Over the past half-decade, guitar bands have rapidly slid out of favour. Gone are the days when four skinny white men who argue that their music is “alternative” dominated the radio. Kids no longer pine for a sticker-covered Fender Strat under the Christmas tree, and famed guitar maker Gibson filed for bankruptcy earlier this year.
In their place, the world is hankering after electronic music.
In 2012, the New York Times ran a piece suggesting that EDM was the new rock ’n’ roll for those between the ages of 15 and 25. Six years later, that statement is still true. As with the aggressive distortion of 1980s rock, parents decry EDM’s whobs and thumps as “noise”, and misunderstand the wild dancing that accompanies it. Similar to the golden era of guitar music, EDM has its heroes and antiheroes, one-hit wonders, and those who died too young. Once members of a minority genre, electronic superstars like Tiësto, Kaskade, and Avicii have become household names.
EDM, however, isn’t the only nail in rock music’s coffin. Despite staking its claim as a commercial favourite in the late ’90s, hip-hop, too, has never before been represented on such a large scale. This year, for the first time, rap surpassed rock as the most popular genre in the U.S., and, according to Nielsen’s year-end report on the industry, the style boasted the highest album sales and album-equivalent streaming figures of any category.
A big contributor to that boost is the rise of trap music. Burgeoning in the early 2000s as an offshoot of southern hip-hop, trap is typified by short, bursting hi-hat samples and rumbling sub-bass. Often bleak and aggressive, the style typically boasts lyrics that address violence, dealing drugs, and poverty. Now dominating the airwaves and bleeding into more popular music, trap’s distinctive musical signatures have been replicated in commercial pop and EDM, and created a hybrid that future commentators will doubtless dub the sound of the latter half of the 2010s.
It’s little surprise, then, that festivals such as FVDED in the Park are passing over guitar-based groups entirely for rap and EDM–based performers.
Nearly 40,000 people are set to head down to Holland Park in Surrey this weekend for the two-day event, which solely features electronic, hip-hop, and R&B acts. Billed as the largest urban music festival in Western Canada, the all-ages concert will offer three stages hosting artists from 1 to 11 p.m. throughout the weekend.
Both EDM and hip-hop shelter a vast array of moods under the umbrella of their genre. FVDED’s strength is its ability to balance a range of those different vibes. Friday’s headliner, Future, for instance, is a quintessential trap artist with a dark and dangerous sound, while his counterpart on Saturday, Kygo, is set to bring a sunnier set of pop-house hits. Both days weave together radio-friendly summer DJs with balls-to-the-wall rap stars, juxtaposing electronic performers like Kaskade, Illenium, and Duke Dumont with hip-hop artists including Ferg, Brockhampton, and Nav.
For many of the younger artists on the bill, EDM and trap production is attractive because it gives the option of composing, arranging, and mixing an entire song in one sitting. Unlike guitar-centric music, which requires a huge investment in gear, studio time, and effort to find suitable bandmates, electronic-based tracks can be created very cheaply by one individual. It offers a way for first-time songwriters to create glossy, high-quality music without an intimate knowledge of mastering—letting budding producers build a portfolio much more swiftly.
Now in its fourth year, FVDED continues to capitalize on the boom in talented young people taking up music production. Its focus on electronic-heavy styles has allowed the festival to grow each year, with 2018’s offering anticipated to add $5 million to Surrey’s economy. That success is happening with no guitars in sight—which, festival organizers will agree, is no bad thing.
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