Brastep: And/Or Why Skrillex Is The New (Vicarious) Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis


I don’t watch much television these days - almost all of my visual media comes from Netflix or YouTube, and I pirate online the streams those can’t provide. So - doubt it if you want - I’ve got a certain ugly fascination with commercials I can’t skip, insofar as I’m subject to them just once a year: on the holidays when I’m couchsurfing between my parents’ and girlfriend’s places. I like to watch and philosophize about them - because graduate school turns you into an insufferable social critic and pedant. So imagine my horror in the face of the void when, during last night’s SNF halftime, I first saw this neon abortion provided in part by Toyota. Because I drive and enjoy what seems like a totally indestructible Camry, I’ll stop shy of calling the ad a shrieking vacuum of historicist simulacra and Non-Meaning - and instead accuse it of being a little, uh, kitschy (and of miscasting three black extras to dance in its 50s American Bandstand homage - as if). It’s also flat wrong, right? At least the end: when all the B-students from William McKinley High work it in bright polos to what sounds like a goddamn Rusko throwaway. More miscasts, like four hundred of them!

Except… maybe not. The game having ended, I prepared for bed in a pair of earbuds: working it mirrorwise with a microphone neé toothbrush - like a mostly naked, post-Bad Michael Jackson - to the driving mix of new debuts I pieced together for the trip home. But something happened, something real strange: this bro took a moment to consider what he had this vicarious King of Pop shamoning to, and again faced the void. The void was the mirror… and the mirror was him! AHHHHHHHSah h hd sifjedialectical@3l ewgf Rg //12$ 12e 3er230

But seriously, the mix consisted of:

1. MIA’s Matangi

2. Arcade Fire’s Reflektor

3. Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP

4. Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2

5. Los Campesinos!’ No Blues

the production quality of which might be respectively described as:

1. United Nations Program of House and Urban Dubstep (UNPHUD - if that acronym makes you giggle like me)

2. Four-page midterm for Intro to Greek Mythology stretched to meet the (admittedly unfair) seventeen-page requirement with excessive spacing and dozens of unrelated Buadrillard citations

3. Maybe ironically, Madonna, preoccupied with an array of pipes and dicks, forgets to blow the cartridge when Super Mario Bros glitches

4. Expensive

5. Other colors would’ve been nice

Four of these albums are obvious - and rightful - cultural moments for Americans listeners, and not just because they’re helping feed the annual optimism of a Black Friday sales revival for our panopticon of a recording industry: MIA invented the modern idea of the pop artistes’ pop artiste, and will never need another “Paper Planes” to show us which way the wind’s blowing; The Suburbs packed up the indie scene and drove it out of Brooklyn with a Grammy strapped to the bike rack; Gaga’s fucking Gaga; and Em’s inexplicably (have you ever thought about it?) popular doctor’s couch phantasms-cum-fag-bait will sell platinum until he’s on a porch sipping 40s when he’s 40… wait. And Los Campesinos!? Well, as our neighbors down south say, “No tengo idea de cómo hablar español, ¿por qué traducir esto?”

But let me just talk about the chicks, even if Shady (yes, he’s back) is the best thing around again. Why? Because a self-consciously allusive sequel thirteen-years-after-the-fact and some middlebrown disko aren’t (one should hope) presages for things to come. Instead, the only artist world music has as a bellwether and the hitmaker to the masses both cut dubstep albums in 2013 - or let’s say, without a hint of the James Blake condescension, brostep albums. For MIA - formerly the exotic squeeze to lesser (let’s all admit it) Diplo - brostep isn’t exactly new stuff: Rusko, Blaqstarr, Switch, and even her old boi ripped apart everything good about Kala and soldered it back together with a bunch of junk from the backyard, animating the horrific and totally gorgeous /\/\/\Y/\. Naturally, Pitchfork and torches in hand, the common villagers revolted against her best creation - forestalling, for a few years anyway, the revolution underway. So, it’s with equal parts ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘fuck you’ that Matangi offers up a (you read it here first) brastep that’s a little easier to get into: insofar as Switch, Hit-Boy, and the Partysquad make for a poppier core. I mean - look at their names… To be sure, however, a sweeter cut means that not all the stuff here follows the /\/\/\Y/\ ‘culture 1 + culture 2 + wub wub + powertool’ format… but what does it say that “Y.A.L.A.” and “Bring the Noize” are both the two best and the most overtly, uh, Skrillesque tracks?

As for Gaga? If ARTPOP is, as she and her monsters want to insist, a project to bring contemporary art into orbit with pop music (as if, you know, Chuck Berry hadn’t already, uh, done that), and this record is to make any sense at all, here’re the only formulas we can derive:

pop music = Gaga (a fair thing to say of the most famous woman in the world)

and her ‘Aura' + art in 2013 = dubstep (a fair thing to say as you hear this record unfold, hand on chin, or ass on floor - whichever you prefer)

QED

What’s happens when you derive these two together? Hard to say exactly, with mixed early reviews and unpredictable sales figures. But here’s what we can know: Zedd, Infected Mushroom, Zisis, Leclercq - whoever the fuck these guys are - are responsible for producing a whole record that sounds like the formerly anomalous “Pound the Alarm,” “Wild for the Night,” and “Who Gon Stop Me?” And since Gaga’s cultural capital is both global and niche (unlike Katy Perry, who doesn’t have 40 million frothing minions to pretend for her that “Roar” is something to scream about), these songs - my money’s on “G.U.Y.” - will be bumrushed into every club and bar rotation in the country.

So, thank Skrillex for inventing brostep, which is dub that doesn’t equivocate about having a dick. And thank these two brilliant women for dressing it up in a bra. Thank them now before there’s so much of this stuff, you have no idea where the hell it all started. Pop spreads like herpes. And this is definitely pop. It’s also real good… like art, even.