Right now, the big name in the music industry is Skrillex. If you never heard of Skrillex prior to his three Grammy wins, you probably do now. His name is stamped all over albums, everywhere, and it seems like every major label is trying to get him to collaborate with them and their artists. Recently, I was listening to the new Korn album and you guessed it Skrillex with the signature "drop" was featured. I may be a bit of a pessimist here, but I am not really convinced that dubstep is going to be around forever. It will be around forever in the sense of the recording on a physical CD, and forever meaning until all copies are worn out, burnt and nuked. But can we claim that dubstep is a style that will be called a classic 10 - 25 years from now (like Nirvana), or will it go by the wayside like so many other fads? My guess would be it is going to fall by the wayside.
Now, before every Skrillex die hard fan sends me a million hate e-mails with the thousands of reasons why Skrillex will never go away, know that I am actually a Skrillex fan. I believe he was able to take a style birthed in the underground, and bring it to the main stream surface. He is an innovator and decent musician. I get all of the arguments validating SKrillex's style, but it doesn't mean that dubstep will be listed in the history books as a style that transformed the music industry. Dubstep is really just a hybrid of break beat, mixed with drum and bass, converted to 2 step and sprinkled with garage dub. In other words....a hybrid of styles that already exist.
The argument could be that all styles are a hybrid of something, and they all fade. Yes, that would be true all styles see a rise and then decline. I am not really talking about rise and declines, but more like classic styles and longevity. When I think about classic albums and longevity my mind never goes back to the 80's new wave music scene. Yes, there were many great songs back then, but to say they are "classic" would be a pretty big stretch. You can write a great song, with a great hook and have great air play on the radio, but does it make it a classic? No.
When I think about a classic album that defined a generation, U2's The Joshua Tree tops the list. Released in 1987, Joshua Tree continues to garner praise by musicians, producers and engineers worldwide. The album has sold a total of 25 million copies worldwide. The Joshua Tree is one example of an album, and style, that continues, to this day, to be timeless. In my class at Houghton College, I played a video about the making of The Joshua Tree. It was the first time that many of my students were introduced to U2, and this great album. After the class, I received many e-mails from students who went out and purchased the album. They thanked me for introducing them to great music and said they couldn't believe they never heard the album before.
When we look 25 years up the road from today, will dubstep, Skrillex, Mr. Worldwide or any other popular music or artist today be as endearing as U2 or Nirvana? How about The Rolling Stones or Led Zepplin? When we talk about classic music 25 years from now, what artists will come to mind? I believe it will be artists like Adele, Lana Del Ray, Green Day Foo Fighters, Coldplay, Radiohead, Muse, etc. Why do I believe this? I believe this because any music that is classic, or listed as being great, have a couple of things in common. The first, is that classic music speaks to and defines a generation. Second, is that timeless music, is music that has a message with real emotion and connects with the soul. When I listen to dubstep, while it is aggressive, has a bit of message and good beat, it lacks in emotional connection, speaking to a generation and connecting with the soul.
Music style trends will rise and fall, but great music that connects on multiple, emotional levels will always surface from the most unexpected places. Autotune, big reverb drums, flannel, teased hair, leg warmers, leisure suits and disco balls will come and go, but music that touches our souls will last forever. Let's redefine and make timeless music.
Kevin "Danger" Jackson is a New York-based producer, engineer, composer, performer, educator and Berklee College of Music alumnus. He writes, produces and engineers music for a wide range of artists in the pop, hip-hop, rock, R&B, classical and electronic genres. His work can be heard daily on a multitude of albums, radio and television stations worldwide.