The Grammy Awards faced controversy long before this year’s ceremony; more than 30 categories faced the axe. With music outside Billboard lists already facing marginalization, the changes angered many artists by combining genders and averaging together genres.

More fundamentally, artists can easily argue that the awards lack direct relevance to music they value, and look instead to validation from other sources.

But watching the acceptance speeches by Skrillex, you see an impression not so much of how the Grammy Awards view Electronic Dance Music as how Skrillex views the EDM community. Winning three awards – Best Dance Recording, Best Electronic/Dance Album, and Best Remixed Recording – Skrillex, aka Sonny Moore, turns attention elsewhere. He acknowledges artists who came before him who seem shoe-ins for Grammy winners in hindsight (Daft Punk, anyone?), and looks to the wider community of artists from which he came. Mentor deadmau5 seemed in on the festivities, too, wearing a t-shirt with Skrillex’s mobile number on it, poking fun at his student.

If anything was newsworthy in 2011, to me it is the reemergence of the notion of a greater, united “Electronic Dance Music community.” Even the very acronym EDM seemed on the comeback. What’s ironic about this, of course, is that those please for unity came in the context of an artist (Skrillex) whose work has proven divisive. But whether or not you like Skrillex’s music, and whether or not you feel the word “dubstep” has anything at all to do with it, the self-identification of EDM communities may be longer lasting than any one artist.

Bizarrely, I’ve read a number of commentaries describing Skrillex’s work as achieving some sort of larger recognition for independent electronic music. This seems not to jive with some of the “facts on the ground,” as the saying goes. Voting Skrillex for the Grammies was an easy numbers game, going after the biggest hit artist. Skrillex achieved an inarguable crossover victory in sales numbers, but you don’t need a Grammy to prove that. Moreover, the video footage you see above wasn’t aired on US TV; Skrillex’s wins all came in dance-specific categories and all aired before the telecast.

At least the marketing of the event featured Skrillex prominently, as did the nomination (if not win) as a new artist. Writing for the Dubspot Blog (no direct relationship to “dub” or “dubstep” in that school), Stefan Nickum points to that and makes a broader argument:

The 54th Grammy Awards: Electronic Music, Skrillex and the Re-Shaping of American Pop [Dubspot blog]

American pop has certainly been reshaped by Deadmau5 and protege Skrillex, though we’ve heard this narrative before, many times. Amidst tectonic shifts in pop music consumption and creation, I think it’s impossible to say whether this time will be different from the much-touted crossover breakthrough of electronics and dance styles in the 80s and 90s in the US.

The artist who did win the Best New Artist nod could himself be called an “electronic” artist, though not a dance artist – Bon Iver. And in a number of ways, I find Bon Iver, with his unique voice (lyrically, compositionally, and literally), a more interesting artist than Skrillex, and one who wasn’t quite so obvious in terms of record sales. Apparently Grammy voters agreed.

Whatever was happening at the Grammies for electronic music or pop or dance music, the line between bedroom and studio is certainly erased forever. And even for Skrillex foes, it’s hard not to feel a little warm and fuzzy as he talks about bedroom music making and working out of an illegal warehouse in downtown LA on a blown speaker.

Even if there’s no surprise whatsoever in the Grammies falling in love with Skrillex, it’d be huge news if a lot of us bedroom-style producers and lesser-known artists found a way to warm our hearts to this much-maligned artist. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Alternative interpretation:

(Yes, that’s a joke – an especially brilliant one.)

Thanks to Giuseppe Sorce and Eva-Maria Karich for tips on this story!

  • ramin

    "made this in an illegal warehouse in downtown LA on a blown speaker."

    oh come on, who can possibly believe that?? it sounds waaaaaaaaay to "produced" and "shiney" for that.

  • benjamen

    I heard it as, "I made that song".. I'm sure a guy like that could have easily remixed that track in a few hours… while taking the laptop to a better studio to mixdown. Still quite an achievement. I'm happy for the guy. I agree that scary monsters & nice sprites is a great tune… much of what has come since I don't like. Thanks Sonny. Thanks for the news Peter.

  • I think peter was trying to avoid stating the obvious.  He can always count on his legion of trolls to do that.

