For whatever reason, electronic music is too often reviled by those who don’t understand it. Is that because the haters haven’t evolved their music taste past the radio’s top 40? Maybe. Is it because they feel inadequate about their own samey-samey playlists? Possibly. Is it because electronic music is a vast spectrum of genres and styles that defy categorization, and getting into the scene is both difficult and frightening? Yeah, that could be it.
It's not as hopeless as it may seem, however. By suggesting relevant genres and DJs for non-electronic listeners, hopefully you can kickstart a few journeys into EDM.
1. For the pop fans:
As much as it might hurt to admit, electronic and pop music have shared a lot in common throughout the former's lifetime. With the rise of synthesizers and computer-modulated beats, and with every new musical epoch, pop and electronic approach a singularity. DEVO to Madonna, Britney Spears to Ariana Grande, the most popular artists through the decades have all made heavy use of electronic styles.
Future bass, electropop, and melodic dubstep are all genres that rely on catchy tunes and satisfying vocals, without getting too serious or moody.
- Future bass — calm drops, smooth synths, syncopated percussion, vocal chops
- Electropop — synth sounds (but not too retro), modern pop elements
- Melodic dubstep — flowing melodies and vocals, strong but reserved bass line
2. Gentle enough for the indie listener:
Just as indie music has a certain veneer of low key and "not too popular," there are many electronic genres that have that same feeling. These genres eschew the aggressive bass lines of club and festival music, lower their tempos, and bring in relaxed vocals or instrumentals that appeal to emotion and atmosphere.
Indietronica, chillwave, and downtempo all typify the low-key electronic styles that will draw in coffee shop listeners.
- Indietronica — indie + rock + pop + electronic
- Chillwave — moderate tempos, mellow vocals, dreamy synths
- Downtempo — lower tempos, ambient atmosphere, hip-hop beats
3. Rock and alt-rock listeners might enjoy...
Just like with pop, rock and EDM share considerable roots - not the least because electronic producers have been in the behind-the-scenes of rock music for decades. Though purely electronic music may not appeal to the rock fans who demand guitar riffs and drums instead of drum machines, there are genres and artists that easily straddle the two.
Electronic rock and alternative dance are two types of EDM that make solid use of typical rock, while mixing in an unmistakably electronic sound.
- Electronic rock — rock music + electronic elements
- Alternative dance — alternative rock + electronic elements
4. For the punks...
If punk is rock but faster, more aggressive, and less melodic, then EDM has that too. Like punk, many electronic genres have a hard edge, fast pace, and stripped-down feel, all without the messiness of dubstep or riddim.
Drum and bass, synthpunk, and digital hardcore are all punkish in style, with select artists even embodying the political, anti-establishment ethos of old school punk.
- Drum and Bass (DnB) — fast tempo, heavy bass, heavy sub-bass, prominent breakbeats
- Synthpunk — replaces punk’s guitars with synths
- Digital hardcore — hardcore punk + heavy metal + breakbeats
5. Metalheads will like…
Aside from pop, some of today's most popular electronic music most closely mirrors hard rock and heavy metal. Though bass music and its subgenres may be some of the youngest of the EDM families, there's no denying its impact on the industry. No doubt, some of the biggest names in EDM actually got their start in metal.
One of today's most popular genres, dubstep features prominent bass and high tempos that should appeal to metalheads. Riddim, though mostly/purely electronic, has a lot of the harshness and extremely aggressive moods of metal. Metalstep has a foot in both sides, often incorporating heavy metal vocals and guitar riffs with their beeps and boops.
- Dubstep — syncopated rhythm, fat bass and sub-bass, often darker aesthetic
- Riddim — dubstep, with angrier and more repetitive drops
- Metalstep — dubstep/riddim + heavy metal
6. For the jam band lover…
Tired of tracks that fail to past the twelve minute mark? Bored with rhythms, beats, and meaningful time signatures? Should music be as meandering, improvisational, and unending as possible? Don't worry, electronic music has all that covered, too!
Psybient (a portmanteau of psychedelic and ambient) and livetronica are two such genres that would appeal to the jam music lover. Though psybient is purely electronic, livetronica fuses jam-band instrumentation with electronic elements.
- Livetronica — jam band + electronic elements
- Psybient/psychill — “trippy,” downtempo, atmospheric, exotic and complex synths
- Disco Biscuits
- The Floozies
7. Hip-hop heads and rap lovers might like...
Modern electronic music intersects with rap and hip-hop to a remarkable degree. Much of the most popular EDM (particularly club and festival mixes) makes extensive use of the 808 kick, triplet hi-hats, and syncopated time signatures pervasive in hip-hop and rap.
Electronic trap, trip-hop, and grime are all very electronic with elements of trap, hip-hop, and rap firmly ensconced in all of them.
- Electronic trap — 808 kick, triplet hi-hats, snares, electronic elements
- Grime — syncopated breakbeats, aggressive sound, emceeing
- Trip-hop — atmospheric, downtempo, bassy hip-hop beats
8. Reggaeton fans will like...
Just as EDM shares a lot of its bass lines with hip-hop and rap, so too does it have pervasive reggae beats. In fact, a large portion of electronic music has direct lineage with reggaeton via the dub genre, which has cross pollinated into subgenres like moombahton, jungle, dubstep, and riddim. Moombahton is a fusion of reggaeton and house, while jungle is a fusion of dub and breakbeat.
- Dub — mostly electronic reggae subgenre
- Moombahton — moderate tempo, thick bass line, two-step drums
- Jungle — high tempo, rapid breakbeats, two-step drums
9. For the jazz and funk aficionados…
To those with a strong understanding of jazz and funk, it should be no surprise that there are plenty of electronic music offerings. Both jazz and funk were once music's most avant-garde, and as such, much of electronic is a natural progression out of that.
The DJs and genres in this category fuse funk, jazz and electronic, heavily blurring the lines between each.
- Future funk - disco + funk + nostalgia + modern synths
- Nu jazz - jazz elements + electronic elements
- Electroswing - traditional swing sounds, hip hop beats, modern synths
10. Classically trained listeners might appreciate…
Yes, electronic music even has something for classical listeners. Though they might not share Chopin's clarity, or be as symphonic as Beethoven, the DJs and genres herein should in no way disappoint those with a truly open mind.
Ambient, IDM and chill out are all excellent options for those who thirst for the composed nature of classical and the exploratory nature of electronic.
- Ambient — low tempo, ethereal, unobtrusive
- Intelligent Dance Music (IDM) — atmospheric, often low frequencies, experimental, cerebral
- Chill Out — downtempo, ambient, smooth
Brian Baker is a writer, photographer, and designer based out of St. Louis. You can find his portfolio here.