Scratch and Dent Sale: Why Dance Music is Smart
I got into an arguement with my friend Robby about something I wrote in my column about why I don't dance. (I think I said dance music sucked.) She went on and on, basically defending dance music. I tuned most of it out, actually. But as she was talking, it occurred to me that what dance music has going for it -- even the worst dance music -- is its ever-present beat (turned way, way, way up in the mix). EVERY dance song does that one thing, consistently. It's reliable. You can count on it. It never forgets its central mission: ass shaking.
Even if a dance song utterly fails in every other aspect of music -- originality, lyric, melody, instrumentation, arrangement -- it never forgets why it came here. If you saw it on break in the employee lounge, here's what it would say: "I might suck, but you can still dance to me. I know my job, pal. Hey, you gonna eat that?"
It didn't even get clever with its name. It's called "dance music," just in case you forget what you're supposed to do when you hear it. (I know the bike messenger class likes to call it "electronica" or "electro," but that's just a transparent attempt at trying to dress up a pig with elitist rhetoric, now isn't it? Like calling Miller "The Champagne of Beers." Not buyin' it.)
So while Robby kept trying to get me to take dance music seriously, I started thinking about other genres... Maybe they should take a hint from dance music and figure out their critical purpose, their raison d'etre, and then focus like a Republican attack ad until they build a subculture around it that people can count on. And hate.
Here are some suggestions, for discussion purposes only:
Country music could be renamed "Welding music." It could even include instructions for how to weld, mixed REALLY LOUD up front next to Kenny Chesney's, um, vocal... TIG, MIG, Fluxed-Core, Gas Tungsten, Arc Welding. There's a lot to learn. Then, when we heard Welding Music, we could say, "It sure does suck, but at least I'm learning to weld!"
Folk music could be renamed "Bicycle repair music"... You'd hear people in coffee shops saying, "Jesus, that folk singer is one whiny bitch, but at least I learned how to lube my chain."
Indie Rock (huh?) would probably need to be renamed "Self-esteem booster music"... Folks would put down their PBR and say, "I totally have a fucking head-ache, but I'm pretty sure that I'm cooler than you!" (Wait a minute... they already do that, right?)
Jazz could be renamed... actually, I think it should still be named Jazz.
But you get my point, no? There are so many mission-less genres. They're waiting for a little leadership... a little direction. Can you give it to them? Will you give it to them?
-- John Common