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Technology has a dark side and these EDM producers are confronting it

"Data Sea." Artwork by Vlad Loyko
"Data Sea." Artwork by Vlad Loyko

We all know technology has a dark side. Today’s headlines seem flooded with stories about this very subject. Russia manipulates U.S. elections via Facebook and Twitter. China uses TikTok to collect mass amounts of data on America’s youth. Cities like Seattle and San Francisco face increasing gentrification and affordable housing issues as tech money floods local economies.

For many, these incidents create a sense of anxiety about social media and big tech. For others, these events only add fuel to a long burning fire of uncertainty. Are humans too reliant on technology? Are we slowly losing touch with the real world? If any of these thoughts sound familiar, you’re not alone. In fact, a myriad of electronic music producers have used their art form as an outlet for such anxieties.

Social Media may increase feelings of loneliness

Even though social media is founded on principals of connectivity, some songs suggest that users feel even more alone when using social media. One of DROELOE’s recent singles, Virtual Friends, repeats the mantra: “I don’t want to be alone with my fingers on my phone.” Not too surprising from the Netherlands based collective that is “part music project part art project.” (Btw, you can see DROELOE live in Seattle this February.)

One Brooklyn based producer, Josh Karpeh aka Cautious Clay, uses more abstract language to express a similar idea. His latest single, Erase features a chorus that begins “Erase my social, screenshot kinda thing. Okay, we can settle it in FaceTime.” Clearly, the power to connect with anyone, anywhere has its limitations.

Technology may away something vital to humanity

Going one step further, ubiquitous technology might take away something vital, making us feel less human. Songs like Artificial Paradise, by NYC lo-fi producer Vlad Holiday comment on darker, more insidious problems. Moving to the US during adolescence, Holiday’s family was forced to flee their home country of Romania after receiving death threats from the government. The 2018 single includes the following lines:

Plug me in and take whatever makes me human
We’re fallin’ asleep and nobody’s fighting it, anymore
We beg for release but I don’t know what it means to be free anymore

And he’s not the only one commenting on a broader loss of human nature. Brussels-based Løyd has drilled into this topic, aiming to “present an inconvenient reflection of today’s society.” His most recent album, A Post-Apocalyptic Modern Art Gallery, centers on technology. Social Media repeats the words “Like, follow, share, repost,” until it becomes a mantra, forcing listeners to meditate on our own repetitive user habits.

The UK’s talented Damon Albarn, frontman for the hip-hop collective Gorrilaz, recognized this cycle back in 2014. The title track on his album Everyday Robots, explores electronic music while commenting on the robotic use of technology in the 21st century:

Everyday robots just touch thumbs
Swimmin’ in lingo they become
Stricken in a status sea
One more vacancy

Who’s responsible?

Clearly, there’s some consensus among artists that we have become so immersed in technology we may not even feel human anymore. The wave of commentary doesn’t stop there though. On VALENTINE’s 2019 album Introspection, the upbeat tune Emerald starts right off the bat with the following lines:

Things are okay it seems
But I keep getting the feeling that everything could end
Cause social media’s been listening inside our heads

This song more directly links social media with malicious use of personal data collection. With upcoming tour dates across California and Washington, the most techy states in North America, VALENTINE’s message about corporate megaliths mismanaging data certainly won’t fall on deaf ears.

Last but not least, the DIY California collective Soular System links such problems with politics. Their most recent single, Go Viral, seems to point the finger at the Trump administration with the following chorus:

Go viral
Let’s get out of the spiral
Forty-five’s in denial
Let’s get on with the trial
Rise up

The question of where to place blame can be tricky. Many of us know that social media could do us more harm than good, yet we continue to participate in it. The bottom line is clear though. Electronic artists across borders are sharing a similar message: the technology loop we’re living in is more than just a little bit concerning.

Do any of these songs speak to you? Let us know in our comments section on Facebook, and Twitter!

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