01/07/2011 03:48 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Music for Ecstasy's Sake

There's nostalgia and truth in the words Eminem rattles off bluntly. "Nowadays these kids don't give a shit about lyrics. All they want to hear is the beat and that's it, as long as they can go to the club and get blitzed." I've never considered Eminem the type to shy away from controversy, so it makes sense that he touches on the chemically-dictated music scene that has swallowed my generation whole.

I wasn't around the club circuit for the Ecstasy fad of the '90s, but from working more than a year in the New York City nightlife business, I can vouch for the fact that it has resurged. It has resurged so strongly and so casually that it's not even newsworthy at this point. For those of you who may not be in the middle of a dance floor on a Friday night or scalping tickets outside of a Phish show, the Ecstasy culture in New York (or in Boston, L.A. -- anywhere really) is alive and well and full of E-popping club kids rolling their faces off to any dumb-ass fondling a Serato. I would even argue with Eminem that it's not even about a hot beat and a catchy hook, just about a beat and a hook (to keep the rollers steady, no doubt). For the budding generations of concert-goers, it's about the drugs.

Maybe I'm a newbie to the electronic music game, or just a shocked older (I'm 23) observer, but I have never seen a fad like this trump music for music's sake. Dilated pupils and binkys in the dance tent at Coachella is to be expected, but seeing the same faces at the same clubs on a Friday night, and again on a Saturday night, and again on a Sunday night no matter which DJ is in the booth seems a little excessive, don't you think?

I'm not a doctor so I'm not going to rant about what's good and bad or true or false about the use of Ecstasy. To me, the health concern isn't even the most unfortunate part of the whole ordeal. What pains me most is the depreciation of music, to the point where concerts are only relevant if drugs are as well. Is it a show where people will be rolling? If not, then why bother?

At the forefront of the fad stands a trio of DJs who have swept up even those who aren't fans of house music. If you haven't heard of Swedish House Mafia you aren't living under a rock, you're living under the modern-day definition of what it means to be a "rock star." Unlike the grungy, bad-ass rockers of the 70s, 80s, 90s, and arguably the beginning of the millennium, the DJs at the head of this music era are the icons. To give an example, Swedish House Mafia sold out all Early Bird tickets (approximately 700) for their March 26th "Masquerade Motel" show in just 22 minutes. They sell out every show they play, in every state and on every continent.

I'm not one to completely dismiss what Eminem says all the kids want -- "a hot beat and a catchy hook." Both are valuable assets to good music, especially dance music or commercial pop. These boys have commercial appeal, produce tracks they know their fans will eat up and do a pretty solid job in the studio. But when you're sober at a show, listening to tracks repeated two, sometimes three times in a set, you start to wonder where the musical draw stops and the attraction to the drug scene begins. Is there anyone in the crowd who realizes this is just a lazy, predictable, pre-made playlist that could have been put together by switching around the order of the songs on their album? Is anyone in the crowd present for the show's face value, or is everyone here for rolling face value?

Eminem ft. Dr. Dre, Jay Z, 50 Cent - "Syllables"

Subscribe to the Entertainment email.
Home to your favorite fan theories and the best movie recs.