Monsta On Signing To Skrillex's OWSLA Label, Dubstep, and Moby‏

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Skrillex may be "the most hated man in dubstep," but his new signing will soon make that a thing of the past. Having discovered MONSTA through his manager during SXSW, Skrillex was in a state of shock when he found out that the voice on one of their tracks wasn't an Aretha Franklin sample. It was, in fact, the powerful, soulful lungs of Skaar, MONSTA's frontman. A few months after hearing their unique take on dubstep, Skaar and his two producer bandmates -- Rufio and Rocky, previously known as Pegasus -- were signed to the Grammy-winning star's record label, OWSLA.

See Also:
- Skrillex Gets Deep on the Cusp of the Grammys
- Photos: Skrillex and A-Trak at Roseland Ballroom

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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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100 & Single: fun., Gotye, M83, EDM, And The Beginning Of The Hot 100's Spotify Years

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The top three songs on Spotify, March 20, 2012. "Young" is at No. 1 on the Hot 100; "Know" is at No. 5; and "Came" is at No. 4.
How do you know when you're at the dawn of a new pop era?

It's not like someone sends a memo. Sure, occasionally there's a well-timed cultural event that offers a hint—the disastrous Altamont festival in December 1969, which signaled that the flower-power dream was over, or Comiskey Park's Disco Demolition Night in July 1979, which warned that dance music's days were numbered, at least with middle-American dudes. But even bright temporal lines like these only seem significant in retrospect, and they don't actually change the sound of young America overnight.

The same goes for the Billboard charts, the Dow Jones Industrial Average of pop. Occasionally you get a No. 1 hit on the Hot 100 that feels like a revolution instantly. Or there's a blockbuster album that feels like a generational torch passing.

This week, the song sitting on top the Hot 100 doesn't necessarily sound like a revolution. But from its title on down, "We Are Young," the soaring, Janelle Monáe-assisted rock anthem by emo-pomp band fun, wants to be generational. Two weeks ago, fun. rampaged their way to the summit thanks to a pileup of digital sales. For each of the last two weeks, "We Are Young" has topped the very healthy sum of 300,000 downloads; it's the only song to roll that many weekly downloads in 2012, let alone do it twice.

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Live-Blogging The 2012 Grammys: Tributes, Tribulations, Skrillex, And The Return Of Adele

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via Cats Who Look Like Skrillex
Will this cat win Best New Artist?
Welcome to Sound of the City's liveblog of the 54th Annual Grammys, coming to you live from a couch in Astoria. There are quite a few questions lurking around tonight's ceremony. Will Adele sweep the three major categories in which she's nominated, thus putting a cap on the megaselling, incredibly popular 21—and how will she sound in her live return? Will Skrillex (above, sorta) put a wub-wub-wub on the Best New Artist category? Will Bon Iver pout his way to the podium if he upsets Adele in Record or Song of the Year? Will Adam Levine upstage the Beach Boys when they share the stage? Will LL Cool J make at least 10 cross-promotional references to other CBS shows? Will Kanye West show up? Will the Whitney Houston tribute be okay? Tune in belooowwww!

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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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Oddsmaking: Will Thom Yorke Dance Away With The Short-Form Music Video Grammy?

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Unlike MTV's Video Music Awards, which usually reward some combination of pop excellence, symbolic audacity, and likelihood of being controversial, the Grammys' short-form music video category is a lot like the Oscars. They don't always pick the best videos—this year's list omits such highlights as Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass," Ke$ha's "Blow," the Beastie Boys' "Make Some Noise," and Beyoncé's "Girls (Who Run the World)"—but they do a good job of capturing the middlebrow zeitgeist, recognizing those videos that manage to combine critical respectability with popular appeal. Looking through their past winners, they generally pick the right one from the bunch ("Opposites Attract" in 1991, "Losing My Religion" in 1992, "Digging in the Dirt" in 1993). Their blind spot is the same one in every other category: older artists. That's why "Free as a Bird" beat "Tonight, Tonight" in 1997, and Johnny Cash's "God's Gonna Cut You Down" won over Feist's "1234" in 2008. With no dead artists eligible this year, will the righteous (Adele) triumph? Or will Grammy voters give in to their lazier impulses and just pick OK Go?

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So Beautiful? So What: Why The Grammys Shoved Paul Simon Aside And Embraced Skrillex

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A good while back, I was envisioning a Grammy-night dogfight between what, at that point, were my two favorite albums of 2011: Lady Gaga's Born This Way and Paul Simon's So Beautiful or So What. (Both ended up on my Pazz & Jop ballot.)I mentioned this to Maura and she said, "No. Adele." Up went my vision in smoke. Still, I figured the Englishwoman would at least be looking back in passing at the Egg Lady and Mr. Grammy together. Of course they'd both be nominated, I figured. Gaga is Gaga, and Simon's album wasn't simply his strongest work since Graceland—after many, many plays (none for work, incidentally—I didn't write about it), I think So Beautiful might be his best album, period.