    I think it's cool that electronic music is going so mainstream.  When I was younger, electronic music wasn't even on the radar.

    • peterkirn

      Yeah, especially if you look long-term … there was a time when synthesized music was exclusively the domain of academies and research centers (and not even very many of those)

      The original crossover artist, though, is unquestionably Wendy Carlos — and, by extension, J.S. Bach.

    • ramin

      electronic music has almost always been on the radar. in the 90ies there were loads of electronic acts reaching mainstream succes. even aphex twin reached the charts with Windowlicker. I think squarepusher managed to reach radioplay as well. What about the Prodigy and a whole bunch of other rave acts.

      if we wanna travel further back into time there is also Jean Michelle Jarre, mike oldfield (who also won a grammy according to wikipedia), vangelis, kraftwerk,…

  • Dennis


    but making those nicely shaped distorted sounds
    on a blown speaker?

    Not gonna work. 

    More time has been spent making this stuff than you think!

  • H. Coleslaw

    apparently you guys missed the 90s.  

  • mrbiggs

    Didn't The Human League have the first fully synthesized number one hit in 1981 or 82 with "Don't You Want Me?" I grant that they don't exactly have a lot in common with Skrillex and DeadMau5, but neither does Wendy Carlos. Is "electronic music" a genre or an arrangement or a method? Wasn't Chris Brown's entire album produced in Protools and/or Logic? Why is Lady Gaga's album not "electronic dance music?" It is, indeed, electronic dance music. The idea that electronic music isn't mainstream is puzzling. The idea that electronic something other than floor-thumping dance music will ever be, on the other hand, is still a fantasy, Bon Iver notwithstanding.
    If Skrillex and Deadmau5 are the examples that represent those of us in our basements and bedrooms producing music with synths and drum-machines, I want no part of that. I agree with Mark. They're cartoons.

  • Im not a big fan of deadmaus or skrillex, I just always find the amount of unreasonable haterade about stuff like this baffling.  Their music isn't that terrible, it's just not that great.  And their success and ubiquity just make nerds all over the world get their panties in SUCH a twist.  Stop being such old curmudgeons and have a little fun people.

    And I will STILL stand behind the fact that electronic music has never been that mainstream.  It has been exposed in the mainstream, as just pointed out here… but it hasn't had this kind of momentum.  An example.  Up until just recently kids have all wanted to learn to play the guitar, the drums.  To the point of it being annoying.   My friend teaches songwriting and music at a local high school.  The past couple years… all the kids stopped being interested in guitar, and started getting interested in producing electronic music.  I find that pretty incredible.  

  • databoss

    I'm not sure if I believe this guy. First he had a teeny bopper screamo band that was pretty terrible and then there's the whole thought that other, more authentic dubstep producers get paid to make his beats. I don't really believe he made this so humbly as he says he does. He's already been through the mainstream as a failed screamo frontman.

    So, I call BS.

    • MixedDown

      @ databoss- You are flat out wrong regarding other "authentic" producers making his "beats"

      I've sat with him and have been tutored by him.  You don't believe he made it as humbly as he says?  I'll tell you it was more stark than he let's on.  

      If you don't like his music or his persona, fine.  But these baseless barbs make you look like an ass.  All the more so, if you are just parroting the assertions of others.

  • Ben

    He is pretty much the Justin Bieber of electronic music, gaining a  lot of success but is hated even more. Go to any youtube video of tied to the original, pre-filth, dubstep scene and all the comments really are about is how much people hate this guy for giving the genre a bad rep. I can't really blame them though.

    In other news, Burial's new EP is out… 

  • Henri Helvetica

    I hear you PK. It's just funny that The Grammys would shower him w/ nominations and awards for a genre of dubstep that has largely been abandoned/left for dead by UK. So much so that UK labels have been distancing themselves from the term Dubstep entirely. 

    It's simply hard to swallow knowing that many nominees in near future will be held up against Skrillex as the standard to beat. And I'm not sure I believe much of what he says. He knows he's in the cross hairs of many so I believe this was as prepared as statements get. 

