THE 2010S WERE THE DECADE THAT...
2010: Turbo-Pop Ruled the Radio | 2011: Adele Revived the Music Industry | 2013: Streaming Became Unignorable 2014: Cultural Appropriation Dominated the Pop Discussion | 2015: 2015 Was the Year That... Canadians Ran Pop Music | 2016: Every Major Album Release Was an Event | 2017: Latin Pop Took Over the U.S. | 2018: Hip-Hop Took Its Victory Lap 2019: Lil Nas X's 'Old Town Road' Put a Bow on the Decade
But the group had combined their individual live followings, and continued to steadily build collectively from there over the course of four years -- with a spellbinding, action-packed live show, a handful of club-slaying singles, and co-signs from star collaborators like Pharrell and Coldplay. SHM hit an early peak in 2011, when they not only became the first electronic act to headline New York's legendary Madison Square Garden, but sold out the show in minutes. And then there they were in the Indio desert the following year, not only going on after nominal Friday headliners The Black Keys -- old-fashioned rock stars with chart-topping radio hits and Platinum-certified LPs -- but easily out-drawing and overwhelming that duo's guitar-heavy set, with blinding pyro effects, massive beat drops, and six combined arms raised in the air.
By 2012, you might not have been able to find Swedish House Mafia on the radio or on the pop charts, but the impact of the All-Star trio and many of their rising DJ/producer brethren was undeniable. That group encompassed not only the arena-filling progressive house of SHM, but the skyscraping anthems of wunderkind producer (and fellow Swede) Avicii, the ceiling-rattling bass bombs of metalhead-turned-brostep-overlord Skrillex, and the tension-and-release epics of electro-house snarkist Deadmau5. All those ascendant dance stars (and many more) were featured in a epoch-confirming 2011 SPIN cover story -- with Skrillex and his instantly iconic half-shaved haircut gracing the front page -- which admitted that the mag had "prematurely declared an American 'electronica revolution'" amidst the big beat boom of the late '90s, but claimed that this time, the takeover was for real.
The SPIN story was titled "The New Rave Generation," but America quickly came to group all these artists under the umbrella of "EDM," or Electronic Dance Music. The acronym was a controversial one, largely rejected by many of the artists who came to define it. It was exceedingly reductive for the wide breadth of artists it musically summarized, and carried with it an air of corporate convenience -- particularly with the late Robert Sillerman's foundation of scene-swallowing promotional behemoth SFX Entertainment in 2012, which seemed to put the entire scene at risk of coming under Wall Street's thumb. Nevertheless, "EDM" provided an easy way to encompass a cultural moment which had started in the late '00s, with the ease and accessibility of DAW software developments bringing the possibility of becoming a dance music pro to amateur DJs around the globe. Suddenly, the rock stars of tomorrow weren't banging away on guitars and drums in their garage, but composing and mixing on Ableton Live and Pro Tools in their bedroom.
Like Swedish House Mafia, the breakout artists of EDM were all already considerable live draws, but few had scored massive crossover hits of their own yet by 2012 -- Skrillex and Avicii had cameoed on the Hot 100 with their totemic dance hits "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites" and "Levels," respectively, but neither made the chart's top 40. Still, their thumbprint was already visible on the musical mainstream. In early 2011, Britney Spears hit No. 1 with "Hold It Against Me," the first major pop hit to feature a dubstep drop, in which the song's previously conventional pop structure essentially went into a rollercoaster free fall of wobbly synths and belching bass. Meanwhile, though "Levels" would only peak at No. 60 on the Hot 100, pop-rap hitmaker Flo Rida swiped the bones of the song -- most notably its soaring Etta James sample -- for the much radio-friendlier "Good Feeling," eventually hitting No. 3.
The most noteworthy EDM-influenced hit of 2011, however, came as Scottish electro-pop gold-spinner Calvin Harris and international superstar Rihanna teamed up for the euphoric "We Found Love" -- a thoroughly irresistible hybrid single that topped the Hot 100 for ten weeks and was inducted into the classic pop and dance canons practically upon release. It was hardly unprecedented for a marquee dance name to work on a gigantic stateside chart hit by an established star: French house maven David Guetta had linked up with the Black Eyed Peas on "I Gotta Feeling," a 14-week No. 1 in 2009, while American culture-masher Diplo had guided the wayward Chris Brown to a top 5 comeback hit in 2011 with "Look at Me Now." But where those dudes' names could only be found in the credits of their respective hits, Harris scored a rare coup for producers and DJs anywhere by getting listed as a featured artist on "Love," giving him name recognition among U.S. crowds who couldn't ID any of his huge-overseas solo singles.