Imagine you’ve been a fan of an artist for 10+ years. Their breakout songs were all new waves of electro house, dubstep, brostep, and catapulted the genre into mainstream limelight, and hell, they even got a Grammy nomination out of it. This artist was the pinnacle of their genre for years and years and years, and then their newest song is something completely different. The artist didn’t share any heads up or mention that their style was changing, but do they even have to?
This week, Skrillex released two new songs — “Butterflies” with Four Tet and Starrah, and “Too Bizarre” with Swae Lee and Siiickbrain. Vastly different from his original works over a decade ago, “Butterflies” went a more house/pop route while “Too Bizarre” was more along the lines of modern pop punk from Machine Gun Kelly, blackbear, Modsun, and others. Responses to the songs have been divided; while most have appreciated how well they’re produced at the most technical levels, a lot of people have expressed sadness or frustration that they’re unfamiliar styles and don’t “sound like Skrillex.”
But what does Skrillex sound like? If we’re only relating his “sound” to his past works, then yeah, these songs do not sound like him. But wouldn’t anything that he makes technically sound like him?
Skrillex is not alone in this phenomenon of changing sounds and bringing new influences to a project. We saw just this past month Porter Robinson drop his sophomore album, Nurture, a much more personal and less heavily electronic album compared to his 2014 opus, Worlds. Calvin Harris went from Motion to Funk Wav Bounces; Zedd went from Clarity to True Colors; Flux Pavilion on his most recent album, .wav; and let’s not forget the very visceral reaction to Getter’s last album released in 2018.
These are all merely a small subset of artists who have evolved from the sound they began with. Not all of them were even met with harsh criticism, but at the same time, none of them either went, “Hey, by the way, I’m doing something new.” They just did it.
We’ve seen this happen outside of EDM, as well, if we look at artists like Paramore or Bring Me The Horizon who have evolved over the years. And Poppy, especially, has created a whole brand out of being unpredictable.
At the end of the day, while an artist has some degree of debt to their fans for getting them to where they are, that debt does not extend to creative endeavors or decisions about what an artist can or cannot make.
Over the past year, a lot of things have changed and people have had a lot more time to sit back and take account of who they are, what they want to do, and where they want to be in the future. If we didn’t see a lot of things change moving into 2021, that would have likely been the more strange phenomenon.
Stream both of Skrillex’s new songs below, and don’t worry about the old, celebrate the new and exciting.