“Boom Boom Pow” good or bad for electronic music?

I find myself constantly re-evaluating what the term electronic music actually means (I made a half-assed attempt at an earlier date on this blog). Especially during periods when we see mainstream acts co-opt electronic stylings into their pre-existing M.O. As the zeitgeist shifts from time to time electronic music suddenly becomes very much “in vogue” (most glaringly in the early 90s when bands from the Cardigans to R.E.M. made their stab at making a so-called “electronica” album). I posit that we are starting to see another such wave. Yeah Yeah Yeah’s delivered their most stunning album to date earlier this year when they embraced the blips and bleeps and we’re starting to see chart artists like Lady Ga Ga, Katy Perry or even ‘ol Britney herself embrace their inner synth. 

Most recently the Black Eyed Peas scored their first-ever number one single on the Billboard hot 100 with their latest confection, “Boom Boom Pow”. This is the most blatant attempt of mastermind will.I.am to fuse hip hop with electronic music. Now I’m no student of hip hop but I know an unmistakably electronic ditty when I hear one and this is it. 

Now this blog (and my own personal tastes) tends toward the independent variety of electronic music, and the chart acts that get their synth on may reach my consciousness but not much more. This song however, whatever ambivalent-to-hostile attitudes I have toward this band aside, is truly a kick-ass pop track underneath the layers. And it took a song this cleverly crafted to make me wonder anew what this kind of success of inherently electro music mean to the genre we love. Does it open doors to other, arguably more integrity-infused artists to break through, or does it minimize the efforts hard working genre bands have been investing for years. Does it glorify or corrupt the movement? As always, I suggest the questions, I don’t answer them, I leave that to you. But I can say it’s interesting to hear synths used, not as wallpaper, but as a prominent lead instrument on a Billboard #1 (not to mention one of the very rare positive, sensible uses of AutoTune). While it may not lead to Bella Lune or Thermostatic cracking the charts any time soon it’s kind of nice having something atop the mainstream charts I might actually want to listen to…


4 Responses to ““Boom Boom Pow” good or bad for electronic music?”

  1. LOL at “ambivalent-to-hostile attitudes.” I feel the same way toward mainstream mediocrities that will snatch flair from other genres just to appear relevant. Hello, Madonna.

  2. pteittinen Says:

    I’m listening to the BEP track for the first time now (Spotify yay!). What an awful track. If I had to classify it, I’d say it belongs in the fringe R’n’B the yanks have been toying with for a while now.

    For some unfathomable (as for the most part they don’t know what they’re doing) reason American R’n’B producers have been implementing more electronic elements in their music for the past couple of years. As one of the most shining examples of this give a listen to Britney Spears’ track “Heaven on Earth” from her 2007 album Blackout. I dare you to claim you’d recognize it as Britney if you didn’t know it was her.

    baldowl, while I’m no big fan of Madonna, her Confessions on a Dance Floor was excellent. She had the brains to hire a brilliant European producer (like she did with Mirwais, as well) and while everyone else in the US was churning out moronic R’n’B, she actually had the guts to release a very electropoppy album. She earned my respect for that…. but lost every last bit of it with Hard Candy which saw her bend over backwards for US chart success with a selection of insipid R’n’B crap.

  3. softsynth Says:

    I think when mainstream acts use electronics the results vary dependent on the honesty of the approach. Yeah Yeah Yeah’s album works because there seems to be a love for the style and it’s incorporated carefully into the band’s mix in a way that feels like it makes sense. “Heaven on Earth” is actually on my iPod, it’s a great song that has little to do with Ms. Spears and more to do with a rolicking, electro track more about the songwriters and producers (a computer could have been programmed to provide the same vocal track – in fact I’m not convinced one wasn’t…). And Madonna – she’s an artist who can make electro work when partnered with a less-cynical, well-matched producer. CoaDF had some solid tracks and I maintain “Ray of Light” is one of the best electronic songs in recent memory. But you’re right, Candy is a mess and a cynical, trying-too-hard one at that. Hit and miss with artists and their handlers for whom the genre is something to play in rather than something organically part of their core…

  4. pteittinen Says:

    Yup. But my point about “Heaven on Earth” is that the writers/producers of that track were at that time, and still are, otherwise mired neck deep in US run-of-the-mill R’n’B. What possessed them to create a track like that I’ll never know. I guess they were listening to some scorching Euro electropop at the time 🙂

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