Things Music Critics Hate: Skrillex

Skrillex-things-hate.jpg
Skrillex.

Music criticism is as much an affliction as an occupation -- especially these days, it's far more reliable as a sickness than a paycheck. Things Music Critics Hate is an occasional series that will attempt to diagnose and explain the broadly shared beliefs and biases that shape the landscape of music criticism -- and also to discover what qualities (if any) professional observers generally agree make music good.

See also:

* Things Music Critics Hate: Foster the People, Cage the Elephant, Young the Giant, Portugal. The Man, Etc.

* Things Music Critics Hate: Coldplay

Many people love Skrillex, who in real life is 23-year-old Sonny Moore, onetime S.F. resident and former screamo bandleader. In less than two years, he's gone from virtual unknown to landing songs on charts worldwide. He's nominated for five Grammy awards this year. He draws sprawling crowds in San Francisco and at festivals like Las Vegas' Electric Daisy Carnival. Last year, he even made the cover of SPIN. That pale countenance belonging to Sonny Moore is pretty much the face of America's newfound obsession with electronic dance music.

A smaller, but no less vociferous crowd hates Skrillex and the mechanical bass detonations of his sound. Among music aficionados and many professional critics, Skrillex might as well be Satan's spawn, a strange-looking little demon who likes Korn and aims to spoil the precious soul of dance with a wobblestorm of hyperactive farting.

The U.K. Guardian interviewed Skrillex last year and headlined the story, "Is Skrillex the Most Hated Man in Dubstep?" (Conclusion: Yes, but he's really happy.) Nitush Abebe wrote a thoughtful piece called "Why Does America Love Skrillex" for Vulture and decided that Skrillex's violent bricolage of high-pitched vocal samples, subterranean low frequencies, and metallic clatter was thrilling in a different way -- and appealing to a different crowd -- than the more subtle, soulful stuff many serious electronic dance music fans regard as good. (It definitely did not amount to a defense.) And even the San Francisco Chronicle found objectionable the way Skrillex's lurching rhythms forced a particular movement on dancers at a live show, rather than allowing them to find their own kinetic response to the beat. (Which, yeah -- how you're supposed to dance to this is lost on us.)

The disdain for Skrillex is different, too, from the "you-really-get-paid-this-much-to-filter-sweep" way that EDM aficionados regard douchey Euro DJs like David Guetta and Tiësto. Those folks make boring, predictable, transparently manipulative dance music, but what they do isn't particularly offensive. It's just bad. But to its detractors, the music of Skrillex amounts to a sonic abomination that's also deeply angering.

Let's deal first with the aesthetic argument against Skrillex. At his most ornery, in songs like "Right In" and "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites," Skrillex sounds like what would happen if you took a heap of scrap metal, shoved it in an industrial-sized clothes dryer, and then amplified the resulting sound during a major earthquake, with attendant screaming from terrified disaster victims. But you'd have to watch that disaster on fast-forward, because Skrillex's sonic assault is always -- always -- anxiously shifting. While much dance music works through subtle changes to a repetitive rhythm, Skrillex tracks are always churning out new elements in a hyperactive attempt to dazzle and overwhelm. That willingness to play to his audience's ever-shrinking attention span is key to his success. And while many electronic artists aim to capture every drop of humanity from their MPCs and Ableton setups, Skrillex's machines sound as big, shiny, and mechanical as possible.

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13 comments
sr555sks
sr555sks

I think I'd prefer a dentist's drill over Skrillex. The two are comparable.

Karina Maloney
Karina Maloney

Oh goodness... Nobody even mentions his ability to weave melody... Everyone is sooo focused on talking about "the sound". The sound is different, but why hate something that's different because it has elements of borrowed music? Skrillex admits to borrowing from dubstep, but his music definitely isn't dubstep. Anyways, great composers have been stealing other composers styles to make new music for centuries..... That doesn't make them bad composers for some reason though. I'm happy for the refreshing sound. I'm happy that it can be melodical and experimental at the same time. I love that it doesn't drag on and on to change. As for people not knowing how to dance to it... Well who cares. Not all music is dancing music, and if people want to dance to it, they'll find a way.  

