Is It Right to Hate Skrillex and His New Video for "Bangarang?" The Answer Is Yes
Hate is the strongest word. Using it to describe emotions you have for someone and their entire existence is really quite ridiculous. This is especially true if you have never met the person and are making value judgements based on their artistic endeavors.
With that being said, I hate Skrillex. For the sake of those quick to point out hypocrisy, please hear me out. The juvenile nomenclature, reminiscent of an early '90s AOL user name or online gaming handle, will be used here to denote the American dubstep music project of Sonny John Moore. I do not hate Sonny. I have not had the chance to interact with him in a capacity to feel strong disdain for him. I just hate his music project Skrillex and everything it represents. If this makes you mad, please continue reading.
A recent upward swing and subsequent exploitation of electronic dance music has injected the new wave sound into every vein of popular culture. It is undeniable (or inescapable), with blockbuster movie trailers, celebrity endorsements, and traditional festival lineups being the overt indicators that the genre is back with a vengeance. While the temperamental U.S. musical climate of the last decade was busy with radio friendly hip-hop and cookie cutter pop rock, young American producers took advantage of an ebbing tide in electronica to perform listening research on which new sub-genres from Europe they could ripoff next. As a result, the birth of a bastardized American version of dubstep has taken place.
For those not familiar with dubstep, the idea behind the genre involves stripping the established lineage of drum and bass ingredients, deepening the bass, reverberating the drums, adding in stuttered sample effects and then grinding it into distorted highs and dark lows. The subtle version of this style found its genesis in South London during the late '90s, mostly as an experimental manipulation of dub into orthodox 2-step electronic beats. Other than the clout that comes with doing it first, the Londoners did it smoother, more intelligently, and without reliance on points for formulaic drops. Americans that jacked this style laced it with modern cultural flaws that aim for instant gratification and the simplicities of familiar recollection. Although not the first, Skrillex is a quintessential repeat offender and the face of the biggest hi-jacking of European music by a hack since Vanilla Ice put out "Ice, Ice Baby."
Armed with new media marketing and the predictable auditory phenomenon of reinvention, every time Skrillex craps out a song or releases a video, the social media swirl becomes congested with mirror posts and long strings of arbitrary commentary. Any sub-par artist that gains notoriety via controversial appeal and youth-infused hype will naturally become a topic of heated debate between the fanatical and the critical. The noteworthy difference here is that Skrillex might be the first entity that is actually deserving of the masses that would fall into the haters category.
Why does this matter? For me, it's because I have to unfriend people for posting this slop. I choose my friends strictly by what music they choose to listen to. Okay, that is not entirely true, but the lingering truth in this exaggeration is that I instinctively question the sonic processing capacity of my peers that choose to endorse this fad in the public forum. This so-called artistic representation poses an even bigger question about the state of music in the meta-game sense.
Going back to figurative hi-jacking, last week the aforementioned flood of Skrillex digital content hit the web when a new video for the track "Bangerang" dropped on YouTube. If you have seen the early '90s Peter Pan themed movie Hook, this song title just made you chuckle, but the nod to the Lost Boy's slang for something positive is only the beginning of the ironic symbolism. Giving him the benefit of the doubt and hoping that an overtly undeserved label budget from Warner Music Group would at least provide a decent music video, made me curiously watch.
I will not even go into a critique of the actual song itself. It is not a new track, and any reasonably sane music critic with ears can point out the countless inadequacies. The only thing noteworthy is that it sounds like a forced attempt at replicating the same abominable music style, but with a temperate, less hostile radio friendly appeal in mind. Not that I think this track will ever hit the airwaves, so in that context, the description might not work. The video itself is the topic of intrigue anyway.
The rising action segment follows a posse of pre-pubescent, overly dressed hipster/raver kids as they perform an Oliver Twist-esque heist on an ice cream truck driver. The loot scooping mission ends with an escape punctuated by smashing the portly ice cream man's hand with the door of the truck. Weapons of choice included a sling shot and exploding cherry bombs. I wonder if Dustin Hoffman and Robin Williams' kids listen to Skrillex? I digress.
Hitting an expedited climax, much like the accompanying soundtrack, the dramatic cliches kick in and fulfilled foreshadowing of a continued life of crime places the characters in a high stakes armored truck robbery. Now the characters are adults with armed with a bazooka and pistols. Although the concept is just above being awful, and the cheesed out cinematography looks like it was filmed by a 14-year From First To Last fan club member, I continued to watch.
The felonious behavior is justified in the end when one of the briefcases stolen from the armored truck is given to the ice cream truck driver. Oh, I get it, a misuse of poetic justice -- very clever.
As a youth, Sonny tried to rob the integrity of music by appealing to juvenile angst in a below average pop-emo band. That was a small stakes gig, entirely played out by then, and offered little in the way of rock star payouts. As a young adult, he steped up his game, went for a bigger score and robed European musical innovation via American dubstep. As Skrillex, he wants that proverbial ice cream, and has no problem with the resulting collateral damage. Wu-tang must have told him as a child to "get the money."
As a side note, when the ice cream man waves to the marauder he has a hook in place of his previously shattered hand! If you're even more observant, you will notice in the beginning of the video that the driver has a crocodile tattoo on his hand. The repeating "shout to all my Lost Boys" vocal sample bleeds through the audio-visual hints and leaves no room for deeper thought. That part seems fitting as well.
Unfortunately the real life analogies of the video stop there. The cliff hanger, in the literary sense, is a question. What will the Skrillex project do to make up for turning a subsection of the current generation's youth into tasteless, instant gratification addicted morons that are perfectly okay with what slop passes for music these days? That seems harsh, and I recognize that, but according to this so-called music, being abrasive translates well to the youth these days.
It's not just the kids. If the Grammy Awards are any metric for music, I think they function more like the US government than music critics. They are reasonably representative of public opinion, but that doesn't necessarily make them right. His three Grammy awards are inconsequential along the historical timeline because this music isn't timeless. It isn't even worthy of attaching nostalgia to like '90s alt rock or even disco once did. It is just bad, and we don't need time to pass to figure that out.
Maybe Skrillex is the cultural manifestation of the gloomiest Peter Pan ever, but I see the genesis of this music more as a lost boy that came from the Neverland that is Hollywood and has no regard for the music world at large.
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