Obviously, my predictions didn't mean anything. Gaga has nothing to worry about, but not only wasn't Simon nominated for Album of the Year, he wasn't nominated for anything at all. This for a guy who managed a 2001 Album nod for the outright dud You're the One—never mind that he's one of only three people to win three times for AOTY: in 1971 for Simon & Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water, in 1976 for Still Crazy After All These Years, and in 1987 for Graceland. Simon may stew over "coming in second" to Bob Dylan all these years, but this year was his chance to at least try to pull ahead of fellow three-Album winners Frank Sinatra and Stevie Wonder (whom Simon thanked in 1976 for not "mak[ing] an album this year") in the Grammy sweeps.

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Oddsmaking: Who Will Win This Year's Best New Artist Trophy At The Grammys?

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In this week's Voice I wrote about Skrillex, the emo-dude-gone-dubstep-auteur who's spawned a bunch of funny-Photoshop blogs and garnered five Grammy nominations. One of the categories he's nominated in is one of the Big Four—Best New Artist, which seems to have shaken off its "one-way ticket to obscurity" stigma (recent winners include Maroon 5 and probably Woman Of This Year Adele). But does he have any chance at all of winning this genre-spanning category on Sunday night, and introducing those American viewers who aren't familiar with the EDM circuit to his aesthetic? In the first of a series of oddsmaking posts on SOTC over the next few days, we handicap his odds against The Band Perry, Bon Iver, J. Cole, and Nicki Minaj.

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The Top 9 Things Overheard Outside Last Night's Secret Skrillex Show

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As you may have by now heard, last night, as part of his weeklong New York takeover, dubstep phenom Skrillex played a show so secret that even he didn't know its whereabouts. Nevertheless, Voice nightlife correspondent Puja Patel managed to score an invite, one that required us to meet at another secret location and be taken by bus, blindfolded, to the other. Because Puja had another event to cover, she was ultimately told where to go (Work in Progress, the newish club under Greenhouse, as it turned out) and we attempted to work our way in at the door. In retrospect, this was a terrible idea. Still, though we never heard Skrillex drop the beat, we overheard enough ridiculous, cringeworthy, made-us-burst-out-laughing-right-there-on-the-sidewalk quotes to fill five of these blog posts. Here are some of the best that we remember.

Before getting into the list, we should note that we both intended to come away from the show with something more than another "lol people at Skrillex" post, but stranded by our press contact and unwilling to part with next month's rent, this was all we were left with. For an actual report from one of these shows, keep your browsers here (and refresh constantly, we could use the hits), as Maura is heading to Roseland Ballroom to see what happens at tonight's gig. She even has a ticket. If you can't wait til then, go back and check out the essay on Skrillex and American rave that Tom Ewing contributed to December's Voice Critic's Roundtable.

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Underwhelmed And Overstimulated, The Finale: Jay-Z And Kanye West Fiddle While The Underground Gets Wasted

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Smell that money burning.
This concludes Sound of the City's year-end roundtable, a conversation about pop music in 2011 between Tom Ewing, Eric Harvey, Maura Johnston, Nick Murray, and Katherine St. Asaph. Read it all again.

Thanks for the handoff, Nick, and thanks to Katherine, Tom and especially Maura for the great conversation over the past few days. I'll try and wrap this thing up with the rigor and candor you all have displayed so far. Quickly, to Tom's question about Skrillex: he is a big deal, and we should be talking more about him. I was just having a conversation about the fact that, yet again, hi-NRG dance music is making important inroads into American dance culture—for the first time since the "electronica" moment of the Chemical Brothers and Prodigy, then the Big Beat microsecond of Fatboy Slim and Moby, which we quickly learned worked best on this side of the Atlantic in car commercials and movie trailers.

Skrillex's (and Canadian contemporary Deadmau5) most immediate predecessor—in terms of function, not form—is clearly Girl Talk, who taught American college and high school kids that it's okay to wild the fuck out now and again. Yet whereas Greg Gillis seems like an accidental hero who started making music off Limewire downloads after getting home from work, Skrillex strikes me as much more of a musician's musician—an ex-emo kid who saw an opportunity he couldn't pass up. As some of my smart esteemed colleagues (including Tom—hi Tom!) were discussing on Twitter yesterday, critics need to pay attention to this new wave of party-starters. It's very likely to be a passing fad holding us over until Rock Comes To Reclaim The Fist-Pumping Throne, but maybe—just maybe—it'll trigger the rise of an entirely guitar-free musical culture for the next decade.

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