Pop stars incorporating electronic music, losing persona

I first heard “Hey Baby Baby” with T-Pain on the chorus at a party near campus last semester. If you’re between the ages of 14 and 30 or enjoy pop music, you’ve probably heard the song, too.

It might be “old” in most pop listeners’ ears, but it’s still catchy. It’s a senseless yet danceable electronic pop song to which T-Pain adds pretty much what you’d expect from the autotune hook master.

It wasn’t until recently, however, that I found out the song is by Miami-based rapper Pitbull.

Call me old, late, out of touch or dumb for not knowing that already, but I couldn’t believe it.

The same guy who mixed reggaeton and rap on Latino-influenced songs such as “Culo” and “I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)” is now doing electronic songs?

The rapper who once boldly blended Latin rhythms and Spanish lyrics with hip-hop/pop tracks is now the cheap ripoff of David Guetta, who I’ve been relentlessly hearing for the last few months? Disappointing.

Pitbull is yet another example of the relatively recent trend of otherwise fading pop stars jumping on the electronic and house music bandwagon.

Hip-hop leaning beats and rhymes are being traded in for gleamy synths and persistent, pounding techno drum kits.

The most successful instance of this phenomenon has undoubtedly been Britney Spears’ triumphant return to popularity.

A few years ago, playing a Britney Spears song like “…Baby One More Time” would have been done only as a joke or for the sake of ’90s nostalgia.

Now, it’s common to hear the singer’s new songs blaring out of houses and apartments on weekend nights around here, but in complete seriousness.

Spears’ new album Femme Fatale came out this week. I didn’t listen to it, but I already know what’s on it: electronic pop. The formula is simple, since it only requires four-on-the-floor house drum beats that make people want to dance.

The lyrics and singing don’t really matter, just the pounding, effected kick drum and layers upon layers of synthesizers.

Other pop sensations, such as Lady Gaga and the Black Eyed Peas, started out by experimenting with electro, but these other artists seem to just be cashing in on the current trend.

Because I live in Southern California and am surrounded by techno purists who can’t stop talking about Hard, EDC, Danceism or any other rave, I am constantly bombarded with complaints about how pop stars are ruining the genre.

I can’t help but agree, as bandwagon-jumping pop stars sound like lackluster imitations of songs from genuine house or techno artists.

The dubstep breakdown on Spears’ “Hold It Against Me” is laughable compared to older, more original and authentic dubstep tracks, but it demonstrates just how big a role electronic music plays in pop these days.

Even Usher seems to have reinvented himself as an electro-pop star. He went from singing straightforward R&B songs, such as the Jermaine Dupri-assisted “Burn,” to electro-club songs such as the autotune-assisted “OMG.”

I remember when the singer was dubbed “The King of R&B.” Now he sounds more like the Jester of Techno.

Eminem once infamously insulted Moby by saying It’s over / Nobody listens to techno on his song “Without Me.”

Ten years later, techno seems to be the only thing you can catch anyone listening to.

Now even pop stars like Britney Spears, who were attacked in Eminem songs years ago, are making electronic and house songs.

Sounds like Em’s worst nightmare. Mine too.


Will Hagle is a sophomore majoring in narrative studies. His column, “Feedback,” runs Wednesdays.



2 replies
  1. Old School Funk High Energy Freestyle
    Old School Funk High Energy Freestyle says:

    Electro is in. It’s a rehash of the 80s; everything is recycled, reincarnated, etc. The synthesizer sounds and the talk box a la T-pain, Roger Troutman/Zapp are back. I love it.

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