Dubstep people should have started getting worried when Britney Spears adopted that terrible British accent. There’s a new trans-Atlantic triangular trade going down. UK-cultural stockpiles are being slavishly appropriated by American producers to ferment sugary,cross-genre electropop.
Dubstep, now thoroughly market-researched and sufficiently MTV- buzzified, has had its recipe deciphered (what a brain-burner that must have been) and bottled into high-proof, mainstream swill with a diluted ‘exotic’ musical appeal for the consumption of the masses. The meteoritic populariy of Spear’s “Hold it Against Me” has had various factions of the dubstep blogosphere in a sine wave wah-bbling uproar, but this isn’t the first time a UK-borne musical influence has passed through the Britney triangle:
Remember when early 2000′s hip-hop and radio-pop couldn’t get enough of middle-eastern string samples and Indian Bhangra beats? History-wise, all that ethnic flair came from a large influx of immigrants from the Punjab region of India to the UK in the 70s and 80s. That began a frothing hybridization of musics as folkloric Bhangra music fused with pop, rock, and other genres.
Then Punjabi MC’s “Mundian To Bach Ke” (Beware of the Boys) happened.
Mixed with sampled elements from the 80′s Knight Rider TV theme, it was an international cross-over success. Suddenly, there was a Jay-Z remix of the song, and the early 2000′s saw a dramatic rise in the popularization of eastern-tinged pop, driven by the likes of the infamously decadent Miami producer Scott Storch, responsible for Beyonce’s “Naughty Girl” and 50 Cent’s “Candy Shop.”
So what did Britney’s people do in 2004? They went to their Frankenstein-esque studio labs, stitched these emerging sounds together, and “Toxic” the pop monster was born. Snake-charming it’s way up the charts with impatient, breathless eastern strings and undulating under lustful, echoing surf guitars, it shot out of Spear’s money-spewing vagina and made its way back across the Atlantic to become a UK top 40 smash-hit.
Is it such a surprise that it happened to dubstep? After spawning in dark sputtering subs and the minds of teeth-gnashing breakbeat tweak freeks in the earliest parts of 2000 as the UK grime and garage scenes, dubstep came into pop UK consciousness via Radio One’s Dj Mary Anne Hobbes. Since then, dubstep’s cortex-mushing, primeval appeal has wibble-wobbled throughout the darkened alleyways of the musical landscape, garnering a fanatical fanbase in the U.S. Though Spears dabbled with dubstep in her 2007 song “Freakshow,” “Hold it Against Me” and it’s 2-minutes-in dubstep breakdown couldn’t have arrived at a more culturally lucrative time. With announcements that highly-accessible dubstep darling Rusko is slated to work on Spear’s new album, the Brit-angular cycle of sub-culture appropriation is complete.
For the rest of us non-basshead, dubstep-convulsing peoples, this bit of news may come as some relief.
Don’t hold it against me, but I hear tales that anything that enters the Britney triangle is fated never, ever to return.
A good dubstep eulogy is in order then, but not all hope is lost. Innovative artists like Balam Acab and his brand of lo-fi/dub/drone-hop and other participants in the recent upswing of interest in witch house represent a Night-of-the-Living Dead scenario for the genre - back from the grave, and this time, hungry for BRAINS, not bros.
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