Music

Dubstep Sucks

Empty music for empty kids.

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mallabelmusic

If you've been around a high school or college campus in the last year and a half, you've undoubtedly heard this conversation occur at some point:

"Listen to that bass dude. It's so dirty. Wait for the drop. Here it comes—wait, wait—yes. Uuunnnngh. That drop is so nasty."

The circumstances are familiar: a new breed of music is cultivated by a group of enthusiastic cultivators, until it grows out of their hands and is embraced by casual music fans or a substantially wider audience (Grunge, New Wave, Punk, etc.). This leaves the innovators in an awkward position as they suffer in the wake of the imitation of emulators and advertisers seeing dollar signs. I'm not particularly interested in engaging in another pretentious pissing contest regarding whoever was first to the party. However, the idea of "suffering the wake" is very relevant to my point: we are all suffering the wake of dubstep, and it really sucks.

Dubstep sucks because it’s not music for its own sake. Dubstep has been embraced primarily by high school and college students eager for an excuse to get fucked up. Dubstep events not only provide that excuse but also the ever elusive venue for intoxication, and like most music, it's a lot more fun to listen to after you've ingested MDMA, LSD, shrooms, research chemicals, and/or copious amounts of alcohol. Teenagers and young adults also love dance and sex—events like Fall Massive, Spring Massive and Dub Nation pack all of these treasures into self-described "sensory overloads." The embrace of Steez events by bro/frat culture ("brostep") has only exacerbated these epicurean tendencies.

All of this is fine; there's nothing wrong with taking drugs, dancing, and wanting to fuck. What I take issue with is how absolutely vapid all of this music is. It is completely empty, derivative, and means nothing. In defense of dubstep, a lot of my friends argue it succeeds exactly at what it aims to do—that is, music designed to get fucked up and dance to. It's not good on its own terms as music. But there is plenty of good, distinctive music that does that without being shallow and nihilistic: look at Daft Punk, Primal Scream, Javelin, Fatboy Slim, or Basement Jaxx. Dub Nation's hedonistic and narcotic-obsessed aesthetic is offensive to me as a music fan, because it reduces the music to merely a trip-aiding accessory, totally useless on its own. Not to mention how diluted and homogenous the sounds used are. I've (reluctantly) listened to a lot of this shit and I can't tell a difference at all between artists. "WOMP WOMP WOMP"—yeah, I get it. This is music that lacks personality or sincerity. It is faceless.

You may be listening to Borgore, Deadmau5, or Smash Gordon right now, foaming at the mouth with rage (don't worry, that's probably just the Ketamine kicking in). "Dude. You just don't get it. Dub is a lifestyle. I live and breathe for the drop." You may accuse me of prickish elitism—"live and let live, bro." Sorry, but I call bullshit on that. Musical libertarianism leads to stagnation of thought and conversation, and I fully open myself to criticism of my taste and stance. I believe that dubstep/brostep will once again be a diminished subculture within the next three years, and as my friend Mike Boone aptly put it, will be remembered as our generation's disco. So if no one's going to say it, I will. Dubstep sucks.

