Rolling Stone

Inspired by Zedd’s “The Middle,” Some Random Thoughts on Pop Dance Music

Zedd, along with electronic duo Grey, have just released The Middle, featuring country superstar Maren Morris on vocals. It’s an awesome track. It’s a bouncy, just-complex-enough pop/EDM crossover, and surely it’s going to take over Top 40 and dance radio everywhere.

But as I listened to The Middle I was struck by a few thoughts about what it might say about the state of mainstream dance music pop at this moment. They are shared here, in an ediorialized and very much unofficial capacity, for your consideration. Or to hate on, either way is fine with me. The discussion is the best part.

1. It’s 2018, are we still not done with faux-Autotune?

As a trained audio engineer who spent years working at the desk in recording studios across the country, I am well aware that lots of very talented vocalists also need a healthy dose of Autotune or Melodyne. What I can’t wrap my brain around is, you’ve got arguably country music’s most talented new singer in Maren Morris, and her primary vocal is drenched in Autotune anyway because that’s “the sound.”

Maren Morris doesn’t need T-Pain levels of Autotune help. Don’t believe me? Listen to this live cut of “My Church” from the CMA’s.

Maren Morris needs no help sounding like a fucking angel or a pop star, and it bums me out that we still think swishy, cranked-up-to-11 Autotuning is cool, so that’s what happened.

2. “The Middle” proves Zedd is still a kingly songwriter

EDM isn’t exactly known for subtlety, but that’s what makes Zedd such a crossover success. He somehow finds ways to insert complex, classically-inspired chord progressions, melodies, and sub-timings into 4/4 pop songs. Combined with leads that sound like they’re ripping out of a keytar…it’s such a strange combination of influences and sounds, but he just does it so well, and in my opinion his songwriting still rules the hill.

3. Grey are going to have an amazing year

Surely by this point everyone has heard Starving, the Grey-produced Hailee Steinfeld track that basically took over radio for a month last year. But have you listened to their Chameleon EP from the same year?

If you’re looking for a good indication of where headliner EDM could go if we gave it chance to, you’ll hear it right here. Hell, one of the tracks features Avril Lavigne and freaking Anthony Scott from Circa Survive. These guys are well-connected, brimming with originality, incredible songwriters, and upper-echelon producers. We need more of Grey in 2018.

4. How are the truly-live electronic performances not here yet?

Listen to this song. Two synth players, a guitarist, a bassist, one dude on a drumset with a Roland SPD, Zedd on piano, and a light backing track, and you could perform the whole thing live. Does anybody really, really prefer watching a DJ if the same result could be accomplished with live players? Can you imagine if Zedd put together a short-run, all live tour? You’d better believe artists would rush from all over the world to join.

Point is, truly-live electronic performances shouldn’t be the exception anymore, they should be the norm.

5. More songs need clock sounds in the background

If Zedd’s ticking clock sounds aren’t our generation’s “more cowbell” I don’t even know what is. Gimme more please.

So that’s that, what do you think of The Middle? Share your thoughts on the “The Middle” or my “insights” in the comments below!

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