Why DJ Mag's Top 100 DJs Poll Is Harmful to Dance Music
Maya Jane Coles, one of several successful female DJs snubbed by DJ Mag's Top 100 poll
Courtesy of !K7 Records
George Carlin used to do a bit about elections; the late comedian didn't vote, he said, and not voting gave him more of a right to complain. That's how I feel about DJ Mag's Top 100 DJs poll. I didn't vote and, yet here I am complaining about it.
It's a cynical attitude, but dance music in 2015, much like U.S. politics, can inspire a lot of that. Need proof? Just check out the Twitter responses to DJ Mag's announcement that Belgian duo Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike took the top spot this year.
People can moan all they want about how Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike, accused of using sketchy, street-team techniques to gain votes for the poll, took the top spot away from former back-to-back champ Hardwell. (Where's the emoticon for an eye roll?) It's what happens when something as stupid as a poll becomes an arbiter for who the best DJs in the world are.
In the same respect, you can complain all you want about the dearth of women on the list. I did that, too. Then I spent some time thinking about how it actually makes sense that DJs like Maya Jane Coles, Nicole Moudaber, Anna Lunoe and Tokimonsta aren't on the list, even though they are all quite successful. You could actually find more women on the Top 100 a decade ago. As dance music has grown more popular, it's become less inclusive, especially for women.
It's not just the lack of female DJs that makes this list so aggravating. It's the lack of people who matter in various dance music scenes beyond mainstream, festival EDM.
I've seen the kind of crowd that Claude VonStroke brings to the club. It's nuts. Plus, his label Dirtybird has been having major year with their popular barbecues and their first festival. He's not on the list.
Then there's Green Velvet, who has been working with VonStroke lately. The Chicago-based DJ has been making dance hits longer than Martin Garrix has been alive and he's not on the list either.
Overall, there's little representation for the legends. The days when you could find Jeff Mills on the list are long gone.
Long regarded as one of the best DJs in the world, Carl Cox made the list, but should have been ranked much higher
Yes, there are a few holdovers from the days when dance music wasn't called EDM. I'm half-convinced that Carl Cox, Richie Hawtin and Umek maintain any presence on the Top 100 because of a few optimists who think their votes can prevent a complete bro takeover. (We should probably thank them for this.) Still, Hawtin and Cox, in particular, should never be stuck near the middle of a Top 100 list — but there they are at 51 and 63, respectively. How the hell does Deadmau5 rank higher than them?
Even some of the newer artists are deserving of a mention. But when Disclosure, who helped re-introduce house music to the new dance music audience, make their first appearance this year at number 65, it's hard not to wonder if the people are totally out of touch.
The Top 100 isn't necessarily reflective of what DJ Mag otherwise covers. Recent features include the likes of Seth Troxler, Michael Mayer and Paul Woolford, all of whom are well-respected DJs with underground cred. None of them made the cut. Instead, the list looks like it was compiled by people whose dance music expertise is limited to that one festival last summer where they stayed in front of the main stage.
But, hey, maybe that's what the kids are like these days. I don't know. Maybe I'm the one who is out of touch.
Last summer, I covered Electric Daisy Carnival for L.A. Weekly. There was a moment inside a hotel elevator where the bros were OMG-ing over Hardwell. They asked if I saw him. I said no. They went on and on about how I should have seen him. I didn't tell them that I can't get through ten seconds of Hardwell's overproduced monster turds without the stench turning my stomach.
Maybe I just hate the Top 100 because I'm a music snob who still likes to hit up parties in warehouses. I can't handle this bombastic pop music that passes for today's EDM, with its complete lack of subtlety. I don't understand how people can tolerate sets where everything is a peak or a drop. Roller coasters are more nuanced.
I'm more impressed by the DJs who can play four-hour-plus sets than the ones who roll out elaborate and expensive booths and projections. I like producers who aren't obsessed with bangers, who can make music for the warm-up DJs and the headliners. I like the kind of DJs who have been disappearing from the Top 100.
In the end, the Top 100 isn't about who is the best DJ, or even the finest producer. It's a marketing contest, a battle between folks whose Facebook followers often tally over a million. It's about the faces on Vegas club billboards and the names at the top of EDC flyers. If your love of dance music runs deep enough that you appreciate the past as much as the present, then the Top 100 isn't for you. But you can still complain about it. In fact, you probably should.
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