After the meteoric rise of electronic music dominated by oppressive bass and generic vocals, a break from the norm couldn’t be more refreshing. Sadly, as the commercialization of electronic dance music, or EDM, began, the pounding beats supposed to keep you awake gradually devolved into humdrum sounds from any schmuck with a desire for fame.
Lazily scrolling Facebook one night, I saw a rare update from the artist Porter Robinson on my newsfeed. Robinson rode the EDM scene to initial success and a permanent spot in my iTunes playlist with his 2011 EP “Spitfire.” In August 2014, he finally released his second album, “Worlds,” after growing disillusioned with the stagnant EDM scene. Under the label Astralwerks, “Worlds” includes singles that sparked my interest such as “Sad Machine” and “Lionhearted.”
I decided to consult my top musical authority, my sister. She called me “unhip” for not knowing sooner, then wholeheartedly vouched for the album, which I purchased. Could Robinson find uniqueness in the stale 4/4 electronic beat and pull it off well after his long hiatus? Would his music sound natural or more forced than the lyrics of “Summer” by Calvin Harris? Despite my pessimism, I had hope.
Porter Robinson definitely talks big, but what spoke to me louder were the synthesized Japanese vocaloids in his American EDM album. I wasn’t put off by the Japanese anime sounds in the last track, “Goodbye to a World”; the xylophones that replace generic beats drew me in. The bass supports instead of overwhelms the melody – and it all sounds natural and seamless, two traits that current EDM desperately needs.
The unforced, natural feel of “Worlds” is built upon harmony, rather than cacophony. Distinct rhythms and melodies drift throughout the tracks without being oppressed by the bass, and the well-crafted, abstract lyrics warrant various interpretations.
My sole criticism lies in how far Robinson pushed the envelope with the use of Japanese vocaloids and video game sounds. It feels like they were put there simply to distinguish his album from others, but superb lyrics and musical quality already set “Worlds” apart.
If you are tired of EDM, listen to “Worlds.” If you want to get into EDM, listen to “Worlds.” Heck, even if you listen to classical music, listen to “Worlds.” Despite the EDM label, it’s an album everyone can enjoy. It has already topped Billboard’s US Dance/Electronic Albums.
The only things truly necessary to enjoy the album are an open mind and open ears. If you’re still skeptical, you can check out this reclusive artist’s Facebook page. Despite my frugality and initial pessimism, I can attest that buying “Worlds” was money well spent.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.