This month, the Italian edition of DJ Magazine put Paris Hilton on its cover. As you can probably imagine the move has inspired the sort of untold wrath usually reserved for a Yeezy Pyramid Stage slot, with DJs and readers united by a sense of injustice, or disbelief. DJ Magazine themselves have viewed the furore as the epitome of prejudice in dance music. In a statement released on Facebook along with the premiere of the cover itself, the magazine attacked the reactions they were anticipating, firing shots at the inevitable "idiotic attitudes" to come. And their prediction wasn't far wrong.
Yet frustratingly, the bulk of negative reactions seem to come from the particular snobbery that is rife in the dance world. Possibly more than any other area of music, there is a pervading attitude that nothing can ever be as good as it used to. "Back in the day" the tunes were real tunes, the DJs were real DJs, the drugs were real drugs, and you certainly didn't get the billionaire heiresses of hotel chains making the front cover of DJ Magazine.
What these responses seem to be missing is the very real negative effect of the feature: the potential blow to other female DJs. As the Chicago DJ Black Madonna stated in her recent interview with Electronic Beats, from Wendy Carlos to Maryanne Amacher to Daphne Oram, very talented women have played a fundamental role in the evolution of electronic music. Yet, still, too many female artists don't get a proportionate amount of airtime in the industry. This situation is then worsened when their gender is represented as a gimmick, a celebrity, as opposed to those countless figures who have put years of energy into their craft.
DJ Magazine has a prickly history with women DJs. Searching for other female-led cover features produces limited examples, confined to Nina Kraviz and Maya Jane Coles. Not only that, but a cursory glance at the 2014 top 100 DJs list showcases a grand total of two women acts: Nervo and Krewella. In the history of the magazine a female DJ has made the number one spot only once: Smokin' Jo in 1992. Over twenty years ago.
With this is mind, the legit argument to throw at DJ Magazine is less why Paris Hilton, and more why not Annie Mac? Why not Magda? Why not Hannah Wants? Perhaps it is because, consciously or not, DJ Magazine are still stuck in a cultural outlook that tokenizes the female DJ, treating them as a novelty. Not unlike the celebrity DJ, a woman behind the decks is a topic more relevant to fashion tips than mixing, as this vague Q&A with Dani Deahl serves to reiterate. In this mindset Paris Hilton is the perfect feature fodder, yes a female, but one that can easily be condensed into click-bait.
What DJ Magazine have achieved by putting Hilton on the cover is create lose-lose situation. The decision to put a female DJ on the cover has been passed up in favour of a celebrity, and the largely male critics of the cover have now set about ridiculing her. It is true, obviously, that Paris Hilton does not occupy the studious curatorial qualities of Andrew Weatherall, but that's not what her sets are for. Paris Hilton has a role as a DJ. That role is playing to very good looking people who have spent the day on the beach. They aren't searching for a transcendental moment between strobe flashes. The want what they know, and she knows what they want: Icona Pop's "I Don't Care".
The 'celebrity DJ' is a strange character. For every Pat Nevin, the footballer enjoying a second career as an alternative rock selector, there are jaded CBBC presenters in student unions, ambivalently shuffling through tracks on their latest NOW compilation, trying to summon enough energy to toss t shirts and frisbees into the baying, blue-tongued crowd. Paris Hilton, however, has become a different creature altogether. Hilton's DJing credentials are actually surprisingly developed. Since making her first appearance behind the decks in Ibiza in 2012, she has already bagged a residency in Amnesia, as well as having a single produced by Afrojack.
The backlash that has followed the announcement has been fierce. Dantiez Saunderson, son of techno icon Kevin, took to Facebook to post an image of the cover, along with the caption: "Blasphemy I say!!" The comments on his post follow a similar trend, agreeing with Saunderson and questioning the relevance of DJ Mag altogether. Depressingly, much of the reaction takes a gendered stance, with one person posting a meme of Paris Hilton captioned, "Which nob do I suck to start mixing?" This definitely raises the question of whether this level of interrogation would be posed if the cover star were say, Elijah Wood? Another celebrity who makes a career playing world music and disco, but doesn't have a sex tape.
This hate for the concept of Paris on the decks isn't new, and the above Youtube video is a particularly sad example of how far some people have been prepared to go. Titled "Paris Hilton DJ @ Brazil 2012 - FAIL", the video is footage of Hilton's set that disintegrates into terrible mixing and excruciating slip ups. Only, it doesn't, because the video is totally fake. The disparity in quality between the audio of the video and the comparative clarity of every 'mistake' she makes, clearly signifies a dub job. That means somebody taking time out of their day to fabricate a shit Paris Hilton DJ set. The desire for her to 'fail' clearly comes from the same ingrained truth that a DJ has to look and behave a certain way, or come from a certain background; an idea completely at odds with the atmosphere of inclusivity the best of dance music thrives on.
Dantiez Saunderson's claim that her cover feature is "blasphemous" suggests that the DJ is an exclusively God-like role, which could be the biggest mistake of all. The beauty of the DJ is that anybody can do it, and it is from this limitless pool of mortal pretenders that Gods will rise. The point being that unlike the fucking Pope, a role reserved for a select pool of men with a zealous dedicated following, it has to be an inclusive vacancy.
It is a shame that the energy that has gone into simply trying to make Paris Hilton look like an idiot, hasn't instead gone on questioning DJ Magazine's terrible track record for featuring female DJs. Forget shitty swipes, there is a representation problem that plagues dance music and needs to be addressed. Don't hate the player, hate the game.
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