10 House Artists Weigh in on the Genre's Recent Mainstream Popularity
Whether you love or hate to see it, there’s no denying that 2022 marked a period of significant commercial interest in house music.
The genre has had its fair share of moments in the mainstream spotlight since it coalesced in the gay, Black, and Latino nightlife communities of Chicago in the ‘80s, to be sure. Crystal Waters’ 1994 classic “100% Pure Love” hit #11 on the “Billboard Hot 100,” and #1 on the publication's “Dance Club Songs” chart. More recently, FISHER’s 2018 tech house track “Losing It” topped the latter.
2022 saw notable pop superstars join the party. Within weeks of one another, Drake and Beyoncé each dropped albums that included numerous house-inspired songs. The former artist tapped producers like Black Coffee, &ME, and Klahr for his effort. The latter enlisted dance music acts like Honey Dijon and Nile Rodgers for hers.
Some argue that these influences will only dilute house, which has already arguably suffered from recurring identity crises as each new generation of talent offers its own interpretation of the genre. Others are more optimistic, projecting that the increased attention will trickle down into opportunities for artists at every level.
We here at Gray Area decided to gather the opinions of house artists themselves. Some are elder statesmen who helped guide the course of the style early on. Others are up-and-coming acts who represent the future of the genre. Read on what they have to say about the matter and arrive at your own conclusions.
1. Todd Terry
Todd Terry’s career extends back to house music’s genesis in the 1980s. He’s in favor of mainstream house music hits as long as artists bring original ideas to the table.
“We need a Robin S. We need a Crystal Waters. We need a Snap! - ‘I Got The Power,'” he told Gray Area during our Spotlight interview. “We need something that helps us a little bit here, makes us come to the dance floor. We need to get something out there to mix it up a little bit.”
"Break some new records,” he went on. “Stop catering to the same piano sound all the time. We got enough piano records. Okay, you guys found the piano in the last three years. Good job. There's other shit.”
2. East End Dubs
East End Dubs is a name that has grown more and more ubiquitous among London house fans over the past decade. In his Gray Area Spotlight interview, the “bRave” producer expressed optimism that house-inspired tracks in the mainstream could offer new fans a point of entry leading to the underground.
“Recently, people have said, ‘Oh, this is going to bring uneducated people into the scene.’ For me, I think people can start with Beyoncé or Drake and then fall in love with house music,” speculates East End Dubs, who also praised the tracks by the aforementioned artists. “It's a beautiful thing. Why not? House is something that we share together, so I don't mind people getting to know our music that way and then going a little more underground to discover us.”
SYREETA stands out as a more recent house music artist who still represents the queer, Black, underground roots of the genre well. She nonetheless believes that her world can coexist with the mainstream.
“There's no judgment on this,” she said during Gray Area’s Spotlight interview. “House music started underground, and it will always be to me. It hits everybody’s souls differently and is inspired in different ways, so each artist will have their own stamp on what they have taken away from it, whether it be more on the commercial side or more underground. Not everybody has to like it. People will move with what they prefer.”
Fast-rising UK house DJ and producer Iglesias also posits that commercial interest in house has little bearing on what he does. In his Gray Area Spotlight interview, he pointed out that most consumers of those releases likely don’t even associate it with house music.
“I don't really care, to be fair," he said. "What they're doing is not what we're doing, let's put it that way. They're making commercial stuff. Who they're appealing to, I don't even think that person would even know that that's a house beat or whatever. They would just be like, 'Oh, it's another Drake track.' Do you see what I mean? So it never really fascinates me that much because I don't feel like they're stepping on our toes. What we're doing is way cooler than what they're doing."
5. Harry Romero
During his Gray Area Spotlight interview, longtime NYC DJ and producer Harry Romero expressed optimism about house music’s popularity in the past few years. He did, however, have choice words about how the EDM movement impacted the culture over a decade ago.
“I hate to say it, but that EDM thing really threw us all through a curveball. We were like, ‘What the hell is this?’ he said. “The mechanisms changed. The way of doing business changed. The EDM thing really commercialized the industry, and for them to claim that they were house music was just strange."
"The reality is that it became a business," Harry went on. "It was pop music all of a sudden. A lot of people steered away from what they loved, which was the roots of house music. I understand evolution. I’m not mad at technology or the times. What I at least try to do is scratch my head and figure out how to put my own twist on it.”
ACRAZE is enjoying an enviable breakthrough as an artist thanks to recent covers like “Do It To It” and “Believe.” With his recent good fortune, it perhaps comes as little surprise that he sees the genre’s recent popularity as a good thing.
“I think it's cool, man. I think seeing new faces in the industry is just special,” he said during Gray Area’s Spotlight interview. “Massive artists like Beyoncé and Drake getting into house music only helps the genre explode even more. I guess it becomes more commercialized, but now there’s also a bigger goal for artists. Drake’s in house music—it's my dream to even collab with him. Now I know, there's a chance. I didn't even know he was into that shit. Beyoncé too, like, that's so sick.”
“Some people will think differently and say, ‘They don't know anything about the music, the culture,’ he went on. “I think people read way too deeply into those kinds of things. If people are putting out good music and pushing the genre, I think that's what matters, you know?”
Dutch-Caribbean outfit Shermanology are also enticed by the prospect of working with more commercially successful acts. In their Gray Area Spotlight interview, the brother-sister duo named one hip-hop artist in particular.
“What we wanna do in the near future is collaborate with artists you wouldn’t expect us to collaborate with,” said Dorothy. “For example, if I could dream big I’d say Anderson .Paak. That would be someone who would excite me.”
Andy added, “I wanna work with people who may have said, ‘I will never do a house record,’ and get them to do a house record. Just mix and blend different genres.”
8. Tim Green:
Count longtime DJ and producer Tim Green among the artists who feel Beyoncé and Drake’s interest in house music has no bearing on the underground. Why? Because he doesn’t consider it house.
“I literally couldn't care,” he said in his Gray Area Spotlight interview. “You can call a car a tree if you want, and that's your prerogative, but each to their own opinion. When you start to get down to the finer details of what something is, who knows—and really, who cares? It doesn't matter.”
“I understand, of course, the negative connotations that it kind of has, and it's not right,” Tim continued. "But for the people that know the kind of music that they're into and want to listen to, I think that's enough.”
9. Kyle Walker
Breakthrough tech house artist Kyle Walker, on the other hand, does think mainstream artists dabbling in house will affect the underground—but in a good way.
“[House music is] definitely headed to the top 40 chart, I would say, like Billboard and such,” he said during Gray Area’s Spotlight interview. “I could see more dance records being in the top 10, even. It's definitely a good thing for everyone—even the underground. It's a good thing that more ears and eyes are gonna be on the scene. I just think everyone's gonna start with this wave of just having house music producers come onto their albums, which in turn is just going to create more house music fans.”
Rounding out this list is the perspective of LOVRA. The German DJ and producer agrees that the increase in attention to house music has created new opportunities for artists.
“It's super interesting, but it also shows that the people understand this music right now,” she said during Gray Area’s Spotlight interview. “They're more open to it. Back in the day, sometimes you couldn’t play in a club because it was too commercial or you were too underground. But now, I feel like the people and the club promoters are way more open to trying it out a little bit more, and this is a good thing.”
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