Rave music as surrogate pop

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The late 1980s and early 1990s saw a marked increase in the number of rave tracks appearing on the UK Top Forty chart. This music appeared to have little to do with conventional song forms. Rave tracks often lacked vocals, foregrounded left-field synthesiser sounds, and eschewed the verse-chorus structures that had dominated the charts since the 1970s. This article asks: which aspects of rave music allowed it to be assimilated so effectively as a type of ‘pop’ music? Why were television-advertised rave compilations so successful for a broader ‘pop’ audience? The article argues that certain types of rave music functioned as surrogate pop music. Rave tracks may have initially seemed quite alien to the pop charts, but they actually replicated several conventions of mainstream Western pop songs. In particular, they frequently adopted a structure resembling verse-chorus form: verses were replaced by ‘rave’ sections, while choruses were replaced by vocal hooks, samples of existing songs, and other signifiers of pop familiarity. The article constitutes a preliminary attempt to analyse how electronic dance music functions when it is heard away from the dance floor.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMusicology Australia
Publication statusSubmitted - 23 Apr 2019

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    Renzo, A. (2019). Rave music as surrogate pop. Manuscript submitted for publication.