DISCUSSION
  • Go to comment.
    Dec 15, 2010, 11:56AM
    Boy, can't say I ever heard of Dubstep, however, I have heard of the Grateful Dead and read similar articles about them. For me, The Dead was an experience in which the music was only one aspect. Never in my lifetime did I find a better party for $20. Yes, it included drugs, sex and music but it was also a great escape from the culture of the time. At that time, the first Iraq war was heating up, Gordon Gekko was both hero/villian, Reganomics was in full force, in fact, it was quite like the world today. I must admit, to this day, I enjoy the occasional GD cd, a joint, and some good memories. As I said, never heard of Dubstep, but, if their audience is seeking and finding the same kind of experience, i fall on the live and let live side. As for the music not being good on it's own, what about movie instrumentals. The music often enhances the visual and pretty much sucks without context. The advertising industry is built around the concept.
  • Go to comment.
    Dec 15, 2010, 11:59AM
    One last point, after reading this article, I have no desire to hear Dubstep. I'll take your word for it.
  • Go to comment.
    Dec 16, 2010, 05:44PM
    I don't know; I"ve heard some dubstep I like a lot. Here's one weird dubstep/metal hybrid; http://www.splicetoday.com/music/doom-metal-i-think-i-love-you; One of the best albums of the year I think. And Martyn's really good and quite distinctive sounding. And Legion of Two which has connections to that scene is amazing. But, you know, if you hate disco there's probably no hope for you anyway....
  • Go to comment.
    Dec 16, 2010, 05:59PM
    Huh; just listening to deadmau5. Not great or anything, but there's a nice trancey structure and a good sense of line; it's not unlike an electronic Pink Floyd. Way better than the Grateful Dead, IMO.; Borgore is really, really different; much messier and more aggressive with irritating sci-fi factory noises — I could do without the idiotic misogynist intros, but otherwise it's pretty great. You can't tell the difference between those two? Come on; I've listened to them each for like 5 minutes and I could instantly tell which is which if you played one for me.; Smash Gordon seems really annoying and pointless, but again, doesn't sound much like the other two....
  • Go to comment.
    Dec 17, 2010, 03:45PM
    I just lost my desire to hear any of that!.
  • Go to comment.
    Dec 26, 2010, 02:51PM
    I gotta disagree...just like every music genre, there's certain things about it that make certain people love it and happy. Maybe you don't "get it" or find value in mixing up sweet bass lines but to me and my friends, we do and we love it. To me, music is art and art follows the phrase, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder". I think people who try to determine what art is considered good and what is considered bad are the same exact people who want to put things in boxes and force conformity.
  • Go to comment.
    Mar 09, 2011, 07:34AM
    The fact that someone can discredit an entire genre really emphasizes how ignorant, musically speaking, that person is. As every fad appears (and dubstep is a new fad), there's always someone to discredit it, as to elevate themselves "above the rest". His overuse of synonyms for no real content-oriented benefit, in conjunction with his extreme generalizations of the average "dubstep listener", really proves my point. And just the fact that I (and most people) can also give counterexamples to basically any of his quotations, or statements about "dubstep listeners" negates any of his conclusions.
  • Go to comment.
    Mar 09, 2011, 12:13PM
    But judging an entire genre of music based on anecdotal experience is a major trope of music criticism! Where would we be if we couldn't write off whole swaths of the listening public with over-generalizations!?
  • Go to comment.
    Mar 09, 2011, 01:03PM
    Congrats Nicky. Almost 3 months after writing, you are still getting comments. It doesn't matter if people agree or not with the article, you got them talking for months. Mission Accomplished!
  • Go to comment.
    Mar 17, 2011, 11:58AM
    nicky smith...i am laughing @ your generalization of who listens to dubstep. i know many who hate this style of music, including my devoutly metal-loving 17 year old son who is always telling me to "turn that racket down" i truly do love the dub. everytime i hear someone "going off" on how much they hate it, i think, what a square...lol
  • Go to comment.
    Apr 25, 2011, 05:13PM
    eh. you make a couple good points about american dubstep, but you don't know enough about the genre to claim to have an informed opinion. you think of steez promo, smash gordon, deadmau5(not dubstep) & borgore when you think of dubstep. that tells me enough about your experience. that shit's awful. anyone that says dubstep is about the drop and hyphy synth lines needs to look into the genre (and it's sub-genres) a little further.
  • Go to comment.
    Apr 26, 2011, 11:14AM
    Articles like this really hurt the artists making good dubstep music. I see comments with people saying they'll never listen to dubstep thanks to your take on the most commercial niche of the genre. It'd be like writing off all rock & roll because you heard a bunch of hair metal, or writing off rap music because you heard Afroman. There's a reason that music publications and critics are so interested in dubstep, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the style of dubstep that you're using to categorize the entire genre. Just like disco, there are fascinating things being done with elements of this sound, and just like disco, there are people like you who would rather ignore the creativity and focus on the dumber, more popular artists. You're doing your readers a disservice by generalizing such a varied genre solely on it's red-headed stepchild
