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So You Want to Listen to EDM

By Emily L. Xing, Contributing Writer

Anyone chronically online has seen the “Monday Left Me Broken” meme, in which random videos are interrupted with an anthropomorphic cat lip syncing Avicii’s hit single “Waiting for Love.” Or perhaps they’ve seen the blue smurf cat meme, with an audio of Alan Walker’s “The Spectre,” or the meme of a chonky, green screen cat dancing to EDM. While this article unfortunately won’t dive into society’s obsession with goofy cats, it will provide a glimpse into the marvelous world of this electronic dance music, or EDM.

Born from the 1970s disco scene, EDM is a testament to rhythmic and electronic experimentation, characterized by sounds of danceable synthesizers and strong, fast-paced beats. Its expansion into many subgenres — techno, house, dubstep — were tied to 1970s clubs, 1990s rave scenes, and mainstream pop integration in the 2000s.

This list of danceable music and pulsing beat drops serves as an introduction to the wonders EDM has brought globally — from upbeat, fast-paced melodies to rhythms that shake one to the core.

Best of EDM Storytelling

Shelter” by Porter Robinson, Madeon

Sweet, nostalgic, and euphoric, “Shelter” consists of dynamic instrumentation, electronic static, and energizing melodic glissandos. A robotic voice says: “I know I’m not alone. You’ll be watching over us until you’re gone.” In an unknown world, what is love, and where is home?

Check out this amazing short film of Shelter!

Mama (feat. Ellie Goulding)” by Clean Bandit, Ellie Goulding

“Mama” is a pop song’s love letter to EDM and personal introspection. Being an orchestral-production band, Clean Bandit always utilizes an interesting mix of natural and electronic instrumental timbres in their music, and this track delivers a daring message on transformation and growth: “Everything is changing, but I think I love it now.” The bright synths mimic the ever-flowing nature of water.

Way Back” by Vicetone, Cozi Zuehlsdorff

This track hangs somewhere between the dream and real worlds, telling listeners that it’s okay to be lost in life. The slow, ethereal vocals and hollow, faraway instrumentation — characteristic of Vicetone’s discography — build up to the grounded, rapid drop, full of powerful strings, striking electronic notes, and exciting emotional uncertainty.

Songs Without (or With Very Few) Words

Verve” by Vexento

A light-hearted collection of whistles, bells, and electronic synths, this track feels like sunlight seeping through the clouds. It’s an up-and-down adventure that traverses through heavy beats and staccato strings, through uplifting chimes and vivid guitar notes. Vexento’s entire discography is a playful collection of contrasting voices, and “Verve” is bright and brilliant, never having a moment of dullness.

I Love You” by OMFG

“I Love You” is utterly silly, unique, and absolutely worth a listen. Yes, OMFG’s signature instrument may sound like burps, but he has an unparalleled ability to transform and distort frog-like ribbits into exciting and heartfelt beat drops. It’s hard not to celebrate love when this track fills the room.

Windfall” by TheFatRat

2010s EDM nostalgia is defined by this playful track and TheFatRat’s classic, electric style. Filled with intense bass rhythms, catchy wind chime tunes, and just the right amount of static electricity, “Windfall” contains build-ups and beat drops that make for exhilarating rave staples.

Songs to a Bittersweet Humanity

Fiction (feat. Tom Odell)” by Kygo

This danceable track captures Kygo’s key notes on the beautiful desperation of living and loving. A heartfelt cry emerges as the music and memories fade: “I can’t just take a fictional you.” The fast-paced, forward-propelling synths and lingering melodies are reminiscent of that one unforgettable night, spent carefreely chasing after nothing across moonlit city streets.

Tough Love (feat. Agnes, Vargas & Lagola)” by Avicii, Agnes, Vargas & Lagola

An incredibly impactful pioneer in the EDM world, Avicii died by suicide in 2018. “Tough Love” is a posthumous track that embodies a dangerous, yet certainly inescapable love. Avicii drew inspiration from the song “Banarasiya” while studying northwest Indian music; classical Indian string instruments open the track, followed by an emotional lyrical exchange between Vargas and Lagola. The drop is deeply-resonating, as echoing, bittersweet traditional tunes and powerful EDM beats intertwine like two people who can’t let go.

Strongest (Alan Walker Remix)” by Ina Wroldsen, Alan Walker

Alan Walker is the producer of hit EDM single “Faded,” which took all musical realms by storm. His remix of “Strongest” by Ina Wroldsen delivers a powerful message to the man who left Wroldsen a single mother. The punchy percussion and striking electronics slowly compound into the incredibly personal chorus, full of both hurt and hope: “I will be the strongest that he ever knew, and we’ll leave you, alone.”

High Energy Mix

Waste It On Me (feat. BTS)” by Steve Aoki, BTS

A collaboration between mega-stars DJ Steve Aoki and Korean boy band BTS, “Waste It On Me” embodies the happy-go-lucky feeling of falling in love. Blaring brass tones and a strong duple meter create a deep complexity within the titular chorus. Rap Monster’s rap sequence is a refreshing addition to conventional EDM.

千本桜 (Senbonzakura)” by Kurousa-P

There’s a whole treasure cove of EDM music within the Japanese vocaloid realm. Specifically, this classic Hatsune Miku track is incredibly danceable and fast-moving, and the striking melodic motif resembles cherry blossom petals swirling in the wind. A testament to the Meiji Restoration, the lightning, militant nature of this song can’t help but course through listeners’ veins.

Dreamer” by Axwell /\ Ingrosso

Axwell /\ Ingrosso’s debut album “More Than You Know” took the EDM House scene by storm, and “Dreamer” is a quintessential staple of any party-goer. The powerful, string-based rhythm slowly builds throughout the track until it’s beautifully joined by thundering drums and a note to all listeners: “Let’s get high on believing, I can promise you, yes I am a dreamer too.”

Throughout history, there has existed a beautiful human factor within dancing and partying late into the night at clubs in the city, one that EDM perfectly captures. Indeed, this is the perfect genre for anyone who wants to experience exciting melodies and lose themselves in a deep sea of musical solace.

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