Sunday, December 13, 2015

Tropical House

According to the Wall Street Journal, obviously an authority on popular music genres, the Big New Thing is "Tropical House" music. It's the "breakout music genre of 2015". From the description, it doesn't sound too promising:
“Tropical house”—also called “trop house” or “melodic house”—is a sunnier, looser, more easy-going alternative [to EDM, "electronic dance music" or as we like to think of it here at the Music Salon, "that mindless thumping"]. Its melodies are sweet and sugary, and easy to listen to. Tropical house’s rise represents the “pop-ification” of EDM; it shows how mainstream EDM may soon be, and already is.
So, a dumbed-down kind of EDM? How is this even possible? That's like saying just like Wagner only longer and with more tubas. Not likely! Let's listen to an example. Here is Kygo and a tune called "Stay" featuring Maty Noyes:

OK... Did you make it all the way through? I did, surprisingly. What kept me interested, or at least didn't drive me screaming from the room were a few things. I liked the fresh graphic video with the lyrics. You need to see them because there is a lot of jumbly stretto in the vocal track. By that I just mean that there is a lot of overlapping. This comes in the instrumental later on as well. It is vaguely strettoish, but reminds me equally of early Steve Reich when he was into "phasing". This isn't phasing as the process starts but doesn't continue. So I will call it "jumbly stretto" instead. But at least it is a musical idea, sort of. The sentiment of the song is, I suppose, fidelity. How odd, a song about sticking around.

UPDATE: There was something weird going on the first time I listened to that clip. There must have been two tabs open playing the same clip a half-second apart or something, because when I listened to part of it again, all that interesting stretto stuff was gone! Alas!

For comparison, here is another example, "Cheerleader" by OMI:

That, to me, seems a very different style. Instead of the double-dotted downbeats of the Kygo tune, this one has a backbeat, though with a calypso feel. Still with a theme of fidelity, though. Musically maybe less interesting than the first one.

The WSJ claims that the guy who brought this genre into the mainstream was Justin Bieber with tunes like this one, "What do you mean?"

This seem to combine the tropical, Caribbean feel of the OMI song with the loose downbeat of the Kygo tune. So maybe all three songs give us a kind of triangulation of the style: loose rhythms, calypso feel, breathy vocals, relatively conservative themes (compared to most pop music). No slapping of bitches here, instead more of a steady relationship between men and women.

Just a wild speculation, but maybe with sheer barbarism swirling around the perimeters of civilization, popular music feels the need to be more civilized and less transgressive?

Here is some of the music by Steve Reich that the first tune by Kygo reminded me of, "Drumming", part II:


Ken Fasano said...

Just import one of those tracks into Audacity (with the help of an MP3 plugin, of course). Copy the track. Time-stretch the second track by a factor of, say, 60/61. Instant Steve Reich phase music.

Bryan Townsend said...

Yes, and considerably more interesting as a result!

Anonymous said...

Since you are always looking for new ideas for blogging;a couple of ideas/requests;
1)i was reading an old post of yours:

Sure,its an interesting perspective:but the pianist Alfred Brendel has the view that Handel deserves more acclaim;

personally i do love Handel's opera's;may be u can post detailed analysis of Handel's work;There's a Beethoven quote that says Handel acccomplishes great things with simple means!

2) Whats your opinion about Luigi Cherubini;i really like his requiem and the string quartets;again u can write a series of posts when time permits;it is said Beethoven preferred Cherubini requiem to Mozart's;a few commentators say its because cherubini's requiem has an overwhelming sense of resignation in accordance with Beethoven's idea of a requiem;

presently i'mlearning a lot of stuff from the Dutilleux and messiaen posts.

Bryan Townsend said...

Thomas, thanks very much for the suggestion! I have been searching for some good topics lately and a reconsideration of Handel might be just the thing.

Glad you are finding the posts on Dutilleux and Messiaen interesting.

Marc Puckett said...

I have insisted consistently for years, for decades! [am hearing my 'old man's voice' tremble with self-righteousness] that generally speaking the words in pop songs are incomprehensible, incomprehensible, I say: and they are now having to admit it by splashing the lyrics onto their videos. I feel vindicated.

Bryan Townsend said...

Heh, heh, heh!

"I was born--
In a crossfire hurricane!"

It took me and my mates in the band hours to figure out what Mick Jagger was saying in the opening lives of Jumping Jack Flash.