EDM YouTube Comments Might Restore Your Faith in Humanity
Nothing in your paltry, grayscale existence will ever compare to the two hours of ready-made transcendence served up by Martin Garrix on an island in the Danube in the halcyon summer of 2015.
A playlist of all the EDM tracks people in this article have commented on. You should probably listen to it as you read.
The comments section on YouTube is not a place of joy. Even the most benign videos have a way of eliciting rage-filled, hateful responses from people who might otherwise be perfectly pleasant individuals. If you're looking to feel good about yourself, humanity, the future, the internet itself, the odds of there really being a god, or the odds of any existing god out there giving a shit about a shower of dicks like us, YouTube's comment section is not the place for you.
Yet not all commenters are dying to tell you they're going to fuck your wife and steal your dog. There are pockets of happiness and decency online, usually to be found, of all places, beneath music videos. Scroll down from the right video, and you'll discover beautiful recollections and meditations on life, glimpsed through a sepia prism. Sometimes they become, without getting too wobbly lipped about it, an ecstatic kind of poetry. A while back, VICE's Clive Martin explored the life-affirming world of comments left beneath the YouTube videos of rave-era tracks. It's a time in our culture that has since been aggressively mythologized, whether that's by film, TV, revivalist fashion trends, or Jamie xx.
But what about nostalgia for the things that aren't cool? What about, for example, nostalgia for the most notoriously and studiously basic EDM on the planet? Are Scooter or Armin Van Buuren really capable of provoking any tears that aren't tied to incredulous laughter? I'd never stopped to think that on some planet far from my own, people might really, really care about this stuff. That somewhere there might be those for whom "Tiesto" was a synonym for transcendence. I wanted to understand, and I was going to use YouTube comments to help me.
Let's be clear at the outset: When I talk about EDM, I'm referring to the tracks you know intimately through the simple process of relentless exposure. The stuff that reverberates across every 18–30 package holiday strip in Europe and the meatpacking district in New York. CIA rendition music, brewed in diabolical, pristine mega-studios by eyeless, Versace-clad gym bunnies who call themselves things like "Bro Safari" and "Jauz" and "Thugfucker." The audio-anaesthetic devoured by millions of people you never seem to meet.
Could anyone really find transformative freedom in this music?
Yeah, OK, I guess they can. To these dudes in Hungary, watching Martin Garrix gurn and fist-pump was comparable to the collapse of the Soviet era. Not something many New York/London/Miami kids can say about Yachty mixtapes.
There are many comments like this: lengthy, carefully calibrated, appreciative messages full of sunny cheer. There is a sense of innocent joy here. You know no one had to summon a shock squad of emergency medics to wrap any of this user's frothing friends in tin foil, there's no way he had to take the following week off work because he'd left all his serotonin in a shallow puddle somewhere in central Europe. No, he stayed hydrated, swerved the molly and were primed to drop this first thing Monday morning: an earnest, good-humored YouTube comment full of kudos and exclamation marks.
Yet the same cannot be said for every EDM maniac:
Clear Blue Water there—unafraid to express clear, cold, steely sentiment. If you were (or "was") there, you might as well give up, Clear Blue Water is saying, because nothing in your paltry, grayscale existence will ever compare to the two hours of ready-made transcendence served up by Martin Garrix on an island in the Danube in the halcyon summer of 2015.
This one, on the same video, rides the same train of thought. It's kind of heartening to think how one Dutch DJ's Hardwell x Bastille remix can make so many people preemptively regret the rest of their lives.
Inevitably, there are a litany of wreck-heads itching to add their hoarse, disorientated voices to the digital dawn chorus. No true raver could read D&B B1TCH INSIDE's testimony without feeling a few pangs of chemical solidarity, this stream-of-consciousness promise, probably unrealizable, to get loaded up on co-codamol and lose your remaining capacity for movement 800 rows back at Deorro in Las Vegas. That's a level of dedication I can't imagine mustering while delivering the eulogy at the funeral of a close friend. It makes me want to go out immediately and get absolutely shit-hammered on whatever drug it was that stole D&B B1TCH INSIDE's ability to punctuate.
