The Return: Swedish House Mafia Vs. Everyone else
Exactly one week ago, Ultra’s 20th Anniversary displayed one of the best festival weekends thus far in 2018. It was the most stacked lineup, and each set was unique in its own way. The 3-day weekend showcased new music, rising talent, and one of the most iconic comebacks dance music has seen in its young history. The 20th Anniversary celebration felt more like a celebration of the next phase of dance music. There always seems to be a constant change and a new subgenre that surfaces each year in dance. However, the theme this year seemed to be celebrating the classic, appropriately revolving around the reunion of one of the most iconic groups in dance music: Swedish House Mafia.
The group consisting of Steve Angello, Axwell and Sebastian Ingrosso, ended their reign in dance music after their farewell performance on the Ultra Miami stage announcing that the group would be having a permanent hiatus in 2013. Since then, the three have gone into separate directions with Steve going back to performing solo (getting back to his house roots), while Axwell and Ingrosso became a chart-topping duo with their electro and pop-infused sound. There wasn’t any hints of a reunion coming our way until word of a surprise guest would be closing out the 20th Anniversary of Ultra. It sent the dance music community into an absolute frenzy. At first, it was all about Daft Punk, which is a reoccurring guess for any festival that comes along with a guest appearance. However, once the name Swedish House Mafia surfaced, there was no going back.
— Miguel A. Alonso (@M_Alonso_13) March 26, 2018
Swedish House Mafia earned quite a name for themselves in dance music, but their rise to the top came at a very pivotal time in the genre. Dance music was becoming more commercialized and heard on more platforms, no longer relegated to the underground scene. The progressive house music they were producing was making its way to the top of the dance charts. At the time of their farewell, they were at the top of the game itself, which then left a door wide open for artists to pave an even larger path to chart success.
When you fast forward to the state to where dance music is now, it is nowhere near where it was in 2013 when Swedish House said their goodbyes. There is a heavy mixture of DJs now with the caliber to reach the top as an insurmountable journey that takes a whole career to reach. With that being said, there are artists who have become the next generation of dance.
In the time when “Save The World” and “Don’t You Worry Child” were released between 2011 and 2012, Calvin Harris was breaking every record possible in dance music. His album, 18 Months, released in 2011 contained tracks, such as “Sweet Nothing” feat. Florence Welch,” “Feels So Close,” “Let’s Go” feat. Ne-Yo, and his biggest hit to date “We Found Love” feat. Rihanna. Continuously Calvin Harris has reinvented his sound all the way from his first album, I Created Disco, being one of the only dance music acts to Headline Coachella, to his most recent album, Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1.
Harris has been one of the most successful DJs music has seen that stays true to the music he wants to create, but has made meticulous and bold statements, which makes him stay current and at the top of charts. He continues to stay relevant without a massive marketing ploy; he simply churns out radio hit after radio hit (while also dating Taylor Swift for a brief stint didn’t hurt either).
The Chainsmokers are a newer duo to the scene, but have made their absolute mark on dance music, and they were also a huge part of the Ultra weekend. The Chainsmokers closed out Saturday night on the main stage and absolutely came with something to prove, which earned them high praises as one of (if not the best set of the weekend– in this writer’s humble opinion). They came onto the scene in early 2013 with their somewhat laughable hit, “Selfie,” that completely took over every club, radio, and house party. It brought the duo to instant success that gave them the platform to continue to climb to the top one release at a time. Since then, the duo has earned a plethora of awards, even a Grammy nomination, and brought dance music to the radio and into the ears of modern day music listeners.
The same story goes for Marshmello. The entire persona that Marshmello has created not only brings massive crowds to festivals, but at home listeners that have fallen in love with everything he has created outside and behind the DJ Booth. Take that to the stage of Ultra, and you have the entire Mellogang flooding into the depths of the festival grounds ready to headbang along to the symphony he creates. The 25-year-old has colorful visuals, candy-coated singles, and a likability as a DJ himself that captures the attention of the young generation of listeners; which leaves the door wide open for his future in dance.
There are a hand full of DJs that morph along with the changing trends while still staying true to themselves, which helps them translate their music for longer periods of time. Skrillex has made a household name for himself as a live performer, producer, and Grammy winning artist. Zedd takes electronic pop music to a whole new level, and currently has one of the top charting songs on Billboard. DJ Snake creates huge productions, collaborates with a handful of artists, and has headlined some of the biggest festival stages. The changing metronome of dance music is in full swing, and leaves the question of where does the reunion of Swedish House Mafia fit into all of this?
While I am always a fan of the old becoming new again, there is such a large span of dance music that has happened since 2013 that I am wondering where SHM’s sound will sync up with the rest of dance. Their sounds of European House have always been sprinkled throughout the genre, and it was very apparent at this year’s Ultra festival that the sounds of house music are crawling back into our speakers.
The lineup was packed to set up the closing of the weekend with Swedish House, and also bringing back their iconic tones. Taking a step away from the UMF stage, I am left with so many questions: With the return of Swedish House Mafia does an artist of their caliber change the direction to where dance music was heading? Is this just another reunion tour? Is there a new album on the way? Lastly, will this really be Swedish House for life?
— Brice (@bricemanning22) March 26, 2018
The mystery remains to be seen, but the greatest part of dance music is that there are now so many subgenres to choose from and those genres continue to evolve. While many may argue that the bubble for dance music has burst, it seems as though it has just diversified further over time. The music taste of fans of the genre travels through so many different sounds that there is a little something for everyone, which then allows producers to continue to push boundaries. There never has to be just one sound, with so many rising stars making names for themselves in the scene right now, is a testament to just that. Todays superstars of dance music all come from different places of dance music, but have figured out the common ground of how to draw in new fans and make a name for themselves. The same is said for Swedish House Mafia who were the pioneers of crossing over to the mainstream. It’s hard to picture a scenario where Swedish House Mafia won’t be as relevant as when they left the scene in 2013. In the words of SHM, “it was time.” Welcome back.