Summer 2013 has now come and gone, and we're looking towards the next big thing. Trying to figure it out can be a tough, and one can never be 100% sure, but in putting the pieces together and we think we have an idea: hardstyle.

Just look at the pieces and it's not so crazy. Flosstradamus brought North American attention to the sound when they sampled classics from names like Showtek and Headhunterz. That said, Flosstradamus only represents the tip of the iceberg .  Not only are thousands of DJs and producers from the trap and hip-hop worlds drawing inspiration (and samples) from the previously untapped market, but house DJs are doing the same as well. Those formulaic Beatport big room bombs? That one heavy, distorted kick with a singular eurodance-esque melodic riff? That comes from hardstyle.  Carnage and Tony Junior's "Michael Jordan" and the Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike collaboration with Lil Jon and Coone (an up-and-coming hardstyle act in his own right) "Madness" are just some of the summer's big hits with a huge hardstyle influence. Tommie Sunshine spoke to us back in March and predicted that "hardstyle at 128BPM" would be the next thing, and we're definitely seeing his proclamation ringing true.  To say that hardstyle isn't relevant to the U.S. market might have been true a short time ago, but believing that in 2013 is just ignorant.

Although hardstyle can come across as obnoxious, droning, and at worst, and the epitome of what some consider to be "drug rave music" (which, to be clear, is not how DAD feels at all), this is definitely not the case. With deep but hard-hitting kick drums pounding at breakneck speeds, hardstyle is no doubt party and rave ready.  Hardstyle, though, would not be what it is without the intensely euphoric and uplifting melodies that define each track.  Quoting a fan while speaking to Beatport,  the DJ Mag top-rated hardstyle DJ in the world Headhunterz said that hardstyle is "hard on the outside, soft on the inside."

Headhunterz' comments are an interesting insight that highlights why hardstyle is the next big thing. On the one hand, ravers of the Skrillex generation are looking for the next most aggressive thing, now that dubstep has died down some and trap leans back towards its hip-hop roots. On the other, ravers are looking for something emotive and empowering that isn't cheesy (re: the current state of the Beatport top 10).

But wait! That doesn't explain why hardstyle is next... does it? Ravers will latch on to hardstyle in the same way they latched on to Skrillex because, like hardstyle, there's a complex sentiment in that while his music on the surface could be perceived as aggressive, brutal, and "metal" there's also a critical and unbridled emotional tenderness at the core of each quality track.  Though this can be said about numerous styles of music, it is more relevant for hardstyle when it's contextualized against the current situation and how we got here.

Although DAD has not covered much hardstyle or the hard dance genre as a whole, we've got our eyes on it, and to help us bring you credible coverage, we enlisted the help of hardstyle producer and DJ Audiofreq to give us the start of a proper hardstyle education. Here is Audiofreq's selection of essential hardstyle tracks.