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.”


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