    Will this open doors? Only as wide as the Grammy committee allows them to be. And since it's clear  they don't know much of what they're doing in this category, we'll see what happens next yr. I sort of compare this to Vanilla Ice winning a Grammy 20 yrs ago. Did it do anything for rap?? Only thing certain is that the Grammy knew little then, and have shown the same level of expertise 20 yrs later.  Hell, they didn't even honour DON CORNELIUS during their fallen heroes segment. SMH. 

  • This is somewhat of a personal stance, but I got into making music with technology because I'm excited by the possibilites offered by full control of the instrumental palette, production and composition.  My issue with the awards usually given in the electronic categories is that they tend to reward artists who, although they're great at what they do, focus and brand themselves based on a very narrow range of these possibilities.  This very often causes their output to be predictable, which I think ultimately forces them into a dead end.  I know it's tricky categorization, since "electronic music" refers to a style as well as a methodology but technology is all about innovation, and I think it's unfortunate that the Grammys miss opportunities to reward the true innovators, even if their output is less predictable.

  • @peter….
    my city is cold and damn rainy right now… dammit…
    i thought we talked about this and we were just bringing back IDM in force…
    everything is now IDM..
    including skrillex…
    "We're in the same business." is the quote people need to think about more…
    who cares if dude is successful for doing something you dont like…
    he's doing the same thing…
    he's just a dude…

    VERY well said, but i think the point of the grammy's in general is for the cool kids to pat all the cool kids on the back….
    matter o' fact.. thats all award shows… ha!
    narrow is what narrow does….
    very amazing snd dsn by the way…
    keep killing it!

  • senciso

    I never really have listened to this guy but he seems genuine. Who knows? maybe this will drive people who don't normally listen to electronic music to delve deeper and discover what you all think as 'real' electronic music or whatever. It's a win for the whole community. 

  • mrbiggs

    My post, which obviously isn't the worst offender, wasn't that Skrillex sucks or anything. I don't know if he sucks. Probably no more than half the stuff on my record shelf.
    What I don't get is how he represents this community any more than any other act that uses electronic music as their basis. I hear Deadmau5 and I hear nothing that relates to anything I like or listen to. Same for Skrillex. I don't see how they are any more or less relevant to CDM or electronic music in general than Lady Gaga, Chris Brown, Depeche Mode, Wendy Carlos or Kraftwerk.
    Add vocals and a dancer to Skrillex, and you have much of what sells as pop music. He can claim bedroom musician cred, but who cares if he made his tunes with a broken speaker? I'm sure Peter can speak to this better than me, but is that the credo of CDM? It could be, I suppose, but I never thought of it like that.

    Anyway, congrats to Skrillex. But my point is that what does he have to do with "us," and us with him? I mean, any more than more "mainstream" acts?

  • Vaihe

    EDM has been on radar for a while now. In late 90's there was loads if big EDM artists that sold millions records. In mid 00's it has been fading down as big names like Underworld, FatBoy Slim, Chem Bros have not been so big anymore.

    Darude's Sandstorm sold million copies in 2000 and it was made in bedroom in small town in Finland. 12 years before Skrillex.

  • Oh I *do* love a good ol' Skrillex bashing…
    What I love most of all is that in the time it took most people to post their hate-filled invective saying how much Skrillex's music sucks (but never ever really giving any technical details on *why* other than it's alleged absence of bass), Sonny has probably knocked out another tune *and* played another gig.
    The guy's work ethic is what should be celebrated, whether you like his music or not – and if the haters spent more time putting tracks together and less time trollin' & hatin' on the forums, *maybe* they'd stand a chance of catching him up…

  • greg

    what toot! said.

  • Metachemical

    I have yet to actually hear anything remotely like a good argument for why his music sucks, or for why he is some kind of "cartoon" or "sellout." The ego is very powerful thing. Skillex/Deadmau5 hate is pure ego driven BS. I for one am happy music that contains those nasty bass wobbles and cyber sounds (and is that hard and odd) is getting played in places it wasn't previously. I for one, having been in love with these sounds for years am just happy to hear a massive bass growl where I might have heard some Black Eyed Peas abortion. (That was a little bit of ego on my part.) Wake up kids, you hate him because he's popular and you aren't as good as he is. The end.

