“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: