Remember those growls and heavy bass ruling the music industry a few years back? Yeah, well the thing is, it’s kinda dead at this point.
Now, hang in there. It’s not totally dead. If you’re a fan then you might disagree with it.
Dubstep was the thing for all music festival’s boom. Nonetheless, in 2014, it all suddenly evaporated to nothing.
So, actually what happened to Dubstep?
Dubstep dramatically fell out of trend because the taste of the fanbase changed overnight. Along with that, repetitive tunes and rigid lyrics became monotonous to the niche teen audience. Electronic music took a dark turn to the serious side. This made the popularity start drastically falling apart in mid 2014s.
But there’s more to it. So, why wait any further? Let us get right in the article.
Uprising of Dubstep
If you thought that dubstep had its origins in the 2010s, you’re not fully mistaken. You see, just how pop evolved after merging with mainstream music, dubstep followed the same path. Thus, the popular form of dubstep has very little resemblance with its original form.
Now, people mostly mix EDM with Dubstep. But that’s not something new. People also get confused between hardcore and metal. So, is dubstep an EDM?
No, EDM originated when DJs were mixing sounds. These sounds originated from other cultures with the fusion of drum beats, bass music, and melodies. On the other hand, dubstep is a spin-off of EDM. It is characterized by heavy bass music with low frequencies.
Dubstep is a sub-genre of EDM. This sub-genre is characterized by its fast rhythm. It’s often made up of a variety of different samples. Whereas, EDM relies on a single instrument and creates its beat with a slow tempo.
So, the main difference is that dubstep relies on bass whereas EDM on drums and vocals.
Let’s come to an example, if you have heard “cinema” by Skrillex, that’s an EDM. Songs by Rusko, Caspa, Doctor P like “ bangarang” by Skrillex are examples of dubstep music.
Why Dubstep Music Declined
Dubstep reached its pinnacle of mainstream electronic music with artists headlining the world’s largest festivals, say Coachella or Grammy. All of a sudden, in 2014, the bubble popped. Tastes changed and electronic music took a full turn to the darker side.
The main question here- Why did dubstep die?
Dubstep died because the demand for the cultural cachet of the genre vanished overnight. This left the artists sleepless. The meaningless lyrics, technical innovation, melody, etc made the tune repetitive to the audience. This resulted in huge corrosion to the fanbase.
So, what happened to cause such change? Let’s dive into the deep of this. Not just dubstep, many other genres have taken an opposite turn like pop music.
Reason 1: Repetitive Music Pattern
When you think of Dubstep, the first name that pops into your head is Skrillex Dubstep. He was the main figure behind tracks like Scary Monsters & Nice Sprites.
Back in the time, he was also ranked as the year tops and was listed as one of the most influential artists. It’s thought that the main drawback that came to the genre was its repetitive music pattern.
Here we’ve tackled the reason from 4 angles, instruments, tempo, melody, and notes. Now, let’s go through each of them in detail.
Here before we start, let’s clear out one thing.
You see, the root of dubstep evolved from two branches of dance music. The last version here was the Drum and Bass. And before that, it took a journey through the Jungle. And because of these roots, the main idea behind dubstep is to use the bass drums. In turn, this produces sounds like gunshots.
Moreover, the drum beats used in dubstep are made up of a variety of samples and instruments. And these are characterized by hard and fast rhythms. The bass is used to accompany the drum and bassline.
For the initial drum beat, bass drum and a snare/clap are the basic elements. These are layered to create drum kicks.
Now when two kicks are layered, it leads to phasing issues. This is one of my main causes of monotonous and repetitive music. Moreover, distuned kicks create a muddy sound that loses impact.
The most common tempo for Dubstep is 140 BPM. As a result, there is less variation when the tuning for all the sounds is the same.
Although there are some songs produced with a slight deviation from this norm. Those tracks range between 128 BPM to 160 BPM. This usually happens when dubstep is fused with other genres. For example, “ Feel the Volume” by Jauz features a dubstep drop at [1:00]. This drastic drop in tempo is what makes the music slow.
Melody and Rhythm
Of course, Dubstep music has rhythm and dynamics. It uses syncopated rhythms and shuffled or incorporated tuplets. Some pieces use texture and short timbre with claps or snare.
The musicality falls apart with the same rhythm having no form. Especially melody, harmony, timbre, or form seems to be repetitive after hearing for a while. This leaves the song with very little dynamics.
Reason 2: Lackluster Sound Design
Sound design is an elemental part of music. It’s basically how the music of a song is built. It involves everything from recording and mixing, to adding creative touches.
However, this originality or creativity somewhat lacks in generic dubstep music. How you may ask? Let us explain.
If you’re a dubstep fan, you must have heard of the schoolboy. But what happened to schoolboy Dubstep? He had some major hits in 2013 and 2014. But, he wasn’t consistent with his tunes and most of his songlines were copied. Thus, along with the decline of dubstep, schoolboys too got lost in time.
On the same note, let’s talk about Brostep. It’s the Americanized form of dubstep with the US producer, Skrillex. Brostep, which was dubbed by dubstep, became popular in the male teens and was an aggressive variant of UK-style dubstep.
