Oh put your bloody pitchforks and torches away. I’m not suggesting that Eurobeat should become more like Dubstep for the rest of its days (or even vice versa… though I doubt an experiment would go unappreciated). And no, I’m not out to taint your “old-school-only” mentalities by comparing Eurobeat to a genre that’s just now beginning to receive more mainstream attention… yet. (I’ll address this eletism later.)
No, what I’m proposing is that Eurobeat could stand to learn something from the recent successes Dubstep has found in US and Global mainstream success. A genre that has existed for quite a few years has only recently begun seizing the attentions of consumers with otherwise normal tastes, even bringing the ranks of “frat boys” and prima donnas who used to pick on/beat up geeks in high school for listening to “geek” music like Daft Punk. If this sounds oddly familiar, replace “US and Global” with Japan, and “otherwise normal tastes” with “house and techno”… and you’d that perhaps Mr. Skrillex and Mr. Dall’ora have tread common ground.
Dubstep, for those uninitiated, is a genre that evolved from UK Garage and involves heavy use of modulated basses and tension-building. If you’ve heard the names “Skrillex”, “Datsik”, “Excision” or even Britney Spears’ recent work, you’ve heard instances of this genre. Many who deride the genre (or even love it) will refer to it as “WOBWOBWOBWOBWOB” music, as the modulated basslines often make such a sound during what’s called “the drop”. The drop is the instrumental point in a dubstep song in which the bass— particularly in the instruments that constitute the groove— is strongest. The genre is particularly fantastic nightclub candy, and despite even my own criticisms of the genre it’s quite fun.
What characterizes a good “drop” in Dubstep is a collection of bass lines that modulate in creative ways. Anyone can have a bass that oscillates up and down on one note, but an artist who decides to explore a few other notes and modulation speeds is rewarded with more attention to that part of the song. A dubstep song with a disappointing “drop” is undeserving of its label as “Dubstep” to begin with. The club patrons have nothing to dance to, the song falls flat, and the mood is destroyed if the drop is wimpy.
Hmmm… an instrumental ‘solo’ section which is supposed to be the highlight of the song? That sounds awfully familiar to anyone who’s dabbled in a certain genre around these parts. See, in Eurobeat we call it the “riff”, and instead of bass we use synth brass. In both cases, however, that’s the part of the song people are going to enjoy most, and identify with that song. It’s hard for people to remember which combination of “burning”, “love”, “car”, “baby”, “fire”, “desire” or “tonight” made up the chorus THIS time for Eurobeat, but if a riff is well-done you don’t need to remember the words, you have the RIFF in your head and that’s what matters. Quick, hum the riff to “Space Boy” by Dave Rodgers in your head! Now hum Skrillex/Bare Noize/Foreign Beggars’ “Scatta” drop in your head! …okay, neither case is 100% earworm gold, but you remember that part of the song best of all. A powerful instrumental section is what makes or breaks either genre. Whatever your riff is, it MUST have the same kind of power that keeps people interested and willing to remember the song for next time. Be it WOBWOBWOBWOB or BRRRROWWW DAKKADAKKA DOWWW, if your listeners aren’t moved by it, you shouldn’t use it. A bad Eurobeat riff goes the same way a bad Dubstep drop does— the trash can.
“But Ken/Odyssey/EbB/Artist-of-too-many-names, American Top 40 is the big-Satan of Eurobeat influences! Anything that America even remotely likes has no business in Eurobeat! How dare you kill the genre by supposing the two genres should be anything alike at all whatsoever!”
I see someone didn’t put their pitchfork down, and it’s time I got to you. For those of you who think that Eurobeat should ONLY sound like its older-school self, or think that influences from American pop or dubstep or any genre that ISN’T Eurobeat are slowly dragging Eurobeat into the pits of despair… TO SUGGEST THIS IS TO SUGGEST THAT THE GENRE DIES FLAT. I’m usually extremely careful with my words so as not to offend, but… genres survive by adapting to the tastes of their audiences. Why do you think Rap has lived on for, what, 30+ years? Why do you think there are still rock bands around? They’re still here because they’ve adapted with other genres, for better or for worse. They experimented with new things, they leapt before they looked, they took the pulse of what sold and what mattered to the audience. And for their efforts, the genre in whole advanced forward. To suggest that Eurobeat should somehow be different simply because of your distaste in other genres is selfish at least and lethal at most. Why the hell should Eurobeat NOT try new things? One of the worst things a popular genre can be is “dated”, and by suggesting that Eurobeat producers (exhausted enough as they are) only write “more of the same”, you (yes, YOU, oh “true fan” who only listens to Eurobeat pre-SEB 160 or whatever) slap a pre-2000 date on the entire genre’s head like one would a “kick me” sign on the back of another kid’s back at recess.
