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What Is YOUR Definition of Dance Music???

NAJM Dance Culture Does anyone really have a good definition of dance music? Outside of Webster’s what do you think it means? Strong beats, great chord progression, discernible vocals, a catchy hook? What really makes up what we call dance music?

The truth is there is no clear definition. We create them as we go along. Web sites everywhere are running definitions for house, trance, jungle, acid, hip-hop, handbag house, disco, and I’ve even heard “Barn House” (thanks, Greg).

What prompted this little rant was a recent email from one of our visitors regarding our Top 100 Dance Tracks of the past decade.

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What a task it was compiling all of the songs. You would be surprised at the number of responses that we received from that Top 100 List. Some people praised us for being so honest and admitting that we liked commercial house and others completely lambasted us for not listing more of the underground stuff that is making its way onto the charts. As result we began adding readers’ suggestions to the end of the list. But as human nature has it, you can please some of the people some of the time, but never all of the people all of the time!

The following is a paraphrase from the email we received: “Sometimes I think that it is I who is the freak. I research music for a living. I read your Top 100 Songs, how can you overlook artists like Moby, Prodigy and Felix?  What you have here are Top 40 pop songs with a faster than average BPM”.

Our response to the email was as follows:

“Dance Music, while very finely crafted in some instances is also total crap in many others. Despite your thoughts, dance music, fortunately for many of us is extremely subjective and can be interpreted in many different ways.”

“We here at NAJM (No Attitude Just Music) are promoting a new movement called Melodic House - wherein the artistry of dance goes back to the performer - simply said, we like vocals and we like house. Artists like Prodigy simply do not appeal to our tastes and certainly don't fit a house vocal bill. I'd venture to say that a group like Prodigy wouldn't stand a chance in hell of selling units if they didn't have a label like Maverick behind them. Have you noticed that "Play" by Moby contains many more lyrics than his previous work - that he is releasing CD/Vinyl singles specific to house music? Moby has C2/Columbia behind him pumping units out and sponsoring him on a tour with Bush, whom I don't think I don't have to remind you is not dance, but alternative.”

“You may have noticed that we've amended the list to reflect what some of our other readers thought was appropriate - if you'd like to be included, send us your list and we'd be happy to post it.”

And here is the visitor’s response to NAJM: “I disagree with what you say fundamentally, but I defend to the death your right to say it. Your reply was well constructed and I must I admit very polite considering the prickly gauntlet a laid down before you. Because my musical taste are so subjective, I can tell the difference between a "well crafted" and a badly crafted record, from Prodigy to the Pet Shop Boys. By the way, if you're ranking records on their dancabilty and their commercial buoyancy, why on earth "New York City Boy" and not "West End Girls"-commonly know as 'dance noir'. The records in your list are great for a certain age group-under 15s or over 35's, because the grooves are basic and the lyrics are very simple. Don't tell me about Moby. Play was a phenomenon. Word of mouth, I really believe helped it top the charts this album blurs musical boundaries, every one loves it, this is the Raging Bull of albums, get my drift.”

DJPJ Continues:

In hindsight, this email smacks of elitist attitude. Come on, to put “Smack My Bitch Up” by Prodigy on the same chart as Martha Wash or Abigail is downright communist as far as I’m concerned. People can’t understand why dance music isn’t taken seriously. I’ll tell you why!  “Shut the F_ck Up and Dance” is a classic example. The song has no merit, yet somehow not only charts, but gets spun by many DJ’s who label it as “hard house” Huh? What is “hard house”?  Some say, it’s some genre made up by some whack like me who wants to put a label on something but can’t figure out what it sounds like. So it’s easier just to make up a new one.

I say it’s Bullshit. It’s either one or the other. The site visitor is right on one issue, “Play” by Moby was a good album. I wouldn’t say it’s great, but overall a stellar effort. I do stand by my position that the reason it’s done so well is because a) it is a good album; but also b) Moby has a major label behind him who’s able to sponsor a DJ tour and who has the capital to push units. The dance market is so fragmented by the very community who are endorsing these different types of genres. Why is the dance community allowing Jive to market Britney Spears as a dance artist?  Because they have the money!  Britney is a pop artist whose label is making ok sounding mixes for the masses.

I respect your right to like Adrenaline or Prodigy, and dance music is very subjective. Just don’t criticize us for putting a list together that didn’t include artists we don’t care for. And furthermore with regards to your comment about the Pet Shop Boys; “while “West End Girls” was a great dance track, “New York City Boy” (Almighty Mix) has much better dance elements”.   If you’d read our review of the Pet Shop Boys in concert, you’d realize that only some things get better with age.

On a final note, we did receive a suggestion to include Britney Spears’ “Baby One More Time” to our Top 100 List. After careful consideration, we declined the request. Could you just imagine the emails THAT one would have generated?



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