Dubstep—the Music Trend That Just Won’t Go Away

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It’s official: Dubstep isn’t going anywhere. Even Taylor Swift has sampled the genre’s electronically warbled bass lines in her latest release, “I Knew You Were Trouble,” taking dubstep from the clubs to the heart of the Top 40.

While the style of music—influenced by the reggae sounds of the 1970s and made popular in South London dance clubs in the 1990s—may not exactly be new, it experienced a surge of popularity in the U.S. last year with the rise of superstar DJ Skrillex, who won three Grammy awards in 2012.

Jeff Warren, a music professor at Trinity Western University outside of Vancouver, B.C., tells TIME that listeners can hear the similarities between Swift’s track and the music of 1970s Jamaican electronic sound engineer King Tubby—especially with “the scratchy guitar combined with the deep syncopated bass and kick drum pattern.”

(MORE: TIME talks to Taylor Swift)

Swift is just the latest big name in the music industry to introduce the masses to dubstep. Britney Spears experimented with it on last year’s “Hold It Against Me” and Rihanna and Snoop Dog (at the time he was a Snoop Dog, anyway) also sampled some of the deep beats in recent offerings.

Dubstep itself started as a merger of two genres—dub reggae and two-step—and so combining its sound with either a country or straight pop sound fits as a natural hybridization of the genre and serves as the most common way to introduce new musical sounds to the culture, Warren says.

“Oftentimes music styles appear to be fads in the popular consciousness, but usually before they become popular, music is developed in an indie or underground scene,” Warren says. “That was the case with rock ‘n’ roll in the 1950s, with grunge in the 1990s, and now dubstep has moved from its South London beginnings to influencing the Top 40.”

TobyMac, a recent Billboard Top 200 chart-topper, who pours on doses of dubstep in his “Eye On It” release and recently signed a new dubstep-inspired band, Capital Kings, to his label, tells TIME that dubstep will become part of the long-term musical landscape if it goes beyond the commercial world and influences a new collection of sounds. “If the scene begins to change on the underside, if it changes sounds and morphs, it could be [a lasting] part of music.”

“What is working about dubstep is that is makes you feel something, and when music makes you feel something it makes you gravitate toward it,” TobyMac says. “It makes you feel energy—I want to move and throw my hands in the air and jump up and down. There is a passion about it that is unbelievable.”

MORE: Christian Music’s Moment: How TobyMac and Lecrae Conquered the Countdown

24 comments
PatrickDukeWulfe
PatrickDukeWulfe

Also bangarang is electro/moombahcore/nu-jump up or whatever you want to call it, not dubstep

PatrickDukeWulfe
PatrickDukeWulfe

It'd be nice if this article had actually known any relevant information on dubstep nowadays as compared to in the 90's.

TyMartin
TyMartin

Dubstep continues to stick around even now in 2013 and to be honest I'm not totally surprised, it's one of the few styles of music that is truly different and is trying to be something new.

It's beat structure and electronic elements are a welcome breath of fresh air, especially in the mainstream music scene.

There's also been a ton of software developed and released and it only continues to get more popular...

ElizabethdeMoya
ElizabethdeMoya

It's not a trend it's a genre. Taylor Swift is a trend.

EpDubstep
EpDubstep

All great musicians either change with the times... or change the times themselves.

Taylor is a fantastic vocalist with a huge following. Its great to see her switch it up a bit and give fans something new. http://www.dubstepep.com/

Goawaybot
Goawaybot

@goteerecords @capitalkingsusa @therealtobymac @time But I've got nowhere to go :(

Thiago Rondon
Thiago Rondon

I feel that today's music walks very plasticized, what a pity that taylor swift is going down that path.

Jen Nguyen
Jen Nguyen

Needless to say, I don't like any of today's music whatsoever.

Ricky Ric
Ricky Ric

Do3snt matt3r 2 M3 bout g3nr3 or any_thing.. I lov all kind of music.

Lexy Alonzo
Lexy Alonzo

The music of autobots and decepticons. Not mah type.

Kamen Kunchev
Kamen Kunchev

It's way too early to say. We thought the same about Drum & Bass and now it's just gone several years later... I mean the whole style is gone.

Joe Kloos
Joe Kloos

Musical taste is about the most subjective thing I can imagine. I don't like dubstep at all, but there are many who do. If there's a market for it (which, believe me, there is), it will be sold. And continue to sell until demand hits zero...which will likely be a long time. Like any other "emerging" genre, I suppose.

Phillip Nielson
Phillip Nielson

It still angers my kid when I call it dukstep. Is it REALLY music, anyways?

Andrew Leh
Andrew Leh

It is now, seeing as the over 40 crowd is aware of it.