House Music: How It Sneaked Its Way Into Mainstream Pop
On a July night, the ground at New York's always-crowded, never-clean Webster Hall was quite literally shaking under the bass pouring out of the DJ's booth and its surrounding speakers.
Feel-good house bangers like Swedish House Mafia's "Save the World" and infectious jingles like Afrojack's "Take Over Control" thumped through the space. The crowd, which ranged from Williamsburg hipsters with glow sticks to over-tanned men in tank tops, obligingly rode the highs and lows, fist pumping their way through the night. There was, as anyone who has attended an electronic music show can attest, a certain harmony that isn't found at concerts of many other genres.
Then suddenly, but somehow not surprisingly at all, everyone was dancing to Britney Spears.
The DJ played two of Spears' hits, "Till the World Ends" (which features both lyrics and vocal hiccups that are almost uncomfortably similar to "Save the World") and "Hold It Against Me." The latter even has a dubstep breakdown (where the pop synth drops out in favor of "fatter," messier and more wobbly -- "dubby" -- bass hits). The crowd's behavior didn't change at all, and it was definitely not an ironic choice on the DJ's behalf.
Though many in America seem to eye house music fans with a wary eye -- as though they must all be closeted hardcore ravers who spend their weekends in fur-covered boots, sucking on pacifiers and popping pill after pill of god-knows-what -- house music, which was born in Detroit and Chicago, is American again. Better put, American music -- be it the sugar pop of Ms. Spears or the hip hop of Kanye and Jay-Z -- has been indelibly taken over by the hard-hitting electro style that has dominated the European dance scene for years.
Of course, like most trends that bubble up to the sightline of major label A&R, this isn't new. American house festivals such as the Electric Daisy Carnival series, Monster Massive, Together As One and the unmatchable Winter Music Conference regularly draw crowds of more than 100,000 would-be clubgoers. Every club in Vegas (or at least every club in Vegas with a line outside of it) plays house music, flying in DJs from Armin Van Buuren to Steve Angello to Calvin Harris to Kaskade to... the list goes on.
But until now, house music has been the music of the party, of the "let's have a night to remember but not talk about it with our coworkers" scene. Suddenly, house is everywhere. It's on the radio, it's at the pool party, it's at small, downtown bars and clubs. It's even causing "riots" in Hollywood.
Through a series of interviews with top producers and DJs and reviews of live house shows in the New York area, The Huffington Post set about discovering how music that started in our very own Detroit before monopolizing Europe's party scene careened back to the States so quickly. A smattering of late-late nights and phone calls later, this is what we found.