I have listened to countless hours of Alesso, Afrojack and Avicii while in high school and college. I have heard Zedd, Kaskade and Hardwell play at parties, at bars and on the radio. I have danced my face off at Tiesto and Calvin Harris concerts, and loved every second of it. So when someone asks me if EDM is music or not, my response is quick and clear. No, EDM is not music.
It's not because EDM lacks musical fundamentals -- in fact, all EDM tracks have elements of pitch, melody, tempo, rhythm, dynamics and texture -- all as essential to music as adding and subtracting are to math. It's not because some EDM tracks have no vocals -- most classical music doesn't, either. It's not because you only need to hit one button to become a DJ -- I know a few people who DJ, and it requires an unbelievable amount of work and time. It's is not because all EDM sounds the exact same, even though DJs such as Avicii and Deadmau5 have questioned the longevity of a musical genre that "all sounds the same." Why, then, is EDM not music?
In my review of Kendrick Lamar's newest album, To Pimp a Butterfly, I defined music as something that "makes you think, feel and explore." While listening to his album, I felt angry, upset, pensive, regretful, uplifted -- emotions that are rarely felt, if at all, when I listen to EDM. Granted, it may be unfair to compare an entire genre to one album, but it is entirely reasonable to acknowledge the startlingly barren emotional landscape that is EDM. If anything, EDM, as a genre, is not music because it only has one thing to say and one emotion to convey -- happiness. Don't get me wrong, I love being happy -- and prefer it over being sad, frustrated or angry -- but music that seems to be content glossing over all other forms of emotion comes off as lazy and dishonest. If music is meant to be an embodiment of the human experience, about life's struggles and triumphs, EDM has failed miserably in portraying a multifaceted view, instead creating a caricature of what it means to be human.
Throughout my short life, I have experienced deep frustration, profound sadness and unbridled anger. I have cried for lost loved ones, and cursed myself for actions past and roads unexplored. We all have dark moments -- such is life. But as painful and as unpleasant as these moments are, they are always followed by happy ones: a night playing drinking games with friends, a concert that blows your mind, a date with the most beautiful girl in the world. True and profound happiness. We experience the whole gamut of human emotion during our time in this world, and depriving ourselves of those emotions -- whether in music or otherwise -- is robbing ourselves of what life is all about.