Michael Lopez
Michael Lopez

I like how they used ZEDDS REMIX version of the song 

Toby
Toby

Okay, you don't like someone. Fair enough. But I don't go on and on about how much I don't like rap, and country. It's called common respect. Why can't one person like one thing, and another person like another thing. I'm sure for some of you, this is a hard idea to grasp, but don't be opinionated. I'll enjoy my music, and you enjoy yours, and we don't have to criticize each other for it. No one is forcing others to listen to their preference. According to the article, this sounds like "if you took a heap of scrap metal, shoved it in an industrial-sized clothes dryer, and then amplified the resulting sound during a major earthquake, with attendant screaming from terrified disaster victims." Well good for them. But I enjoy it. And contrary to popular belief, it requires skill to make this music. I'd like to see you run Ableton no problem. Point is, keep your thoughts to yourself, and why don't we all just get along? Dang.

Kyle Shockey
Kyle Shockey

Check out his new song "My Goodbye". Your argument is now invalid..

Ease
Ease

I just want to know why he brought KoRn to Coachella?!

And he also states Flim by Aphex Twin is his favorite song.

I mean serio perro, wtf?

Bubbler
Bubbler

Skrillex sounds like music robots jack off to...

mattd00d
mattd00d

He jerked off to robots before it was cool... hipster

Chriswiseowl
Chriswiseowl

Yes, I 'd put S-- in the same disliked category as Maroon 5, Foster The People, or Young The Giant (especially), for exactly the same categorical reasons I dislike the very audiences who like them: a gratuitous pandering to the stupid who are too un-clued to care. But then, Americans are kinda stupid, no?No:Take this into consideration: the most watched American TV program in the entire history of American TV programming is---wait for it---Wheel of Fortune. This may go a long or short way in explaining why some music is BOTH liked and hated by both fan and critic alike anywhere in the world: as a listening public, everyone has the right, nay, the obligation to like something stupid--for either all the right or wrong reasons, or no reason at all.Personally, I have nothing against any of the above groups. It's been said that any given country deserves the leader(s) they have. I say the same for any genre of music any critic hates and any average fan loves.Is Skrillex pure to the Purists or mongrel to the Fan? Does it matter?

Joetuffguy1
Joetuffguy1

Uhhhg, What is this mumbo jumbo you're spewing out? I am the audience of Skrillex. and I take offense to you implying that I am being pandered gratuitously because I'm stupid and "un-clued", (the word is clueless). You ramble on about about my nations people as being stupid and comment about TV as some indicator of Americas intelligence. Personally I don't watch TV. Then you make a point at the end but I am already ignoring your comments because you already offended me and my country. Just remember this, music is art, you don't attach intelligence to it.Period. If the art/music moves you then it is successful. I am moved by Skrillex's music. If there are people out there who are moved by  Maroon 5 or Justin Bieber or whomever, then that's a good thing. It's not a negative.Music is an uplifting and individual experience that doesnt need to be explained or understood or criticized .Skrillex doesn't need explaining, you either like him or don''t. Now go find some music you like Chris, and crank it up.

MrEricSir
MrEricSir

Aren't the artists who win Grammys nearly always hated by critics?

Joetuffguy1
Joetuffguy1

That's it!. "the sound of his machines sounding as big,shiny, and mechanical as possible". You hit the nail on the head. THAT is what I love about him,coupled with his melodies of sounds that touch the soul. Lyrics you cant even hear but you feel them instead, for christ's sake give this man his well deserved props. I am 54 years old and I know I am not in Skrillex's demographic, but his music speaks to me on an emotional level like nothing before.I love his sound he has created. I don't care if there is a faction of dubstep artists taking offense to Skrillex's borrowing whatever the hell they think hes "taking" from them. This is ART! sometimes you gotta do a little dumpster diving or sift through a junkyard to create a masterpiece.How about a huge acknowledgment of Skrillex's ability to bring in a broader audience to the EDM culture. Look everybody! EDM isn't just for "rollin" hipsters anymore. Skrillex is art, embrace him instead of trying to label him.Skrillex is way more than Dubstep, believe me.

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