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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Editorial: Even on the dance floor, we’re all wallflowers now

In 2006’s "Whoo! Alright – Yeah… Uh Huh," Luke Jenner, singer of the now-defunct dance-punk band The Rapture, bemoaned the state of club culture: "People don’t dance no more (what!)/They just stand there like this (uh huh)/They cross their arms and stare you down and drink and moan and diss (that’s right!)." If Mr. Jenner were to write this song today, we can’t help but think the refrain would be a little less cheeky and a lot more critical.

For those of you who don’t know what we’re talking about: You’re part of the problem. At parties, concerts and clubs alike, the dance floor has become a hive of chit-chat and conflicted emotions rather than a sanctuary for reckless abandon and joy. We’re not quite sure why this is the case, but we have a few working theories. For one, the increasing complexity of sexual politics (which is a good thing!) has had the unfortunate side effect of making otherwise well-meaning individuals second-guess whether they should dance alongside complete strangers.

Second, the omnipresence of phones and cameras has made young men and women more self-conscious than ever before: Why bust out your dance moves when there’s a strong possibility you’ll wake up the next morning to find you’ve become a meme?

If we may be so blunt: Screw self-consciousness. Most people are terrible dancers; who the hell cares? Music, regardless of language, is a communal tongue of rhythm and raw emotion. Dancing, regardless of one’s quality or lack thereof, is as strong and honest an emotional response as they come. In short, it’s a healthy outlet for expressing one’s inner state.

As young people in 2015, we’re extraordinarily lucky to have more options for party soundtracks than at any previous point in history. Our parents were bound to listening to singular records or hoping the party would be big enough to warrant an honest-to-God disc jockey with a portable console. Not only do we have iPods, but also we have streaming services that put the last 60 years of pop and dance music at our fingertips!

As if that wasn’t enough, the dance music of today has only refined and improved upon the countless formulas established in the latter half of the 20th century. If our parents could make due with the mid-tempo electronic experiments of Kraftwerk or the guitar work of David Byrne, surely our dancing feet can find inspiration in the soaring synths and anthemic choruses by the likes of Daft Punk and Disclosure.

If there is a single person whom the youthful masses should look to on the matter, it’s Aubrey Graham — excuse us, Drake — the perennial king of slick goofiness. The release of the "Hotline Bling" music video last week was a cultural sensation which inspired Internet tricksters to unleash a torrent of memes mocking Drake’s dancing, in the process leaving behind a bevy of material for cultural commentators to sift through and figure out what it all "meant."

Drake’s dance moves in "Hotline Bling" are tacky, corny and unabashedly self-aware. But above all else, they’re honest. In a culture defined by irony and detachment, it’s a big deal for an artist of Drake’s caliber to embrace and celebrate his two left feet. He looks like he’s having fun, which is more than can be said for most partygoers these days.

For nearly a decade, Drake has been a cultural tastemaker: the man made "YOLO" a palatable phrase! If he can inspire young men and women to embrace their inner Patrick Swayze, this may be his greatest cultural contribution yet.

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