abstract: When dance music cultures converge and start to gain cultural momentum, they tend to produce utopian impulses. Well-documented historical examples such as early underground disco and hip-hop communities, as well as contemporary underground rave collectives, demonstrate that localized dance music cultures can generate viable utopian aspirations and even progress. But can mainstream electronic dance pop that aims for mass audiences and wide radio airplay also produce utopian impulses or explore utopian possibilities in a meaningful way? This article examines the recent explosion in popularity of electronic dance pop (2009–11) as a response to the global economic recession. Many recent dance hits imagine utopian environments of blissful release by narrating the interaction among dancers, the DJ, and the dance floor. I argue that the confines of the pop radio format prevent this type of dance hit from fully harnessing the capacity of electronic dance music for utopian expression. To assert the possibility of commercial dance pop engaging critically with utopian potentialities and transcending the sensualist utopianism featured in most mainstream hits, I examine the recent dance pop of the Pet Shop Boys, which displays a wide-ranging concern with utopianism as social dreaming as opposed to the physical pursuit of jouissance.
Utopian Studies – Penn State University Press
Published: Oct 14, 2014
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