Op-Eds Opinion

A Predicament for the Philosophers About Those Kids and Their Rock & Roll

Jake Nelson
Staff Writing

(Photo courtesy Jay L. Clendenin/ Los Angeles Times/MCT)
(Photo courtesy Jay L. Clendenin/ Los Angeles Times/MCT)

Anyone with a Twitter/Facebook has been aware, for at least a month, of the American backlash toward EDM (electronic dance music) and its assumed promotion of the club drug named molly (MDMA). Trance, house music, dubstep and most other forms of electronic-based music have European roots and have been Americanized under the broad spectrum that is now EDM. This music scene was largely nonexistent or unnoticed in America until the late 2000’s.

Legend has it that the French duo of Daft Punk (you know, the guys with the robot helmets) played a rare, live performance at California’s famous Coachella Music Festival in the summer of 2006. The robots, as they’ve been dubbed, were already relatively well-known on a global scale. This particular performance is said to have been so breathtaking that it gave life to an American interest in electronic music on a much larger scale.

Avicii, the 20-something Swede, is one of the main reasons for the creation and rapid growth of this commercialized EDM culture in America over the past few years. He first found fame, in America at least, with his international hit “Levels,” which debuted on October 28, 2011.

The music is supposedly better enjoyed while under the influence of the drug in question; the overlying concern is that many youths in this newly expanded culture only go to concerts to do the drugs in an environment that facilitates maximum enjoyment. If one was to enter into his or her search bar http://www.thewhitehouse.gov, he would be able to search the petitions page. Being that the government is temporarily inactive the site is disabled. I’m sure it will be up and running again before the next New York Giants’ loss.

The page features an online forum where citizens are able to propose, post and receive online signatures for petitions. In order for a petition to be reviewed by congress, there must be some number of signatures on the site. I cannot quite recall the number, but I first remember hearing about the site and process when a group of NRA members in Texas petitioned to secede from the United States about a year ago. Oh, to live in a state where freedom truly rings. I digress. The point is that this so-called “music that fuels drug usage, crime, etc.” has spawned such a concern within the American public that someone actually posted a petition on the site stating, “I firmly believe we should ban the manufacturing of electronic dance music. It is turning our children into drug addicts and murderers.”

Lucky for you, EDM fans out there, that the government cannot ban the music because they are shut down! OK, OK, on a serious note, the point is such: do we really live in such a misguided and reactionary culture that people automatically assume the music is making people do these drugs, that the music is the problem, that drugs, drug users, crime and all other things of that nature never existed before this demonic monster called EDM came storming into our lives? Call me footloose, but I do not think that is the case.

The recent negative connotation with the EDM culture in America does not come without good reason. Quite a bit of this activity has been going on for a while. It’s only recently coming to a head because, like anything else, it’s getting bigger. As the music gains a larger following, artists get more popular, shows become more prevalent, festivals become larger and the factors compound upon each other. Some may argue that it’s a simple law of probability; it’s not exactly a recent discovery that people occasionally die at concerts or music festivals, and when these events get bigger, it only increases the likelihood that someone out there is going to do something irrational. Others may argue that the entire thing is stupid and that it’s impossible to have any affinity toward the music without being under the influence of some sort of drug.

The drug called molly (MDMA- 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine) is defined as having such effects on the human condition according to Wikipedia and other sources: MDMA can induce euphoria, a sense of intimacy with others, diminished anxiety, and mild psychedelia. Many studies, particularly in the fields of psychology and cognitive therapy, have suggested MDMA has therapeutic benefits and facilitates therapy sessions in certain individuals, a practice for which it had been formally used in the past. Clinical trials are now testing the therapeutic potential of MDMA for post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety associated with terminal cancer and addiction.

The drug has even become recognizable enough that some artists have found it necessary to reference it directly in song lyrics. Two years ago, while performing at Ultra Music Festival (a nearly entirely electronic festival that runs for three days every February in Miami), Madonna asked the crowd during a performance if “anyone had seen Molly.” The ever-mesmerizing Miley Cyrus on her recent hit “We Can’t Stop” can be heard eloquently lamenting in the chorus “dancing with molly.”

Last but not least is Trinidad James. James first became famous for his hit single, “All Gold Everything.” The song, as the title clearly states, is about having gold all over everything he owns. The song goes on to detail the lavish nature of his chain, watch and rings, his propensity to only buy popular shoes, and of course the ever prudent correlation of blessings coming in monetary form. The song is awful and completely nonsensical, but he does win mega points by carrying around a very cute puppy in the music video. Anyways, during the chorus he enthusiastically jives, “Popped a molly, I’m sweating woo” two times. All three of these artists have made a fair amount of money (in part) due to their advocacy of a drug that is supposedly contributing to the promotion of a music culture that is killing people. The name of that music culture just so happens to be EDM, and as it happens none of these artists fall under this genre.

Our neighboring institution UMASS recently made headlines by cancelling any and all EDM acts scheduled to play at their on-campus arena this fall. The decision did not come long after the well-documented deaths of individuals at New York City’s Electric Zoo Dance Music Festival. The festival annually runs for three days on Governors Island. Due to a number of deaths of concert goers due to overdoses on MDMA, the festival supervisors decided to cancel the final day of the festival. Only a few weeks later, Russian superstar ZEDD was performing one of the first shows on his Moment of Clarity tour. He was scheduled to play two nights at The House of Blues in Boston. Due to a young girl dying by way of an MDMA overdose during his first performance, he decided to cancel the second show.

It’s not exactly a secret that UMASS, despite its fantastic academic reputation, does house and facilitate a wide range of extracurricular activities. It may not have been the worst idea to cancel electric shows in the wake of these highly-publicized tragedies.

It is strange however, that the UMASS administration chose to cancel two acts (Above & Beyond and Pretty Lights), neither of which fall within any relative range of what the traditional American understanding of EDM sounds like; while they have allowed a certain artist and a well-known molly spokesman to perform in the same on-campus arena that was supposed to house the electronic acts. None other than Trinidad James will be performing at the Mullins Center on October 26. I do need to admit that I am a tad biased on this topic: Pretty Lights is one of my favorite artists, period. I believe that he has an incredible vision and is essentially creating a new genre of music to go along with an entirely unique musical experience (hint: pretty lights). I have also seen several of the electronic artists mentioned above in this article. With all of that accounted for, it is completely absurd and entirely bureaucratic for an administration that is supposedly concerned with the health and safety of its students to cancel events that supposedly facilitate the use of molly while still planning to house an artist who literally raves about it in  his own lyrics. Did I mention that there is not a single Above & Beyond or Pretty Lights’ song that has any mention of MDMA use? Oh, that’s because there isn’t. Band aids don’t fix cultural dilemmas; knowledge, application, and practice are only the start of societal change. The question remains: When will these kids stop with their rock & roll?

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