The A Game: Tropical house and future bass represent EDM’s malleability
Until recently, I had considered myself a musical purist. I used to create separate Spotify playlists for different genres I wanted to listen to, depending on my mood. One for pop: Taylor Swift, Dua Lipa, Ed Sheeran, Niall Horan, Ariana Grande. One for electronic music: Porter Robinson, Gryffin, Snails, Zomboy, Jai Wolf (granted, there’s a wide range here).
The point is, I had always viewed music as being parsed and segmented by genres, each with its own unique, distinctive sound. But as I scrolled through my “dreams” Spotify playlist for inspiration to write this week’s column, I realized that this preconceived notion was no longer the case.
The music industry has evolved over the past couple of years, not only in consumer patterns, but also in the content itself. Streaming is now the backbone of the music industry, with Spotify monopolizing the entire market. Music events like the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, which began as a fringe gathering for rock and alternative fans, have become cultural hallmarks, bringing artists across the spectrum and attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
In the same vein, electronic dance music has permeated through the sphere of pop music, gradually propelling itself into the mainstream and redefining its own cultural boundaries through the commercialization of two particular subgenres: tropical house and future bass. EDM-influenced sounds are omnipresent — and whether people like it or not, it’s a visible indicator of pop music’s evolution, as well as EDM’s emergence from the subcultural realm.
Tropical house — a brighter, smoother offshoot of deep house — has taken pop by storm in the past two to three years, thanks to producers and DJs like Kygo and Robin Schultz. On one end, Kygo, hailed as tropical house’s ultimate pioneer, pushed the subgenre into pop music through collaborations with artists such as Ellie Goulding (“First Time”) and Marvin Gaye (“Sexual Healing” remix). Conversely, pop artists also played a major role in its rise, specifically Justin Bieber, who formally introduced it to Top 40 listeners with “Sorry” and “What Do You Mean?” in his 2015 album Purpose.
The past three years have been big for tropical house. Charlie Puth and Selena Gomez’s chart-topping single “We Don’t Talk Anymore,” Disclosure and Lorde’s “Magnets” and Zedd and Liam Payne’s “Get Low” are all just a few examples of how tropical house has thrust itself into pop radio and blurred the lines of musical categorization.
Similarly, future bass has risen as one of the most prominent examples of EDM fusing into other main genres. Unlike tropical house, however, future bass is much broader sonically, featuring a wide range of sounds woven together by a strong bassline and synthesizers. According to Rolling Stone, it “drops like dubstep” and “pulses like pop” — a much more nuanced, romantic musical fusion between pop and electronic.
Flume himself has delivered future bass to the masses with original records like “Never Be Like You” and the remix of U.K. garage duo Disclosure’s “You and Me.” One of the most popular examples of original future bass, however, is The Chainsmokers’ 2016 summer anthem “Closer,” co-written with Freddy Kennett of Louis the Child and performed with Halsey. And in the past year, pop and electronic music fans have witnessed the marriage between these two genres with the meteoric rise of artists like Martin Garrix, ODESZA, San Holo and Marshmello — who have all employed the same methodologies used in promoting tropical house to bring future bass into the forefront of our consumption.
Tropical house and future bass are two EDM subgenres changing the landscape of today’s pop music, and at this point, I don’t think there’s anything stopping them from taking over the mainstream. With young and up-and-coming artists like Whethan, Louis the Child and plenty of others starting their careers with future bass jams, it’s almost inevitable that music listeners will not have the same perceptions of EDM as they did throughout its history.
It’s been fascinating to witness the intermingling of these two worlds, which I initially thought were completely separate. But as it turns out, electronic dance music is no longer just for the rave kids — it’s a malleable genre that has proven its capacity to conquer pop music and culture in its current renaissance.
Allen Pham is a junior majoring in public relations. He is also the associate managing editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “The A Game,” runs every other Monday.