You know that almost automatic twinge of apology? That “I know it’s bad, but…” conversation? As an avid consumer and defender of the lowest of low culture, the sugariest of pop, the most artificial of fake, I am more than familiar. There are lots of theorists who have a thing or two to say about why we love things that we think we shouldn’t. But I don’t need anyone to tell me how good it feels to speed through the ludicrous ups and downs of a five hour Keeping Up With The Kardashians marathon. I’m doing all that I can to quiet ingrained cultural self-doubt and forget about the stifling tenets of coolness and acceptability. Who has time, really? I, for one, am far too busy working my way through the Rihanna music video archive.
Thus, it is with conviction I honestly say: I believe in Euro.
‘Stereolove’? It’s not only for Cancun. ‘Barbara Streisand’? Sometimes I listen to the track on the way to work. At 10 a.m. in the morning (#arttime). I crank dat Benny Benassi when I’m sitting in my living room. Alone. Have you heard ‘Mr. Saxobeat’? Try it. I dare you. It will make your summer (and life) better. I promise.
The Euro-tinged, club-exploding pop songs that race to the top of the charts across the pond sometimes find vaguely similar success stateside. We all know: if you put Guetta on the bitch, she’s going to dance. But there it is again, creeping up within myself, and certainly embedded within the snobby eye rolling of some circles, many of them I frequent: how can we like the stuff of straight-off-the-shore juiceheads, most often heard spilling from Hummer sound systems of stunna-shaded, French Connection-clad drivers? Sure, we allow drunken thrashing to Euro hits when vacationing for spring break, “studying” abroad, or being funny at a party for a second. But to really let the synths into your heart, to crave the heavy bass in your gut, to deeply believe in the pulsating, unrelenting thump? Why don’t we let ourselves get lost in the music, like it begs us to with all its electro might?
For a little bit, forget about conditioned shame. Forget about being cool, calm, collected. There is more here. We like Euro music because it feels good. Don’t discount that feeling. I use the term ‘Euro’ broadly because it’s kinda like porn, according to Justice Potter Stewart back in 1964: it might be hard to define exactly, but we sure know it when we hear its fist pumping call. Music made for the club, for getting lost in, for getting totally and wholly consumed by; music specifically engineered to magnify our pleasure. The pressure is built, layered, looped, amplified in crescendo. The intensity is compounded and multiplied, then abruptly grabbed away from us just before a magnificent, ecstatic, body shuddering climax. A good Europop song is erotic, charged; emotionally and physically. It’s a lot like really good drugs, which is why the two often go together.
In his piece featured in the most recent Art Forum, art star Cory Arcangel questions the recent surge of American pop’s appropriation of the production techniques of ‘90s Euro-trance. Britney Spears, Kelly Rowland, Taio Cruz, Flo Rida, and Lady Gaga make his list, and I would add The Cataracs, Far East Movement, Chris Brown, Black Eyed Peas and duh, Ke$ha. Arcangel details a kind of exciting evolution from first wave Euro-trance, hailing today’s made-for-the-dance-floor jam a “Photoshopped 2011 version of what we remember Euro-trance to have been,” with “all the wrong turns and embarrassing offshoots of the past twenty years… edited out.”
Are you not excited? We have all of this great Euro-tranceish music featuring our favorite pop megastars, with European producer geniuses at the helm, churning out sparklingly perfect songs that are meant to make us feel great. Beyond that carefully constructed sonic neatness, there is more. There is something deeper in the communal moment a song that makes us move can create. They don’t say “Errybody to the dance floor” for nothing.
As we move our bodies, side by side, getting closer than we would ever allow in the daylight, letting ourselves go on full display more than we do anywhere else, we are actively creating together. I may sound a lot like the twenty-something I am, but the collectivity, however fleeting or exaggerated, that can come from the party makes me feel like I’m genuinely a part of something, with people I trust, in ways I am always grasping for in the face of the digital divide. We’ve been told that feelings – love, happiness, excitement – are supposed to be epic, to sweep us off our feet, to consume. If Chris Brown crooning about how beautiful people are can make me feel that kind of intensity, isn’t something happening there? Good music is supposed to make us feel, right?
When it comes to Euro, in all its far-reaching variances of influence, in the words of Simian Mobile Disco: I believe. And if you don’t yet, let’s talk about how you feel after watching this: