By Julian De Ocampo ’13
When Lady Gaga told the populace to “Just Dance” in 2008, it seemed less like a suggestion and more like a command.
“Just Dance” may have well been the mantra that guided the charts in the last few years, as popular music has made a fundamental shift that caters to the nightlife.
That year, Lady Gaga wasn’t alone either; the most downloaded song of 2008 was Flo Rida’s ode to debauchery, “Low.”
In fact, AOL Music reported that on iTunes, six of the top 10 best selling songs of all time are dance songs about partying, including the top three best-sellers: Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” and The Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow” and “I Gotta Feeling.”
This trend is perhaps explained best by Ke$ha, who, in her recent single, “We R Who We R,” eloquently sings, “We’re dancing like we’re dumb.”
Never since the 80s have the pop charts been so utterly dominated by dance music.
As of March 15, 2011, the No. 1 song in the country is Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” a life-affirming dance tune that everybody from MTV News to The Arizona Republic has compared to the work of 80’s pop icon Madonna.
80’s revivalism has stretched far beyond the party motifs as well. Everybody from Flo Rida to Rihanna have been sampling and reworking 80’s pop hooks into the new millennium. Synthesizers that were largely neglected in the 90s have returned more prominent than ever.
Rock music, on the other hand, has dropped off of the map nearly entirely. BBC News reported that in the U.K., 2010 was the “worst year” for rock since 1960. Only three songs that can even vaguely be classified as “rock” charted in the top selling singles of 2010: Train’s “Hey Soul Sister,” Florence and the Machine’s “Dog Days Are Over” and the cast of Glee covering Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.”
This shift to dance music, underscored by party anthems by the likes of David Guetta and Ke$ha, act as a continuation of a decade-long focus on all things celebratory.
Tellingly, Billboard reports that based on radio play and sales, the top two songs of the decade are, in order, Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together” and Usher’s “Yeah!”
The latter is an R&B break-up song about having your heart broken. The former is a party anthem dedicated to living fast and going to the club.
Still, those songs were both released more than five years ago. Today, it’s hard to imagine a song like “We Belong Together” occupying the top of the charts alongside current danceable hits like Katy Perry’s “Firework” and Enrique Iglesias’ “Tonight.”
“Yeah!” on the other hand feels like an accurate representation of the decade’s music.
It’s a made-for-clubbing song that thunders past with hip-hop sensibilities and a sense of devil-may-care urgency to have a good time.
As a new decade looms ahead, nobody is quite sure where the industry is headed next. But if there’s one thing that we know to be true, it’s that there’s going to be a lot of dancing in the near future.