  • Go to comment.
    Apr 26, 2011, 11:28AM
    And just like disco, it won't die. It will continue to evolve into fascinating new forms. Neither hip-hop or any kind of electronic dance music would exist without disco. It sure does get a bad rep for being arguably the most influential music style of the past 30 years. And..Basement Jaxx? I thought their entire point was to celebrate nihilistic hedonism? Not the best example. If anyone is wondering what the big deal about dubstep is (trust me, it has nothing to do with anything mentioned in this article, Deadmau5 doesn't even make anything approaching dubstep music, he makes electro-house music, a long established genre than anyone with the slightest familiarity with electronic music could pinpoint [daft punk, justice, et al]) Try out Mount Kimbie, Plastician, Burial, Flying Lotus, Joker, Zomby, Kode 9, James Blake, Starkey, Ikonika, 2562, Shackleton & Appleblim, Benga, The Widdler, Mt Eden, Guido, El-B, Gaslamp Killer, etc, etc.. You might not like it, but at least you'll understand what a narrow unrepresentative picture this article is drawing for you.
  • Go to comment.
    Apr 26, 2011, 11:34AM
    I'd just edit your article and say like "Rusko" instead of Deadmau5. Next on Splice, we write an article about how Lady Gaga's lyrics are one of the big reasons we just can't stand bluegrass.
  • Go to comment.
    Apr 26, 2011, 03:46PM
    dude i agree with you 100% brostep is fuckin everything up and there hasnt been any good dubstep in years. but on another note there is dubstep that is dancy good with out that fucking disgusting wobble shit. REAL dubstep has crazy intricate drums crazy basslines and none of that wobble. and i cant stand how the scene is infested with drugs and fucking obnoxious bros shows used to be my escape but now i cant go to a show with out some punk ass starting shit or somebody over dosing is ludicrous. But give the real dubstep a chance. great post tho
  • Go to comment.
    Apr 27, 2011, 12:15PM
    I acknowledge that there should have been a distinction made here between dubstep and brostep. and i really do love that Burial album 'Untrue.' I was trying to be inflammatory to get a rise out of people, and lookee here it's April and people are still looking at the site. But I stand by this article, excepting that I should have used brostep. people can listen to what they want, it just saddens me seeing so much utter shit praised and paid for gleefully.
  • Go to comment.
    Apr 27, 2011, 12:45PM
    nicky, being inflammatory simply to get a rise out of people may get you some extra comments a few months after publication, but it certainly doesn't reflect well on your abilities as a critical thinker, as a writer, or as a music listener. At the end of the day, who cares if some random people commented on your article, if only to say that it's terrible? This piece -- this admittedly, deliberately inflammatory piece, which you even "acknowledge" is flawed (your comment is basically, "oh I didn't actually mean what I said, only part of what I said, ha ha joke's on you) -- is now in the public record for all of time. Good luck with that, assuming you want to be any sort of writer when you graduate middle school.
  • Go to comment.
    Apr 27, 2011, 05:50PM
    Nicky, I disagreed with your article above, but you know what? This is a really fun, nicely written piece, which you have every reason to be proud of. Congrats, and thank you for writing it.
  • Go to comment.
    Apr 28, 2011, 05:37AM
    You ignorant prick! Comments to ones article is a measure of success in the internet world. Advertisers look at comments as one of the measures on how much to pay. More comments equals more money. They do not care if people liked or disliked the story, just that they stopped to read it. Moreover, many people agree with Nicky's take on Dubstep. As a result of this article, I listened to Dubstep for the first time and know what? They suck! Thanks to Nicky, I learned never to buy a Dubstep disc. As for your comments regarding his "public record for all of time"; grow up, this is not grade school where idle threats scare anyone. All together now, PRICK!
  • Go to comment.
    Apr 28, 2011, 07:43AM
    I actually don't intend on ever being a professional writer, and I want this site to succeed above all. People can think I'm a dumb prick or not, but the important thing is they're here. the fact that you took the time to call me an idiot means I'm doing something right. I wanted to get a rise out of people and I did. thanks for the help! couldn't have done it without you. :~)
  • Go to comment.
    Apr 28, 2011, 08:08AM
    I couldn't care less about dubstep, but liked your article for its provocation. You're already a very good writer, as shown by the stories you've written for this website. Good luck!
  • Go to comment.
    Apr 28, 2011, 10:57AM
    Nicky, good for you for sticking by your stuff. The "rise" had nothing to do with the music and everything to do with your argument. If we're to listen to Texan (a small terrier type of dog with a baby boomer's grasp of the Internet), then you must be wracking up the pay here. What with all the advertisements attached to this article. OK, I stick by my initial criticism of this type of article (it's far easier to hate on something with blanket conclusions than it is to put together a compelling argument as to why an album or a movie or a politician is good or bad), but I sincerely retract, and apologize for, my over the top language. That was poor of me. As was your choice to include an emoticon in your response (seriously, are you 12?). Shit, I did it again. Keep doing your thing, us trolls will do ours, and lost souls like Texan will bleat from the hillside.
