How to Teach and EDM Kindergarten Class
Diplo! You make great music! U! R! 1! of the best, most innovative producers of our time! WTF’s up with all the gimmicks?
Within the first 10 minutes of the Major Lazer headline set at the White Stage, Diplo and company were: firing confetti cannons, calling “hands up!”, throwing swag into the crowd, telling everyone to “Jump!”, “I wanna see a circle pit right here”, walking out onto the crowd in an inflatable ball. Yes, that only took ten minutes. Then for the next hour, every 90 seconds or so was some command or activity: “make a laser gun”, “one finger to the sky”, do jumping jacks (yeah, fucking seriously they told everyone to do jumping jacks), everybody take your shirt off and hold it up and wave it around (didn’t happen), put your cell phone lights up, Diplo and crew posed with a Japanese flag and took a selfie with the crowd, they lead various singalongs, yelled somebody-say-ho, everybody jump (again), put your hands in the air (again) and so on. There were also the twerkathon dancers, the co-DJs / cheerleaders, Jillionaire and Walshy Fire, the near continuous blasts of smoke, confetti and fire.
So you’re doing all this shit and still want people to take your music seriously? Come on man, you’ve got a real genius for finding the world’s coolest new musical forms — Brazilian baile funk, New Orleans bounce, Atlanta underground hip hop, Jamaican dancehall, and a bunch more — and bringing them mainstream. “Pon de Floor” changed club music forever and helped provide a final, defining character element for EDM without in itself being cheesy or uncool (or even EDM — I’m glad you played it near the end). You’ve done music with everyone from cool pop stars like Snoop Dogg and M.I.A. (yeah, I know) to uncool pop stars like Justin Bieber, and in the last year you probably have a bigger Billboard hit single than anyone else at Fuji Rock. I don’t care for your Bieber hit, but I don’t hate on you for it. In a very big way I feel that you want to be the king, but you are already the best. Why are you trying so hard to be Steve Aoki?
So maybe it smarts that you’re only headlining the second stage at Fuji Rock, but who the fuck cares? That was a ready-to-party audience of 10,000 people or more, and even beyond all the gimmicks, your shit was pretty good. And mostly people loved it. But you didn’t win the crowd over with your music, because the crowd didn’t have a chance. They had to play along with all the kid games. You are a pretty great DJ when you just play great music. And yeah, I know the biz is more complicated than that. You DO look great and buff as fuck, the gym time is doing you well, and the Japanese nerd dance troupe was pretty hilarious, and wearing the red-circle Japanese flag t-shirt and all those other things you did to show respect to a Japanese audience were great. I’ll also hand it to you for putting the lyrics to “(Somebody to) Lean On” on the big screen. That was a frickin’ great facilitator for the sing-along, a giant group karaoke for 10K+. I actually hope other bands learn from that.
Please understand that I’m not being ironic, I’m just a bit drunk from a plastic bottle full of tequila I drank during the show, and you’re coming at the end of a festival where I’ve been writing six band reviews a day. In all sincerity I view you as one of the best, most intelligent and interesting music producers in the world, and given the territory and the people in the world of music, I hope you are one of the guys who succeeds. I just want you to play a better live show, not a giant nightclub with strippers — I can go to Roppongi for that. Please get back to the music. You’re really fucking good at it. The music. I want to see a great headliner show from you someday soon on the Green Stage. But not like what you played tonight. Aphex Twin just managed to blow everyone away being an anonymous guy in the middle of a light show. You have the ability to do better, to rock a party like Chemical Brothers at least. It’ll be tough teaching Japan to samba like Brazil, but if anyone can do it, I hope you’re the guy.