A Primer on House Music (It’s Not Just About Fist Pumping)
It’s a bit surprising to me that I can now hear house music when I turn on the radio in my car. I used to have to hunt down those rich beats in vacant warehouses and tents set up in the middle of nowhere, with generators powering the lights and, more importantly, the giant speakers. Since hearing that music with a few hundred (or thousand) fellow “house heads” was so rare, the nights would only end when the first grays from the morning sun greeted us as we walked back to our cars, exhausted and satisfied. And no, we did not look like this guy:
House music is not just about drunk guys with too much gel in their hair fist pumping while they try and yell in some mini-skirted girl’s ear how sexy they look in hopes of taking them home for a smash session. Believe it or not, house music is about community and solidarity. I am by no means an expert, but I know a little bit about the history. Much more than the average youngin’ figuring out how to dance to it today.
House music came out of disco, which many people think of as cheasy and outdated. But disco music gave a lot of marginalized communities places to congregate. The dance floor was their church. When disco died, the music and the communities moved underground…and house music was born. Some of it became very mechanical, with a lot of basic computer-generated sounds; and some of it became very soulful, following closely in the tradition of disco. In the true meaning of a congregation, house music itself was often revered with songs of house’s origination like “Let There be House.” Many songs talked about falling in love, which was important because the marginalized community most affilated with house music at the time was the gay (mostly gay Black) community, and their love stories were nowhere to be found in mainstream music (much like today). One of my favorites is the more current, “The Music Sounds Better With You.” (Because if someone makes house music sound better…they must be pretty damn special!) There were also many songs that had clips from MLK’s “I have a Dream” speech, because these communities hoped that one day they would be able to love whoever they wanted in public and not be condemned for it; someday…we would all be free.
That soulful type of disco seems to be the inspiration for much of the music we hear today. One of the most obvious examples is “Good Feeling” by rapper Flo Rida:
It seems almost profane to me that the video implies that Flo Rida is getting his “good feeling” simply from his own accomplishments, which are almost all extravagant purchases and trips to far-off places. House music was initially created for people who wanted to love who they were with, wherever they were. It wasn’t about money, fame, or fortune. Even though DJs were starting to get more popular and garner followings, they mostly moved the music along because they loved it. (For example, DJs started creating longer and longer tracks to blend into one another so they could keep the party going until the wee hours of the morning) Not because it got them to perform at awards shows (**cough**David **cough**Guetta).
But true house music hasn’t gone anywhere even though it’s adolescent cousin is hanging out with the likes of Britney Spears, Usher, and Rihanna. It’s still alive and strong right under our very noses. Ironically, even though house music was born in the dark underground, now it might be that the only way to experience true house music without the possibility of getting elbowed in the eye is out in the open air, as you can see from this short “dance-a-mentary” on house music today (note the love all the DJs have for the community):
So the next time you’re at the club and the guy next to you is pumping away at the latest house-pop jam just remember that house music is about love and community. You might want to deck him, but real house music fans will know to give him a hug.