The main difference between dubstep and brostep is that dubstep focuses on modulating low-frequency sub-base and has a frequency from 132-142 BPM. On the other hand, brostep focuses on modulating mid-frequency based base and ranges from 140-150 BPM.
If you have heard a few dubstep music, you will find them to be repetitive. Why does all dubstep sound the same?
It’s mainly because a few artists don’t change the sound for different songs. Other artists use that same sound on their labels. Not only that, many people try to copy existing sounds in their songs. This makes the whole genre lack variety
Now, to know why all dubstep music sounds the same/similar, let’s get into the technicalities.
Improper use of artificial music can ruin your tune. So you may wonder – What is the easiest DAW(Digital Audio Workstation) to use?
Well, the majority of Dubstep producers use Ableton for its intuitive workflow and ability to quickly get a song idea before losing it. LogicPro and GarageBand are also used. It mainly depends on your technical knowledge and convenience.
A common problem with most DAWs is that they are too technical-oriented and get lost somewhere. In recent times, people don’t want to go through so much hassle for song modulation. A smartphone is enough to mix a song. For this reason, technical orientation is thought of as an added burden.
Build up/Drop Structure
Bass drop is an inherent characteristic of drum and bass. It reduces the track to silence and resumes with more intensity with the dominant sub-bass. This sub-bass often passes portamento through an entire octave or more.
Usually, the bass drops at 55 seconds into the song. That is because 55 seconds is the time just over 32 measures at a tempo of 140 BPM. And you thought you didn’t need math to make music.
Now although this is not a rigid character, most dubstep tracks incorporate such a mix of build-up/drop structures. This makes all the songs sound similar, as a bass drop is the main essence of this music. For this reason, it is considered that bass drop is gone forever.
Wobble bass is a specific strand of dubstep. It is often referred to as “wub”. In this strand, an extended bass note is manipulated rhythmically. It is produced using a low-frequency oscillator with certain parameters, such as volume distortion or filter cutoff.
This bass style makes the variations of dubstep club-friendly. However, this variation can be quite frequent, monotonous, and pitchy. This makes the listeners annoyed, due to the constant vibration. Many claim or complain that it ruins the flow of tone or music for them.
Reason 3: Meaningless Lyrics
Super Stimulus theory, developed by Philip Dorrell- says that music is a super stimulus with a heightened response. Speech is also one of the stimuli with a lower response. It conveys a message and is received by the listeners with understanding and emotion.
The speech follows the same principle as music. It is a total musicality but to a lesser extent. Now, what happened to dubstep songs? Dubstep doesn’t convey a message or emotion. This is due to the lack of lyrical meaning to the music.
This music style is mostly made for rolling in the club. So listeners cannot jam to it for regular listening. This makes the music connect less to the listeners.
Reason 4: Inflexible Fanbase
Dubstep was a rock and roll for millennials. It was a sound that the elders didn’t get. The teens could pack into stadiums hoping to feel something. Above all, they just wanted to be there, present with flashing smartphones.
As this fanbase didn’t quite hook into songs for long enough and was a niche base, the genre lost its fame quite early. Another main reason this happened is that the teen choice shifted from grooving in clubs to songs they could relate to. Though the initial fanbase was for the beat, eventually their tastes shifted towards more meaningful songs.
A question now might be what happened to brostep? It is still available but is no longer in style. The majority of its fan base shifted to a hipster trend and the remaining are there for the music.
Reason 5: Lack of Technical Skill and Innovation
The first step to learn dubstep tracks is to master modulation. It may sound weird, but modulation is the technique to create complex rhythmic bass lines that people love to hear in dubstep. It is an area to be creative.
Some known dubstep DJs are Skrillex, Diplo, DJ Snake. You may also add other DAWs to your Arsenal by mixing them down from Ableton and polish your song with a professional song.
For this reason, precise technical knowledge is required to make these songs which most producers lack. This creates a huge gap between technical innovation and knowledge. The song works with frequency movement outside the hearing range with various synthesizer parameters. Not just this, Computer software like Pro Tools or Sonar is also used to jazz up the tracks.
In non-technical terms, the process is quite laborious due to this excessive use of the software. In the top 40 pop acts of that time, Skrillex, Deadmau5, and Avicii hit the top chart but with time it all faded out due to the lack of innovation.
So yeah, I guess that’s (almost) all of our takes on what happened to dubstep- and why.
Question: Does dubstep still exist?
Answer: Yes, dubstep still exists- it’s not entirely dead. It is simply no longer the trendy style it once was. However, brostep is still alive and has been modified using other styles. For UK dubstep, that sound never reached the mainstream and became a falloff.
Question: Why is it called dubstep?
Answer: Dubstep originated from a “two-step garage”. It is a type of music that is pared down to a sluggish, minimal atmosphere like powerful bass just like “dub reggae”. This is where the words “dub” and “step” came from to form the genre’s name.
Question: Will dubstep exist in the future?
Answer: Yes, it can make a comeback soon, especially in the US. It is evolving in new forms such as future bass, vaporwave, future pop, etc.
So, this is all from us on what happened to Dubstep. Finally, as you have come this far, we are guessing you are a Dubstep fan. For you, the good news is that Skrillex is coming back with a new track very soon.
What’s your take on dubstep music? Let us know in the comment section below. Till then, have a good day!