Live: Skrillex, David Guetta, And The Rest Of Electric Zoo Strike A Pose At Randall's Island

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Kaitlin Parry
Check out our photo galleries: Electric Zoo Gets Sweaty | The People Of Electric Zoo

Electric Zoo
Randalls Island
Friday, September 1 through Monday, September 3

Better than: This.

"You know I know how/ to make them stop and stare as I zone out/ the club can't even handle me right now/ watching you watching me I go all out."—Flo Rida, "Club Can't Handle Me" feat. David Guetta

That lyric is key for contextualizing the competitive bombast that consumed both music and crowd this past weekend at Electric Zoo. As an ideological signpost, its puffed-up self-awareness synthesizes much of what the festival offered in the way of electronic dance music, or EDM—a bland catch-all term for steroidal sonic booms. While the aggression of dubstep and the tentacles of trance flex increasing influence on pop, the live context for such big-tent dominators has become a series of structurally simplistic, predictable, relentless peaks. All the artists charged with sustaining a consistently bonkers atmosphere makes for an ultimately homogenized festival. Most of the things to love about dance music—revelation through rhythm and extended repetition, delayed catharsis, basking in the blissful unknown—have no place in an environment that demands a constant blare of stadium-sized tunes.

Likewise, to be faceless in the crowd at Electric Zoo is to miss the point, but the constant desire for distinction only results in a jumble of neon and exposed skin. Dancing is not enough. People jump, stomp, and roar as if the whole crowd—110,000 combined on Randall's Island over three days—is eyeing each other's every move. Having fun is good, but having demonstrably more fun than everyone else in attendance is even better. The hedonistic urgency of "RAGE" has replaced "PLUR" as modern American raves' catch-all declaration. Any moment not raging is a moment wasted. Moderation translates as timidity, restraint as cowardice. The crowds at Electric Zoo never tired of "making some fucking noise," and the noise was always "fucking."

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Electric Zoo Lineup Announced: Guetta, Axwell, Tiesto (And Maybe-Probably Skrillex?) To Headline

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Bennett Sell-Kline for ElectricZooFestival.com
The Electric Zoo, the annual summer-closing EDM fest now in its fourth year, will take place August 31 and September 1 and 2, and the first batch of performers has been announced. The weekend will be headlined by Swedish House Mafioso Axwell (who'll be headlining the Hammerstein Ballroom for part two of his Cosmic Opera series), French beatmaker David Guetta, and Tiësto; someone who's only currently known as an "eXtra SpEcIal KiLLeR guest" was also touted in the press release. (If you can figure out the riddle (the answer: this guy), you obviously played the Jumble at some point in your life. Or the double l in "killer" leapt out at you too.) Tickets are on sale now; the currently announced lineup below.

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Oddsmaking: Is The Best Dance Recording Grammy Basically Skrillex's To Lose?

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If you think the opinions of critics and passionate fans of rock and rap and pop and country mean nothing to the Grammy Awards, being a dance-music fan widens the gap that much more. Essentially, if you're allergic to bottle service and/or newbs with glow sticks, you're better off crying into your pitch-shifter. The bulk of this year's Best Dance Recording roster is out to party like it's 1999—specifically, that year's Ministry of Sound compilations, only dumbed further down. Yet that's notable in itself—part of a shift exemplified last December, when I this Top 40 back-announcement: "I heard that overseas three years ago. That's how far ahead of the curve Europe is when it comes to dance music." That pronouncement is this category—which has six nominees instead of five—in a nutshell.

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Live: Lady Gaga Is Z100's Homecoming Queen At The Jingle Ball

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Z100 Jingle Ball: Lady Gaga, Pitbull, David Guetta, Kelly Clarkson, LMFAO, Gym Class Heroes, Demi Lovato, Foster The People, and Hot Chelle Rae w/Karmin, The Script
Madison Square Garden
Friday, December 9

Better than: A lump of coal and a "Firework" CD single.

To begin, let's run down a few key numbers related to the 2011 installment of Z100's Jingle Ball. Friday night's pop extravaganza had 11 sets; 32 full songs; five medleys; two point five holiday-themed songs; two encores; one Coldplay video; one Kardashian; and one member of LMFAO on the disabled list. Things that were present in abundance, so I didn't keep tallies: Screaming; festive attire; between-song ads; shout-outs to New York City.

I begin with statistics, because what is Z100—the East Coast top-40 flagship of the Clear Channel monolith—but a celebration of numbers? At the night's outset, Elvis Duran, host of the morning show, declared, "When you hear a song played on Z100, you know it's a hit." The artists atop the Jingle Ball's bill, with their ability to be reduced to one name—Gaga, Pitbull, Guetta, Kelly, all of whom have spent the month performing atop other Jingle Balls in other cities—bore this theory out in a sense; their sets, brief but longer than those earlier in the evening, contained only "hits," songs that might not have been familiar by title but that were sing-alongable within the first verse.

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Live-Blogging The 2011 American Music Awards: We Could Have Had It All (But Then Adele Had To Go Have A Vocal Cord Hemorrhage)

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via ABC
Justin Bieber at last year's American Music Awards.
Welcome to Sound of the City's liveblog of the 2011 American Music Awards, the annual salute to the most popular popular music that exists in the American wild this year. While Lady Gaga and Adele and Beyoncé are absent, this year's show apparently has one performance that will cost $500,000 to pull off, as well as a David Guetta/Nicki Minaj outing that is heavy—heavy in the weight sense, not in the "societal import" sense because c'mon we're talking about King Of Eurogloss David Guetta here—and appearances by Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Katy (sigh) Perry, Kelly Clarkson, and other notables from the Hot 100. Come join us for the next three hours, won't you?

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David Guetta's Dance Music Melting Pot

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People were so busy comparing Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" to Madonna's "Express Yourself" earlier this year that they didn't notice the similarities between the lead single from Gaga's new album and French DJ/producer David Guetta's 2009 Kelly Rowland collaboration "When Love Takes Over." Indeed, when you strip both artists down to their sonics, the cultural revolution represented by Guetta's two most recent records could be potentially more significant than anything yet manifested by Gaga.

Guetta, neither a prissy purist nor a smug segregationist, is effortlessly bringing the mutually embattled worlds of rap, r&b, pop, rock, and underground dance music together in ways only hoped for by America's most idealistic DJs. His new album Nothing But the Beat (Capitol) solidifies his bid to be the Quincy Jones of contemporary groove pop, even while his critics dismiss his admiration of seminal experiments in American rap and underground disco. But Guetta never wholly replicates his favorite atavisms; he merely evokes and pays passionate homage to them.

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