Rantings, reviews and lists from a person who structures half his life around obsessing over music.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Electric Six - "Danger! High Voltage"

Electric Six really wants everyone to know how dance music keeps starting fires. Fire in the disco, fire in the gates of hell, even fire in the taco bell (apparently)! As "Danger! High Voltage" compels you to give into that toe-tapping, booty-bumping fire with its funky guitars, steady hump-inducing bass and searing saxophone solo, you might start to realize that this single from seven years ago offered a pretty interesting meta-commentary on why dance music has always been one of the most prominent and common threads in popular music: at the heart of it all is sex. In the same way that songs with obvious lyrics about love sell like mad, so do songs with musical textures that force the body to replicate the movements, motions and groove of the dirtiest of private, two-person dances. Both love and lust are emotions that literally every single human being can relate to, and so, unsurprisingly, they're the most marketable.

If you find that hard to believe, look at the way dance trends gotten increasingly sexual in the past 30 to 40 years. Look at how the ass-shaking, rhythmic bass of disco (When the dance floor was just posing the question), the not-so-subtle innuendos of funk (Was there ever a moment where George Clinton wasn't standing on the verge of getting it on?) and the tenderly erotic grooves of soul (Isaac Hayes wants all the women to crowd around!) infiltrated pretty much everything in the aftermath of the 60's sexual revolution. Among other things, Prince made his name in the 80's telling his infamous story about Nikki while an (admittedly, more than likely unintended) obsession with masturbation seemed to bubble under the surface, with several chart-topping singles telling us to "beat it," "whip it," and "turn japanese".

Look at how instantly popular Nelly got when he decided to tap into the sub-conscious desire in all our minds and compel us to take off all our clothes when it starts to get too hot in the bars. Britney Spears began with her career a pretty enormous fan base by dressing as a scantily clad schoolgirl but insisting on a profile of innocence. She went on to tell us a year later, dressed in a skin-tight, hot red catsuit that she actually wasn't that innocent, tripling her audience. Finally she was barely wearing anything, saying that she was a slave for us, resulting in a tenfold audience increase and making even critics praise her club-friendly singles. Plus, there's freak-dancing, which is basically an excuse to dry-hump in public. One can go on and on, but the bottom line is that there's a fire at the heart of how easily the public falls for these and "it's our desire".

There's a danger here, of course. How far into depravity and overt hypersexuality will we go? The way the two main characters of the music video in question have been joined by a taxidermied Moose by the end seems to suggest the possibility of our cultural obsession with sex breaching and embracing fetishism in the near future. We've already fully integrated mysogyny into most popular hip hop and when someone like Soulja Boy tells us to "Superman that ho" he gets huge. And how else, in this context, has something as abrasive, rough and filthy as Dubstep gotten so insanely popular, in the dance shoes of fans from pretty much every genre of music? I'm curious to see if a graph could be made charting the correlation between increases in both viewership of increasingly hardcore porn and listenership of Cragga. The fact that we have come to describe the high quality of a song in that genre as "dirty" could be more than a little revealing. I can see Rusko's newest single in a year sampling and warping sounds from "Two Girls, One Cup". What would be more filthy than that?

Okay yes, the dubstep examination is probably a stretch. Hell, this whole article might be. It's hard to avoid thinking about a song this much when the music video of is this hard to turn away from. There must be a relationship between dance and fire and sex and music and it must be vital because Dick Valentine and his girlfriend are staring pretty intensely at us. Between that and its monstrous hooks, the song invites enough repeat listens to start to seriously ponder about it more than this type of music usually warrants. At the end of the day, the enjoyment of dance music comes down to something that doesn't need to explained or examined. That's why the frontman's psychopathic vocal delivery here is so appropriate. It's primal, spontaneous, uncontrolled and the enjoyment of this song should be just as primitive. The circular guitar riff is hypnotic and mesmerizing as it should be to the joints in your muscles on the dance floor. As much as some groups of humans can try to act civilized and intelligent and highbrow, the bottom line is we're still animals and maybe that's why animalistic songs like this sound so damn good to us. The instinct to dance is as ingrained in us as the instinct to breed or eat or survive. To deny that would be as unnatural as denying sex.

Song and video after the jump:

No comments:

"How many times must a man look up
before he can see the sky?"