This one cropped up everywhere, the lyrics to a track called "FTS (Fuck The System)" by Dutch dance brothers DJ Showtek. Charged with the twin voltages of sadness and exhilaration, it's a clarion call for the perpetually-too-fucked-for-the-Sunday-shift crew, battling valiantly against the sunrise in misshapen living rooms the world over. A clarion call that better judgment usually leaves stuck in our throats for a reason.
Lord knows, it'd be easy to mock the Trainspotting-poster rhetoric, the Fight Club justification for refusing to accept the inevitable responsibilities and disappointments of adult life. Yet there's something beautiful here. It's the lyrical equivalent of a big, fat EDM drop, and it basically sums up the point of going out, getting wasted, having fun, finding transcendence in a field of strangers—it's the primeval urge not to let the 9–5 job drive you completely fucking insane.
But if I was pressed, really pressed, to nominate one EDM YouTube comment that really left its mark on me, it'd be this one. There's something so poignant about a person in the last season of life leaving a comment like this under an Avicii video. The calm enthusiasm. The generous advice ("Enjoy kids"). The tone of a slightly concerned, yet slightly envious, grandfather whose eyes go a bit funny after one too many Proseccos at a family wedding. A few golden memories of a golden time, unknowable to us, lured back by a by-the-numbers slab of laboratory EDM.
But for all the joy and passion I'd witnessed, my snobbery lingered: How is it possible to feel this about that?
It still smacked me as inexplicable – so I decided to ask. I wanted to know how one man's weak punchline could be another's musical JFK moment. "Where were you when we were draped in body paint, dilating our pupils behind shutter-shades during an especially punchy Calvin Harris drop at Tomorrowland 2012?".
I left questions beneath the YouTube videos, hoping someone would respond.
While I waited, I tried to figure it out myself. I started to realize there's a reason why Tiesto has more Instagram followers than Wales has actual people. Perhaps stadium EDM is so utterly mainstream and disconnected from local scenes, that anyone can and does end up loving it. It's music that your dad is comfortable sticking two index fingers in the air to as he proclaims it to be a "tune"; it's music that two teenage lovers can listen to as they skip class to pleasure each other with the very same fingers. It's music that's so inoffensive and odorless it's almost homeopathic; something you could bottle and sell as a backne cure. It's a 4/4 blank canvas on which to paint whichever emotional picture you desire.
There's a reason the comments are composed in such a wide array of languages, from a clean sweep of continents. EDM really is music that transcends borders. Anything so light and formulaic is going to be easier to export around the globe than a tightly packed subculture with its own local slang, arcane dress sense, and codes of etiquette. There's a reason that, the world over, men and women in Obey vests scrimp all year long to get to these mega-festivals in Las Vegas or Barcelona. It's undeniably massive, conveniently undemanding. By obliterating nuance, you can make things go an awful lot wider. You can make things universal.
Just when I'd given up hope of any responses, a notification popped up alerting me to a reply on a David Guetta Live in Miami video. It says more than my dim conclusions ever could, in a way that's more honest and heartfelt than I could ever muster.
Having clicked the link through to that David Guetta fan page, I still don't know if I'll ever be able to listen to Big Davey G's music and hear a man who's capable of uniting us all in global ecstasy. But what I do understand is the urge to be united in global ecstasy. I understand the urge to, as Liliana says, be "dancing all the time.!!!" And after my journey into the multimillion-view purgatory that is EDM YouTube, I think I finally understand what it is about this music that could satisfy those urges in people. Every commenter I encountered seemed to be having an epiphany on some kind of epic scale—EDM made them talk about the planets and about aging, world peace, life, and death. It's hulking, stadium-sized, colossal music for people who are still able to see their lives as blockbusters rather than as kitchen-sink cinema or post-modern micro-drama. Sure, I might not truly agree with Gee Sunray's assessment that Tiesto and Barber's version of "Adagio for Strings" will one day bring peace to Palestine. But I'm glad there are people who still think the music that they listen to in their happiest moments is capable of that—it's hopelessly naive and romantic in a way that seems much closer to that original "one world" rave ethos than anything that's cool enough to get played in warehouses in Bushwick or Dalston.
In short, EDM superfans might be easy-to-please music fans with vanilla tastes—but in what seems like an increasingly cruel, dark, and fragmented world, at least they've got fun. At least they've got hope. And at least they've got one another.
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