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Green Day's '¡Uno!' & Rock's Cranky Response To EDM

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Billie Joe Armstrong breaking his guitar during a meltdown at the iHeartRadio Festival.
Billie Joe Armstrong breaking his guitar during a meltdown at the iHeartRadio Festival.

Green Day's new album ¡Uno! arrives in U.S. stores on Tuesday shrouded in the distressing news that frontman Billie Joe Armstrong is headed off to rehab.

Armstrong went on an extended, profanity-laced tirade at the iHeartRadio Festival in Las Vegas over the weekend, lashing out at concert organizers who shortened his set. Among his gems: "I'm not f---ing Justin Bieber, you motherf---ers."

But the on-stage rant, which ended with an awkward attempt to smash his guitar, was hardly the first of Green Day's statements. In fact, ¡Uno! itself comes packed with a message or two, though fans of the band's storied history of eviscerating America's political realties will be disappointed.

Instead, listeners are treated to "Kill the DJ." Despite its ominous title, any number of meanings can be projected on its pithy verses and repetitive chorus. Armstrong himself told Rolling Stone that the "DJ" is a stand-in for "static and noise," and the track has a four-on-the-floor beat. The singer said it's Green Day "trying to figure out how to make dance music without turning into a dance band."

But the fact remains that the song's lyrics include the line "shoot the f--king DJ," and the corresponding video mocks ravers. There's also a predictable slight at dance music's mainstream association with MDMA and ecstasy: "Walkin' after dark / In the New York City park / I'll pick up what's left in the club / My pocket full of pills." Obvious irony alert: Man mocks others for using drugs, checks into rehab shortly thereafter.

The shots fired -- at DJs ostensibly playing music for the masses to dance to -- are not particularly inventive (Morissey did it first, on The Smiths' "Panic," which featured the refrain "hang the DJ," and the "F--k Disco" movement peaked decades ago). What is surprising, however, is that Green Day -- once actually a punk band operating on the exciting edges of popular rock and roll -- chose to disregard its own 24-year heritage and instead snipe at what the new kids are doing.

So did Dave Grohl, the Foo Fighters' frontman who decided that accepting a Grammy was a great time to mock a massively popular umbrella genre of music. "It's not about what goes on in a computer," Grohl said. "It's about what goes on in here [your heart] and what goes on in here [your head]."

Grohl later qualified his remarks (maybe he'd like to say they were "not elegantly stated") by saying that he loved "all music," including that of dubstep phenomenon Skrillex.

Reactions from the Electronic Dance Music corner of the ring are mixed. "I think the handful of rock bands that are kvetching about DJs is to be expected and it's not even worth getting upset about," Alain "A-Trak" Macklovitch told HuffPost Entertainment in an email. Macklovitch, who co-owns Fools Gold Records and tours internationally as one of the hottest DJs of the moment, doesn't seem too concerned. "Maybe this is a bit new in America, because electronic music was never really mainstream here," he continued. "But if you look at the U.K. for example, every couple years music goes from being dominated by bands to dance music an back again. It's just cycles."

"And really, a lot of what people call EDM is cheesy, and if I was in a rock band I'd complain about it too," he concluded.

But Tommie Sunshine, a veteran producer, wasn't in a mood to play so nice. In an email to HuffPost Entertainment, Sunshine accused grumbling rockstars of selective memory: "Does everyone forget that The Who, The Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, Queen, KISS, Paul McCartney, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, The Clash, Blondie, The Eagles, Elton John, Chicago & Roxy Music were all proper ROCK bands in the '70s who made proper DISCO tracks that were massive hits?"

"Then there's Muse and their song 'The 2nd Law: Unsustainable,' that they say was inspired by seeing Skrillex live," Sunshine wrote. "This not only makes Muse look ridiculous but it shows us that if a rock band is trying to appeal to a younger audience they have to tap into the EDM pipeline as that is where kids' ears are. Also No Doubt brought in Major Lazer to produce their 'Push and Shove.' No disrespect to Major Lazer, [but] Gwen Stefani sounds exactly like a forty-something soccer mom trying to be 'gangsta.'"

It's interesting to see Sunshine take a shot at a band openly and honestly crediting Skrillex, an artist commonly referred to as an "EDM" act, but it's also easy to see where the frustration stems from. The response of rock (and rap) artists to the Stateside growth of dance music seems to veer between disgust and desperation to snatch a part of the movement. The term itself -- "EDM" -- has long been cited as part of the problem (as A-Trak noted above).

"People keep confusing exactly what EDM is," Sunshine wrote. "EDM is not Ellie Goulding; she is a pop singer. EDM is not Psy because 'Gangnam Style' is K-Pop and Asia has been using dance sounds in a pop format for a decade now. Europe has been using them for twenty years. EDM is not The Wanted, yet they have a song that is modeled after club tracks but is more CDM (contemporary dance music) than it is EDM. EDM is also not Pretty Lights. Pretty Lights is, again, the dance music sound set but made palatable and super white for moms and girlfriends. He is essentially the opposite of dangerous music and I'd say more 'Lady Antebellum' than he is 'Rock n' Roll.'"

Clearly, the rock-EDM beef is mirrored within the dance-music community itself, in a manner not unlike the "real rap" battle that plagues Drake and Nicki Minaj. But when it comes down to rock and electronic dance music, it's important to remember that Grohl and Armstrong aren't really old enough to justify such "get off my lawn" antics (if one ever is old enough). These are men who once made music that was new, fresh and challenging to listeners -- it was grunge and punk and not what the musicians who came before them did. To descend so soon into a defensive crouch can only tarnish their gleaming legacies.

So who's winning this round? Grohl performed with deadmau5 minutes after his mini-rant at the Grammys. And Armstrong -- whose reps went out of their way to make it clear that rehab wouldn't conflict with his reality-show duties -- was cut off at the iHeartRadio concert because organizers wanted to give more time to Usher, who performed with Steve Angello, Axwell and Sebastian Ingrosso, a trio of DJs known as Swedish House Mafia.

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CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified The Smiths' song as "Panic Room."

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