Lady Gaga was at No. 10 with Artpop, Avicii was rising with True, Daft Punk were clocking their 64th week on the chart with Random Access Memories, Disclosure was riding high at No. 3 with Settle and Diplo’s Random White Dude Be Everywhere was lodged in the runner-up spot.
Just above him was a woman whose work was rooted in electronic music but which also expanded well beyond it — including charts like the Billboard Hot 100, the Billboard 200, and Billboard‘s Classical Albums and Classical Crossover Albums charts. On August 13, 2014, Lindsey Stirling had ascended to No. 1 on Hot Dance/Electronic Albums with her sophomore LP, Shatter Me.
Stirling’s second album to reach this position (after her 2012 eponymous debut), Shatter Me was a dozen tracks of the bass music/violin fusion that had made Stirling a breakout star on YouTube, and then on America’s Got Talent, where she made it to the quarterfinals. “You need to be in a group,” Sharon Osbourne told Stirling when she was voted off. “What you’re doing is not enough to fill a theater in Vegas.”
That would of course prove untrue — with Stirling’s 2014-15 tour behind Shatter Me filling theaters not only in Vegas, but more than 40 other theaters around the country.
During this time, dubstep — or “brostep” as the more aggressive and nuanced American version of the genre was often derisively called — was having a moment, with Skrillex breaking down doors for the genre and the U.S. EDM boom at large with his insanely aggressive, Grammy winning sound and the thousand artists following in his wake. “Skrillex was what made me fall in love with dubstep,” Stirling told Billboard while on the red carpet at the 2015 Billboard Music Awards.
But one would never accuse Stirling, a classically trained violinist raised in an Arizona Mormon community, of copping Skrillex’s style — or anyone’s else’s. She’d been posting her work to her YouTube page since 2007, amassing millions of followers becoming one of the platform’s first influencers via a sound that amalgamated galloping violin, heavy electronic beats, rock guitar and a sort of spritely whimsy. Imagine the music from that scene in Titanic where Rose and Jack dance a jig below deck with the commoners, but with vastly heavier production and a lot more whiskey. As emphasized by Stirling’s accompanying dancing, Shatter Me was dually graceful, delicate and music to headbang to.
“This album,” she said in a 2014 interview, “is all about self-discovery and breaking free from the constraints and barriers that we put on ourselves, and the restrictions that world puts on us.”
Shatter Me won Best Dance/Electronic album at the 2015 Billboard Music Awards, beating True, Settle, Calvin Harris’ Motion, and Skrillex’ Recess. The album spent a total of 19 weeks at No. 1 on Dance/Electronic Albums in 2014-15, still Stirling’s longest stay on the chart.
“Crazy,” Stirling said in that same BBMAs interview, “because I’m a violinist, right? Sometimes I have to remind myself that — that I’m a violinist, and I’m on the dance charts, and that’s kind of awesome.”
Stirling’s newest song — the Kiesza collaboration “What You’re Made Of” — was released yesterday (August 12).