Know Your Subgenre: The Bros(tep)
The Doom That Came To Dubstep?
Photo by Matthew Keever
Subgenre: Brostep Parent Genre: Dubstep
Imagine that you're a genre of music. You've been on the underground for a few years taking the sounds of your parents and evolving in to something new. For a long time few noticed but the last few years have been different. People started paying attention to what you were doing and then bigger, richer people started taking your sound and putting it in their hits. Your big moment is just up ahead, you can feel it.
And then your hyper, overaggressive little brother swoops in and steals all of your glory. He goes on to get Grammy nominations and high profile collaborations. Before you know it, not only is he more popular, people are starting to confuse you for him. They come up to you in the clubs and instead of talking about the things they like about your music they describe your little brother.
Congratulations: you are Dubstep, and your little brother is Brostep.
The label Brostep is not a term of endearment. Much in the way annoyed older siblings might refer to their younger siblings as "twerps" or "runts", long time fans of Dubstep have come up with a label for this offshoot the genre to show their displeasure with the harder, very much American style of music.
Somewhere a British guy sitting in front of his computer is looking at Skrillex videos while drinking a Red Stripe thinking to himself, "Leave it to the Americans to ruin a good thing." Now, this shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone as Americans have a rich history of taking styles of music to their logical, aggressive extreme. We heard heavy metal and decided, "No, we can go faster," and thus we have a Big 4 of thrash metal. When rock wasn't enough, when punk wasn't enough, we created hardcore and in Black Flag and Bad Brains we trust. And so when Dubstep wasn't hard enough, wasn't dirty enough, wasn't noisy enough, we gave the wobble bass an injection of aggression.
Which leads us to Sonny Moore, he of Grammy nominations and countless comedy Tumblr accounts, better known as Skrillex.
When Korn made the decision to go Brostep, it was only natural that they worked with Skrillex. Find a live clip of him performing "First of the Year (Equinox)" and it's not all that different than watching a video of Korn playing "Blind" in the late '90s. There's a subdued intro that slowly becomes more complex until the vocalist screams and the song drops, only instead of asking "Are you ready?" the voice yells "CALL 911 NOW!" When that happens, the crowd becomes a big sweaty collection of people hitting each other instead of the rhythmic dances moves we typically attach to EDM. These are not the raves we are used to.
At 1:27 in the above video the song really kicks in to gear and the sound that most defines Brostep comes in. Just like the subgenre, that machine noise has a mocking label too: Transformers sex. I don't know how and if Transformers reproduce, nor am I particularly interested, but what I do know is this: while the Transformers reference is incredibly obvious it's also the exact right word to attach to the music.
Much like Michael Bay and his cinematic works, Brostep is spectacle. It's loud and in your face. In fact, the complaint that many Dubstep purists have with it is that it's too aggressive. Take what Brostep pioneer Rusko had to say on the subject:
It's not about playing the hardest, hardest tracks for an hour and a half. It's like someone screaming in your face for an hour- you don't want that. A lot of dubstep fans just come 'cause they just wanna hear the most disgusting, hard, dirty, distorted music possible and that's not what it's about.
Just because Skrillex is nominated for a Grammy against indie darling Bon Iver doesn't mean that Brostep is the new dominant force in music. If anything, we should be happy that the notoriously old fashioned NARAS is recognizing new genres of music as being worthwhile. After all, even Armageddon is part of the Criterion Collection.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.