    Responses to this comment
  • Go to comment.
    Apr 29, 2011, 12:31PM
    I must admit untrammeledhack, you do the best Trump impersonation I've read. A fantastic combination of Lies, Insults, and Stupidity! Kudos
  • Go to comment.
    Oct 03, 2011, 09:24AM
    The sad fact is that drugs are synonymous with dubstep, but no more or less than any other popular EDM genre. People will get fucked up at almost any music event. Dubstep is popular in the same way that the Transformers movies are; because they exploit intense audio effects just like Michael Bay turned an 80's cartoon to HD robot porn. It is actually quite ignorant to say that it's music to get fucked up to; that is only one opinion as this article is yours and this comment is mine. I'm a little late in the whole dub scene, but as a seasoned rave veteran, I can respect its popularity and the fact that it had in many ways brought back the culture. I think the only real problem with it is the younger gen. that will treat it as a fad and label it lame. "Dude, you still like Dillinga?, he's old yo".
  • Go to comment.
    Oct 03, 2011, 02:43PM
    U Mad Bro?
  • Go to comment.
    Oct 04, 2011, 08:07PM
    Alright... first of all, I laugh at how pathetic your knowledge of dubstep is. The genre Dubstep is NOT about getting fucked up and going "mental" for the drop. You know nothing of how much effort and time goes into the tracks that dubstep producers make. Dubstep is now a world wide genre and is growing... yes te "Brostep" scence is manly about the "nasty" drops and hard beat, but if YOU KNEW ANYTHING AT ALL about music you would understand the artistic ability of these producers. Smash gordon called you out on facebook saying that he was in an article about how dubstep "sucks".... honestly we just laugh at how ill minded and immature your small brain is. I hope you take this personally because, you can burn in hell for all I care while I enjoy the wonderful sounds and beats of the Dubstep genre. Have a good one you fucked up child
  • Go to comment.
    Oct 05, 2011, 06:13AM
    Thank you commenters and Smash Gordon for keeping this article alive for nearly a year. I couldn't have done it without you. Brostep still sucks. Womp womp
  • Go to comment.
    Oct 05, 2011, 11:33PM
    Still Mad Bro?
  • Go to comment.
    Oct 12, 2011, 06:34AM
    this thread is AWESOME. i'm so late to this party.. is there any E left for me? i love all you people voicing your opinions about someone else's opinion and you're all like, "YOU SUCK, MY OPINION IS BETTER THAN YOUR OPINION, WHY DON'T YOU TAKE YOUR OPINION SOMEWHERE ELSE.. LIKE AN OPINION COLUMN ON A WEB MAGAZINE." and to the guy who said this article hurts dubstep, shut up. people who read an article titled "dubstep sucks" are reading it because they already think dubstep sucks. if i saw an article called "dubstep rules" i wouldn't read it, because dubstep sucks.
  • Go to comment.
    Feb 03, 2012, 05:10PM
    I don't think you have a fair assessment of dubstep here. Your assessment of the party scene that dubstep has spawned from is undeniably accurate. I am a dubstep enthusiast and I won't deny my casual use of drugs and alcohol. However, I leave that at the door when I walk into the venue for a show. I treat dubstep shows the same way I treat metal shows, hip-hop shows, and every other show I might find myself at. I am there to hear the music and enjoy it. Maybe dubstep doesn't have lyrics that deliver a profound and transcendental message, but that isn't the point of dubstep. Like all forms of electronic dance music, dubstep is about the beat itself. Every track is crafted around a general beat pattern and then a combination of syncopated rhythms and typically, though not exclusively, dark and "bassy" melodies are built on top. If you are looking for answers to lifes toughest questions then dubstep probably isn't for you. If you are however, looking for a bass oriented dance beat, or something with an oscillating fluidity about it, then dubstep is there for that. Hell it doesn't even stop there, many underground "electronic-esque" and "indie" bands have been influenced by earlier forms of dubstep such as garage, 2-step, downtempo, and trip-hop. To sum up, saying dubstep is vapid and lacking in depth is a poor argument because that isn't what it is supposed to be. It's like saying black metal sucks because you can't square dance to it. If you aren't into dancing or a good head bob here and there then it isn't for you. Just don't write it off because it happens to draw in a crowd of sex-crazed, party-starved, junkies. It's why I haven't written off indie music even though it draws in a similar crowd of pretentious, pompous, music snobs by the name of hipsters.
  • Go to comment.
    Jun 18, 2012, 12:58PM
    Finally! Thanks for the acknowledgement.
  • Go to comment.
    Sep 04, 2012, 08:43AM
    I agree that most dubstep sucks, but how about Burial, or Clubroot, or even some stuff by Mala? To me that's also dubstep, and it doesn't sound at all like most of the rest, some of their music is great. Maybe we should not put everything on the same bag.
  • Go to comment.
    Feb 26, 2013, 10:55AM
    Thanks for standing up for you're opinion so strongly. In today's culture the phrase "everyone is entitled to an opinion" actually means "no one is entitled to an opinion". Bravo for saying "I hate this shit, and here are my reasons". Notice that the dissenters have simply pointed out that they disagree without making any valid points as to why dubstep could be considered a valid art form. Maybe that's because it isn't.
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