Not a Great Year for Dance Music
a.k.a. Having spent 2023 doubling down on the ridiculousness of 2022, the genre currently sits in a rather uninspiring place.
2022 was a weird year for dance music. Following two years of pandemic-induced lockdowns and event cancellations, it was the first chance for pent-up ravers to get back on the dancefloor, which they did with an unbridled (and not exactly surprising) sense of enthusiasm. FUN was the primary objective, and the entire culture adjusted accordingly, embracing gregarious (and borderline unhinged) sounds that were not only bigger, faster and louder, but often tossed out the old rules about what constituted good taste. Suddenly even the most supposed “underground” spaces were being soundtracked by remixes of Y2K-era pop divas and Eurodance anthems, along with a steady diet of hard techno, trance, gabber, happy hardcore and other unrelentingly rapid rhythms.
Amidst all the giddy euphoria, more “traditional” (some might say foundational) dance sounds—house, techno, electro and pretty much anything below 140 bpm—were increasingly viewed as passé, and if older dance music fans didn’t like it… well, the industry didn’t really care too much. It had an eager new generation of club kids to cater to, and that generation, raised with unlimited content options and mindset that there was little discernible difference between independent music culture and the mainstream, often worshipped its favorite DJs in the same way it worshipped its favorite pop stars.
It was a year of empty calories, and while that disappointed many dance music lifers who would have preferred something that felt more substantive, there did exist a tentative willingness to give 2022 a pass. Coming out of a once-in-a-century pandemic, any subculture was bound to experience some weirdness, and while hearing Britney at Berghain certainly raised eyebrows, it wasn’t the first time that dance music had gone through something of a silly season. Many assumed, or at least hoped, that things would eventually calm down, and the culture would navigate its way back to more credible waters.
One year later, that… hasn’t really happened.