  • J

    In the nineties a lot of the ‘charting’ electronic music was actually pretty good. No wonder kids focus on other things nowadays..

  • Nicholas

    So many haters.

  • Or perhaps the fact there are so many 'haters' should lead those that don't agree to assume there is some legitmacy to it and not just hat wearing hate or jealousy.

    Copy&Paste drop glam rock electronic music does absolutely nothing for me.. and it certaintly doesnt help shine a light on what i would consider 'better'.

  • Justin

    What makes his music worse than all of yalls IDM or ambient bullshit?

    What makes music good?  How many records it sells?  How many records it doesnt sell?  Solely you personal opinion?

    If we are going on personal opinion, is your opinion worth more because you think as a no name bedroom producer you somehow know better than everyone else?  Or is it your incredible virtuosity that makes you somehow right?

    Oh yeah, thats right, this thread is a bunch of no bodies complaining about a guy that is DOING THAT EXACT SAME THING AS YOU ARE but he became successful, and now hes a sell out and he sucks.  

    I dont really care for his music a whole lot(its electro metal, but noones noticed that because they wont even listen to it because they are afraid their hipster friends will hear them and make fun of them) but they guy wrote an album.  HIS FIRST ALBUM.  It sold like motherfuckin wildfire, he won grammys.  He pushed the envelope of sound design(something all the haters cherish so much but when someone does it better than them and is successful it sucks for some reason) for sellable music.  He pushed song structure forward, is his own way obviously, and not really in a profound way or anything.

    "Oh his sounds are unoriginal" NO! Theres only a million youtubes on how to recreate them and tons of songs biting HIS style, real popular songs biting his style, and unpopular songs for the hipsters out there.

    "Oh he sold out, what a loser" NO! This was his first album, how could he sell out?

    "Oh someone else made the songs for him" NO! How would someone know to make an entirely new type of bass music for some unknown emo kid to so the kid could become famous for the producer.  Thats dumb as shit.

    "Oh his songs sound too good theres no way he could have mixed those(because i sure as shit cant) NO!  Thats why his music is popular and yours is not.

    The bottom line folks, is jealously.  He is standing up for all you people that hate on him so you can make left field music noone will ever listen to.  Did you hear him?  When the water rises all the boats go up.  Hopefully people who hear him will dig deeper, do you not want people to do that or something?  Or, like a true hipster, do you want to keep the unwashed masses out?

    Quit hating, this is music, you know, love and fun and happiness and all.  The guy made some music alot of people identify with and enjoy.  He broke ground in certain areas of his production.  Good for him, actually, great for him.  

    When is the last time an electronic music producer reached this level of success?  The early/mid 90s?

    Chill the fuck out and congratulate a fellow musician and everyone step your weak frail little egos down a notch.

    And, as a personal point id like to make, if all the haters were so confident in their music, why hate?  If hes so terrible hes not even competition for you?  So let it go.  

    This thread is disgusting and reminds me why i hang with DJs and not "producers".  DJs sit around and talk about enjoying music while no name talentless producers sit around and talk down about everyone elses music because "they make music so they know whats better", yet they can never find fans or shows, but blame people for not being "smart" enough to like their music.  For every good producer ive met 50 who act like people in this thread.

    Its sickening, its disrespectful, and its what is poisoning our community. 

    • Metachemical

      THANK YOU.

    • shlomi

      Good lord, wall o' text..

      Anyway: This isn't a new type of bass music…

      • Justin

        what are some others than had screaching basslines before skrillex?

        im not kissing the guys ass, im just calling it like i see it and i think he pretty much got the vocal screaching super wahwah basslines in the up and coming and that sound has spread far and wide directly because of him.  Yea, like datsik and excision have a similar sound but its not quite the same as skrillex's and whatever datsik/excision is doing is not NEARLY as successful as skrillex.  Sales wise and touring wise.

