James the Savior: Dubstep Goes Mainstream Part 2

Written by: Jacob Kleinman

James Blake
James Blake is on the Cusp of Dubstep Super-Stardom

Although Dubstep music could be heard in the darkest clubs of south London as early as the late 1990s, the first musicians to cross over into the mainstream didn’t make it onto the scene for another ten years. Their music is often referred to as post-Dubstep, but really it’s just Dubstep re-imagined for the masses.

The mad thumping beats of Skrillex may be ruling this genre for the moment but across from his insane spectacle of a stage stands a young British songwriter focusing quietly behind his laptop. James Blake released his eponymous debut album in February 2011, containing 11 songs mixing the tools of Dubstep with the sensibility of gospel and soul.

“If Blake really does cross over and become the pretty white male who introduces a broader audience to dubstep, with its foundations in Jamaican music and black musicians in South East London, he’ll receive the tired, requisite backlash,” wrote Grayson Curry in a review of the album for Pitchfork.  “But these 11 songs– gorgeous, indelible tunes that are as generous in content as they are restrained in delivery– will last a lot longer.”

Although Blake is still mostly known in European clubs and American hipster enclaves, his album’s first single, a cover of Feist’s “Limit to Your Love” has exploded onto mainstream radio. The song cuts down Feist’s lyrics to just a few depressing phrases which are first sung normally and then chopped up, slowed down, electrified and repeated for almost four minutes.

James Blake manages to walk the line between completely out there and extremely approachable. His music is disjointed and dark, but also melodic and emotional. He presents himself as a humble DJ with a unique sound to offer to whoever will listen.

“Blake is, by some considerable distance, the most experimental artist in recent memory to make the annual hotly tipped lists,” writes Alexis Petridis for The Guardian, and later adds that, “Blake is exceptionally good at what he does, and what he does is hugely original.”

Blake may be at the tipping point of winning over the mainstream audience (he came in second in BBC’s Sound of 2011 poll), but for the time being he’s content to continue to toil away at his laptop.

“I was never thinking; ‘This is going to sound really good on the radio,'” Blake told the Guardian in an interview.

If he take his brand of Dubstep into the mainstream it won’t be because he tailors his own sound for the masses—James Blake refused to work with a studio producer on his debut album—but because the people give him the chance he so truly deserves.

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