Stevo's been pressuring me for awhile (weeks, probably) to write a post on who's getting my vote for the Top 100 DJs. I actually spent a long time thinking about it – do I want to vote for up and comers? Nice guys who deserve recognition? Those who have stellar production skills? Mashup artists? Or guys who blew away the competition live? It's a dilemma. So here are my five choices and why I'm picking them, as well as who I'm NOT picking, and why.
1. Steve Aoki
This week Globe and Mail published an article saying that EDM, the “exuberant” and “newly popular” genre needed a charismatic poster boy. Steve Aoki is that person. He's funny, he's strange, he's a little insane, and his shows are fun filled celebrations full of laughs and amazing music. Beyond that, Aoki is the DJ who genuinely loves his fans. Comparing his facebook against the current top ten djs, he lags behind in likes … but there is no other dj who boasts the level of one-on-one interaction. Aoki is tireless – not just at performing and making music, but at letting his fans know they are appreciated. Earlier in the year, I was lucky enough to help run an event for Steve on turntable.fm, where he asked trivia questions and gave away signed SOL Republic Headphones. I was blown away by how approachable and geez, how kind he was. He's legitimately a sweet guy, who reminds you of your crazy friend who is always into a bit of mischief. There is no one that I would rather represent the EDM scene than Steve, and he's my number one choice.
First, let me say this… Tiesto is old. He's been making music as long as I (and most of our readers) have been alive. And yet. There are producers who make “fun” music. Producers who make music to get wasted to. But to me, Tiesto has always made music that speaks to the soul. Quite simply, he is not a fad. It is his voice that has defined and hell, created, the essence of electro, progressive house, and trance. I can't think of a single song he's done that isn't totally beautiful and filled with heart. Second, Tiesto is rich. He doesn't NEED to produce, he doesn't need to drag himself all over the damn world 50 weeks a year, and he sure as hell doesn't have anything else to prove. So why does he do it? If you read his interviews and his life story, you'll know that this is a man who is consumed by passion for music. He will never do anything else. Unlike some of the other djs, Tiesto isn't about the sponsorship or fame or chicks or money. Through the last 20 years, he has sacrificed his personal life again and again in order to push the genre forward, and I respect that kind of dedication.
3. Kill the Noise
As a hardcore filthy dubstep producer, Kill the Noise seems like a very unlikely pick for someone like me, who was raised at the teat of trance/progressive. But earlier this year I was able to see KTN in concert and was absolutely mesmerized. It was the first time I'd ever seen a dj do live mixing, and wow. As you guys know, these days none of the top talent mix live at all, and I actually doubt if some of them are even capable of it. KTN not only mixed live, but he threw himself into the music and the performance. It was obvious that he was full of joy to be there, and honestly I have never in my life and all my coverage of EDM events seen a dj who was so active and so exhausted after a set. Much like you award gold medals to the actual athletes and not the guys who write about it, I'm awarding one of my votes to a DJ who actually deejays.
What I love about these guys is that I have no idea what they are capable of. Nero consists of guys who were trained in cello and classical guitar, who moved into electro sorta by accident, and became international superstars overnight. I never know what to expect – filthy synths, grinding wobbles, or heartbreaking instrumentals or a combination of everything that catches you off guard and wipes out all your assumptions or preconceived ideas about them as a group. Known as being the innovators of bass, I can see them sticking with this vibe or changing things up entirely next week by splicing in some indie folk songs. Whatever they do, I have utter faith in their ability to innovate – and that's rare to find.
About a year ago, someone sent me the video of Madeon mixing (you know, this video) and as I sat there with my mouth hanging open, I had this dim recognition that this young French kid was going to change the face of music. Then along came Skrillex and Porter Robinson, and Madeon was a little forgotten in the flood of hard electro and dubstep. I have been incredibly relieved to see him getting recognition off Youtube and getting play from BBC and being invited to live shows. As a mashup artist, Madeon has shown incredible skill with knowing what works, and a deep understanding of sound progression and harmony. Since Finale and Icarus, he's also demonstrated that he can build original tracks just as well as the other top djs in the world, and after seeing him live, I know that he is on his way to becoming an integral piece of the electro world. Another indicator of his talent has been just how many djs are willing to mentor, sponsor, and otherwise promote (for free!) Madeon's work. It is clear that we all expect great things.
Who I'm Not Voting For (and why):
Allow me to say that I love the mau5. I have been a huge (huge) fan since day 1. In the last six months though, I have increasingly begun to worry about my favorite dj. Joel seems overworked, worried, and maybe even a little depressed. He is no longer getting joy out of making music. When he said he was ‘unplugging' I mentally sent him a high five. He needs (and deserves) a break from the drama and the crush of an intense producing/touring schedule. While his fame has done nothing but skyrocket in the last 5 years, and he remains the one of the most vocal and visible faces of the genre, I think it's important that he continue to love what he's doing and to feel undiluted happiness when up on stage. Getting bogged down and burnt out is the last thing I would want for him. I can't vote for him because even though he may deserve the #1 spot, I don't want him to feel like he has to live up to the title. I'd rather he take a sabbatical, sail New Zealand, and not respond to anyone's emails for 6 months.
2. David Guetta
The first time I've ever been disappointed in a set was with Guetta as the dj. As somewhat of a purist, and also a deeply emotional lass from a music family, I was bothered by the commercial, laissez faire attitude that DG has taken in the last year. During his own set, he seemed bored, and looked out at the crowd with a wooden, almost pained expression. Maybe he had food poisoning, or maybe he was stoned, or maybe he's lost his groove… but needless to say I was left feeling a little bitter. Later, when allegations broke that DG ‘plugs in an iphone and shuts down' on stage, I wasn't the least surprised. There is no way he could receive my vote for Top DJ this year based on the skill and heart that his competition is demonstrating.
Unlike basically every other female on earth, I've never really been into celebrity gossip. So I was kinda “behind” the News that Afrojack and Paris Hilton were collaborating on tracks (what?) and that they were breaking up (wait… he's dating her?) and that he'd supported and trained her (what?). Not only does she not care in the slightest about music, she's actually widely despised by djs. So. At the point where I discovered Afrojack had been dating this person and expressed “like” for her music, I deduced the following things: 1) he's into her money 2)he's into her fame 3)he has absolutely no self respect 4) he has truly terrible taste in women and 5) he's letting his penis decide his career. After that, I basically have not been able to listen to his tracks without shaking my head in dismay.
So there you have it – my picks for top DJ… I'm eager to hear what you guys think and who you're voting for, and definitely want to hear who you ARENT voting for and why. Email me – elle AT edmsauce DOT com, and lemme know!