  • peterkirn

    I wonder how many people just read "Skrillex" in the headline and immediately jumped to comments? 😉

    • Siike92

      I know I did. I was just praying that, if anywhere, the people here would be humble and acknowledge Skrillex at least as a legitimate musician instead of just ripping on him with no valid reasoning. I expect that on Youtube and other sites, but this is supposed to be an open minded, humble electronic music community. Sadly, I was let down by the CDM community. -_-

      At least you're a good sport Peter. Keep reporting what's important.

  • I, for one, am happy that for the first time in about 15 years high school kids are listening to music that isn’t a recreation of something that happened in the 50s, 60s, 70s, or 80s. Music is taste, but Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites is not a poorly written song.

    I  also really like the EDM genre designation. It’s broad enough to allow some room for creativity.

  • i like justin….
    he rules…

  • KNS

    Congrats to Skrillex. He deserves it, the man has talent. I hope he sells more records than his first album.

    By the way, big up Justin.

  • benjamen

    but seriously.. how do I make those bass lines?

  • By the way, to clarify; I certainly wasn't hating on Skrillex. He comes across as a nice guy and though his music certainly isn't to my taste (nor is it new or original as one misinformed poster has suggested), I'm always happy to see someone get financial success for expressing themselves artistically. Some of the sound design is very impressive too.

    I was merely stating that it's a surprise to see the Grammys on the pages of CDM because it doesn't seem to have anything to do with what this excellent site (or indeed music as a whole) is about. It's about record sales and back-patting.

    And there's nothing new about electronic music crossing over into the mainstream. The 80's was the decade of electro-pop and here in the UK rave and jungle were making the top ten in the early 90's. The Prodigy were worldwide superstars in their heyday.
    Since then a large proportion of music in the charts has become dance/club oriented. Just listen to Lady Gaga or one of Rihanna's many r'n'b goes to Ibiza numbers or Britney being produced by Rusko or the influence dance music has had on hip-hop both sides of the Atlantic.

    Also, I've really never heard anyone outside of North America use the term EDM. If it happens in Europe then it's certainly the exception rather than the rule.

    Anyways…luv ya. x

  • Erm…why did my really long comment get deleted?

  • TheProbe

    He seems like a nice guy who was sincerely appreciative of his fans and the recognition that he received.

    Music that is 'good' or 'sucks' is totally subjective like what food tastes the best. Some people love the taste of sushi, others only like vegetables, some like the McRib sandwich. It's about your personal wiring.
    I am not a fan of his music or typically of the stuff I have heard in the dubstep genre. It isn't right or wrong and liking it or not liking it doesn't say anything positive or negative about the listener, the music makers or the people who do like it.

    I think these award shows that judge art are kind of lame. There is nothing objective about what makes a good song or album. Great music can be made with a mic in a living room or in a top of the line studio. I think the award shows should be judging something more objective like who played the biggest guitar or had the tallest hair or used the most effect pedals. Then we could have something that could really be judged in a way that means something.

  • Casey Basichis

    I'm happy for him, and I thought at 23 he handled himself very nicely.  The iphone notes was a funny tough… was that not the first?

    Is it possible to post links in these comments?

    It would make this thread far more enlightening if the folks who have so much shit to talk would post a few songs that they think are superior and maybe a few words to give context to their selection.

    Such an approach would actually give some weight to these arguments and greatly clear up where the individual posters are coming from.

    I find no coincidence that with the Bro in Brostep, came all this back biting douchebaggery. Without a point of reference, I have to assume a hat is simply on backwards.

  • Heretofeed

    Using EDM as term to describe electronic music is even more moronic than using IDM. 

  • youngcircle

    Here we go again, if I was Peter I would only post three things ever: 1. Skrillex 2. deadmau5 3. EDM

    that's right babies, EDMEDMEDMEDM 

    lol wankers

  • offar

    what toot! said

  • TravisD

    Sonny used the airtime wisely. Name dropped artists that everyone in our scene knows and gave recognition to artists that paved the way. This is our music made for us. It’s not going away and it’s not going mainstream, its not getting pretty or sparkly for you. It’s only going to get more grimy and if you don’t love it prepare for a life of hell, we’re takin over. 

  • ThrundalSwanson

    All I can say is that this moment has made history.

  • stoersignal

    but i think peter means the time even before (stockhausen, schaeffer,usw.)

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