Let’s face it. Eurobeat is NOT the popular genre of Japan anymore. (For that matter, neither is American Top 40— I hear that Korean Pop is spreading like wildfire in non-Korean territories.) After ruling the roost for 10+ years and surviving an additional 10 around those, consumers in the main demographic’s country gel more with the production tropes and ideals of other genres. Any producer who’s got a brain stem would do well to test the waters for new influences. And, no, not everything will work— simply plunking down a Dubstep drop in the middle of a Eurobeat song will NOT make it suddenly more palatable, nor would doing away with the riff of a Eurobeat song altogether. But genres like Pop, Rock, Rap and others are still flourishing BECAUSE they’ve changed with the ages.
Could you imagine how BORING Rock & Roll would be without The Beatles mixing in elements that were entirely un-Rock at the time? Allow me to apply the “nothing new ever” menatility to the Beatles here: “Strings and symphonies? Sitars? Backmasking? Trippy studio techniques? Why not just record happy little pop-rock ditties like everyone else? How DARE they RUIN the genre of Rock and Roll with their wholesale corruption from other sounds?” Do you see how stupid that sounds, after the Beatles unquestionably revolutionized Rock & Roll, if not music in whole? So how dare we suggest that Eurobeat should suffer a different fate. Eurobeat is a new and separate genre from Italo Disco because it evolved. It got faster, it added distorted guitars, it added tropes such as racing and silly rhymes (fire/desire/higher), it added elements of techno. It got stronger BECAUSE it explored new territory. If avex has this notion in its head that Eurobeat must be separate from other genres, it will doom its own compilation and deal the genre a massive blow.
It makes my very blood boil to see posts that suggest that the only “good” Eurobeat is old-school Eurobeat. Now, don’t get me wrong; I LOVE old-school Eurobeat. I was introduced to the style during Eurobeat 170s, and bought 175 as my first tangible Eurobeat album. Since then I’ve explored Eurobeat in both directions and love songs of every style in between. I listen to “Give Me Up” by Michael Fortunati as much as I do, say, “Yesterday” by Cherry or “Because of You” by Jager. And, yes, I agree— there are elements that made older Eurobeat and Italo Disco great, that even some modern Eurobeat lacks. On the same token, however, the genre will NOT survive by treading water precisely where it stands, as the sharks of irrelevance circle in tighter concentric circles. No, the genre must swim forwards, towards different waters. Independent producers such as The Paradise Last, Disko Warp, A-One, IOSYS, Akiba Koubou and so many more have risen to this challenge in recent years, combining both elements of years gone by and sounds yet to come, and I suggest to Avex and anyone who thinks Eurobeat’s “fine as is” to perk their ears up and hear what these groups are doing differently from their own works.
To any Eurobeat creative minds reading this, I challenge you to try something. You don’t have to release it to the world, but keep it in your pocket as an idea. I challenge you to create a Eurobeat song that is uncomfortable and unsafe. Add an element to it that makes someone cringe, that makes someone squirm in their seat. Make a political point, add dissonance, stop the song at a screeching halt to read something mid-way. Have the riff played by a kazoo and nothing else. In other words, BREAK THE GENRE. Eurobeat does not need to be this comfortable, easily-described genre that gives us an energy fix and that’s that.Eurobeat has only recently begun to explore truly expressive territory, and while I’m not saying every Eurobeat song from this point on has to be some deep expression, we need pioneers to find what else is possible (just as much as we need producers to decide which possibilities may be successfully marketable).
At the risk of unwarranted self-importance, I was fortunate to explore this in my own “Super Ponybeat” works, particularly in “Luna”, in which at the very end of the “Nightmare Mode” version I introduced death-metal to tie into the lyrics and mood of the Eurobeat section prior. And fans were extremely divided— some LOVED the touch, others HATED it (which prompted the release of a “Dream Mode” version). These two sides debated and posted their opinions and defenses on either side…
…and it sparked interest and debate in what Eurobeat can and can’t do, what it should/shouldn’t do. I wasn’t the first or the best to introduce metal into Eurobeat (arguably these belong to Dave Rodgers, Laurent Newfield with Dark Angels, and Magic Hammer), but I did so in an unconventional way and it worked.
All this to say, Eurobeat will live a long and happy life if it expands and tries new things. People actually ARE interested (particularly in the United States— there IS a market and I’m actually managing to pay for things with it, Avex!) in Eurobeat even now, and there is neither a more ideal nor necessary time to expand the things of which Eurobeat is capable… than now. It doesn’t have to try to be like everything else (shoot, some of the most interesting Eurobeat might not sound like ANYTHING else!), but it truly does have to try SOMETHING different.
…maybe it SHOULD mix in some Dubstep. Wobwobwob.