had a lot to do with that last year."

Elliott Wilson of added: "It's actually even affected hip-hop. I was talking to Q-Tip, and his next record, I feel like that's gonna kind of go in that vein. I know that was also Jay-Z's thought process with Blueprint 3 at first, that he wanted to make a little bit more of a world music [vibe], a little more dancey. I think the kids today want to go to the clubs. They wanna have a good time. They wanna dance. So I think the artists of today are trying to kind of feed that audience."

"I think it's caught on this year because the people who've done it have been successful," offered Clover Hope of Vibe magazine. "Like 'OMG,' with usher, he didn't have success until he made a dance record. He had 'There Goes My Baby' and these really, like, adult-contemporary records that didn't really catch on. And then once you see that everybody is doing it and that people are liking it, they are like, 'OK, let me just try this out.' It's like Auto-Tune. Like, 'Let me see what I sound like on a record by David Guetta.' They end up liking it and doing more of it."

So does the club-music trend have staying power. According to our tastemakers, not so much.

"I do think it's a blip," Caramanica said. "I don't think that's gonna be something that lasts in America. I think this is gonna be a moment we'll all look back on and go, 'Wasn't that weird when Jason Derülo and Taio Cruz had #1 records?"

"At some point, these R&B artists will get kind of sick of it and be like, 'Let me go back to my soul background,' " Hope said. "When you actually have to say something, dance doesn't really lend itself to substance. And I think that R&B artists, they really want to talk about love and in a deep way, and to do that, you need to do, like, a soul or a traditional R&B record. I want to say that it's kind of a fad."

"I think music is very cyclical," Eng offered. "So I think dance music might be here for a little bit, but I'm sure it will phase out at some point."

Wilson called dance music "the sound of today. I think that people want more aggressive, faster beats, and I think that that probably has legs until at least next summer."

What do you think? Is dance music here to stay? Let us know in the comments!

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