During a recent car ride I engaged in the cultural experience that is listening to the entire Skrillex set from ULTRA 2012.
I’ve learned that it’s not polite to request a song-change when you’re not driving and have yet to contribute gas money; also my friend driving needed to listen to something upbeat to stay awake, so I kept my mouth shut. It was an opportunity to participate in a cultural experience that a large portion of my generation seems to subscribe to — at least that’s how I reconciled my life for that next hour and change.
But as the set started with some yelling, I had to admit to the rest of the car that I had never really listened to Skrillex for more than a song or two, even though I hate on him and his fans on a semi-regular basis on multiple social media platforms. I have developed a hatred toward Skrillex because the outlets around me have already decided that he is the definition of uncool.
Prior to the car ride, I knew him from one interview – a YouTube video in which he freaks out at a fan – and, of course, as a punching bag for internet comedians and indie music blogs.
To the car, who seemed to be enjoying the first few songs, I noted that Skrillex is probably the artist one would show to someone who was first getting into contemporary mainstream dubstep. Contrary to their reactions, this wasn’t a knock at mainstream culture or even Skrillex. I wrote about Carly Rae Jepsen –– I’m up on the post-mainstream movement. What I was getting at was the way Skrillex has positioned himself as the face of electronic dance music for a lot of people who aren’t interested in researching more about the genre.
I described his Facebook post in which his fans reacted negatively to his “fav song of all time,” “Film” by Aphex Twin. “Where’s the drop?” they asked, most having no idea about the iconic nineties artist who all but pioneered modern electronic music.
But is it fair to dislike an artist because of his fans? Surely, I’ve got to give Skrillex some credit for being an Aphex Twin fan. But then again, how much credit do I need to take away for being the lead singer of the an emo-core band called From First to Last? Which really brings me to the most interesting point about Skrillex. His post-punk roots are still so heavily ingrained in his appearance and musical composition, and yet he is making music for the same bros that bullied him in high school. Though he is the face and purveyor of the bro-step genre, he has more in common with members of Silverstein than anyone who opens for him.
Back in the car, his set was loud and violent, often reaching a crescendo (better known as a drop today) that seemed to last for minutes. My friend explained that Skrillex was particularly good at hitting the drop at the right time, and although I appreciate good timing as much as the next guy, my ears were beginning to bleed (and not in a good way).
When “Bangarang” came on, we all agreed that it was his catchiest song, though I noted it was the only one that didn’t feature as many overdone build-ups, instead focused on using synths to create an actual melody that followed some sort of pattern for a prolonged period of time. All was great until at a softer (relatively speaking) point in the song, Skrillex yells “BANGARANG” which shattered any hope of me becoming a fan. There’s nothing like an artist yelling the title and only words of one of his most famous songs during the song that really sets me off.
Although I had the sound of Skrillex in my ears for another three hours after the car ride, I felt as if I had delved into a culture that I had yet to explore. For a period, I was open to new ideas, putting past judgments and snobberies aside, ready to learn what so many of my peers and high school-aged ravers I guess already know: Skrillex is loud and pretty annoying. It’s easy to hate on something, but it’s hard to hate on something and then give it a chance only to realize you were right to hate it in the first place.