Spinnin' the Truth: Copycatism and Martin Garrix's Stuffed "Animals"

In recent years, dance music has continued to evolve and reach new commercial heights and this has allowed artists to reach broader audiences and achi

Not Available Lead
Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

Not Available Lead

In recent years, dance music has continued to evolve and reach new commercial heights; this has allowed artists to reach broader audiences and achieve higher levels of success.  However, many fear that this commercialism, rather than fuel artistic creativity and facilitate discovery of new talent, has encouraged the growing trend of copycatism. While some say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, in an industry that relies on the limitless creative energy and encouragement of innovation of its major players, this trend is at best disheartening, and at worst poisonous to the continued growth and influence electronic dance music, just look at Skrillex and dubstep.  Far from disregarded by the general public, copycat tracks can be found at the top of the charts and on main stages.  While there has certainly been some fantastic work coming out of the most recent wave of releases, one cannot help but notice the inescapable presence of mediocre.  In this particular case let's examine the Spinnin' Records-released #1 hit "Animals" by Martin Garrix.

What is it about Martin Garrix's "Animals" that made it shoot up to  #1 on Beatport's main chart?  Why is it a summer anthem?  Why did Martin Garrix's single go to #1 when his others haven't? Is it that much better than his other tracks or any of his contemporaries? In short, no, it's not. So then what? First, Garrix was able to capitalize on the success of his predecessors by stringing together proven elements to produce the track. To put it simply, the track "Animals" itself fits a formula.  This formula is illustrated clearly in the track’s “drop,” thereby underlining "Animals" uncanny similarities to Knife Party's "LRAD" or Sandro Silva & Quintino's "Epic."  Take this a step further and compare “Animals” to Carnage & Borgore's smash "Incredible" or the last two GTA big room collaborative bangers in "Hit It!" and "Turn It Up!”  The sonic similarities between these tracks are so glaring that once you notice them, you can't un-notice them. In effect, he has crossed the line from notable influence, even imitation, to copying.  One wonders how long will it be until the crowds realize that they are being taken for a ride. When will they figure out that main-stage acts have begun to blend together so much so that the same description could be applied to the majority of tracks out there?

Consider that “Animals” is not Martin’s first release, and his tunes have had little impact to date, then consider the success of “Animals.”   Employing the “formula," while a critical success factor, does not tell the full story. Martin Garrix's "Animals" currently sits atop the Beatport charts at #1, and as result he has recently been named the youngest producer to ever have a Beatport #1 at the tender age of 17.  With a powerful social media engine, Spinnin’ Records and Martin were able to exploit the public’s thirst for information (and bloggers’ ambition) to leak information and fuel rumors.  This encouraged powerful buzz that only grew as the official release date drew near.  By the time the track released on June 17, "Animals" had been rumored to be a collaboration of a variety of well-known artists, including GTA, Hardwell, and Sidney Samson - despite a lack of substantial evidence.  The teaser was "mistakenly” attributed to GTA and Hardwell, two of the hottest names right now in the larger dance music world.  By even associating the track with two incredibly hot names like Hardwell & GTA, Spinnin' manufactured the buzz, creating a hype that would have otherwise not surrounded this track.  Essentially, Spinnin’ capitalized on the EDM blogosphere's tendency to copy and paste other blogs (who got it from another blog that didn't bother to fact check) and the unfortunately prevailing "report first, ask questions maybe later" attitudes.

Knowing how hard it is to make a lasting break, Spinnin’ resorted to the bait-and-switch tactic to grab attention rather than release anything forward-thinking or of stand-out quality. Building on past failed strategies, this bait-and-switch worked because Spinnin’ ultimately drummed up enough buzz to ultimately outweigh the track itself and as such it became a news item on nearly every blog, making the actual track irrelevant!  With a name like DJ Mag's #6 DJ in the world Hardwell attached, Hardwell fans were all hot and bothered like it was the second coming or that they had another “Spaceman” on their hands.  The buzz from Spinnin’s “mislabeling” set off a chain reaction of quick-reacting bloggers and dies hard fans scrambling for info on the rumored Hardwell track.  This sort of fervor illustrates the blindly supportive fans that have become the norm within mainstream dance music circle; this is not dissimilar to the way followers act within a cult.  All Spinnin' had to do was yell "Kool-Aid!"

As rumors continued to flurry, new questions arose and the story begins to get a bit clearer with a look at Martin’s tweets:

In each of the tweets above, Martin went out of his way to tweet at blogs and individuals that their “facts” were wrong and that they should check their sources.  What Martin did not do, however, is claim any ownership over the track at all; by telling a half-truth and saying that “Animals” was not a collaboration, Garrix did not lie about his involvement, but he also didn’t tell the truth.  The series of tweets proves that Martin was complicit in Spinnin’s tactics. As the buzz continued to grow, Spinnin’ eventually confirmed the track as Martin’s, having effectively grabbed the blogosphere and diehard fans’ attention. Now, a week after the song’s release, Martin has been crowned #1, and Spinnin’ is winnin’.

The case of Martin Garrix and "Animals" also reveals a very telling and disturbing aspect of the state of dance music: Why is it that a generic song like “Animals” makes it to #1 and others don’t?  This isn't a matter of personal taste, but a matter of attitudes towards dance music.  As festivals grow in size and number, dance music has become a generational movement mirroring a concurrent generational shift in the same way album-oriented progressive psychedelic rock did in the 1960s with the baby boomers' movement. Surely there is dance music with heart, soul, and true creative expression, but "Animals" is nothing like this, and neither are any of the tunes in this article. It's tracks like "Animals" that emphasize a lack of artistry in current mainstream dance music.  The issue here is that "Animals" and the other tracks listed (as well as those like it) have all done exceedingly well despite a lack of originality.  It is this copycatism that seriously harms the future of dance music and potential cultural impact as a whole. "Animals" and tracks like it are doing little more than masquerading as next-level material with no actual depth or artistry. In reality, they are tawdry examples of producers looking for the shortest possible path to a main stage, a main stage that is destined to collapse if these trends continue. Yes, some of these tracks (even the ones enumerated in this article) are great in that they can destroy a dancefloor, but they're not timeless and they're not going to last 10 years.  They fail to push the envelope, diminishing the potential for the innovation that has fueled the growth of electronic dance music to date and as a result the opportunity for true social impact.

Latest in Music