In Defense of M83

It was a gorgeous spring day—in fact, one of the first spring days after this bitter winter. I was sitting in the back of my friend’s car with the windows down, enjoying the breeze playing with my hair and the sun warming my skin, when my roommate tossed the iPod cord attached to the car radio my way and asked me to put on some music.

Instead of putting on my go-to electronic stuff, I decided to switch it up. Ten seconds later, “Shine On, You Crazy Diamond” by Pink Floyd filled the car, the beautiful instrumentals pouring out the windows and onto the street.

My roommate closed her eyes and smiled, taking in the music. “See, this is the kind of music I like!” she yelled over the sax solo, her arm dangling out of the window. “Music that requires actual instruments! Actual talent! None of that electronic shit.”

I laid back and thought about that for a second. Some of my favorite music—M83, for example—consists of heavy electronic components. If I hadn’t already Googled the shit out of M83—that is, if I listened to their music without knowing anything about them—for all I would know, it could just consist of some guy at a soundboard singing occasionally. And hey, even his voice could be auto-tuned to something entirely different.

Pink Floyd, on the other hand, displays their talent for the world to see, nakedly—pure, raw talent. There’s no way that it’s just one dude pressing some buttons. That sweet sax solo couldn’t have been fabricated.

Now, some of this electronic music is a mix of instruments and electronics (yes, I have, indeed, admired the sweet saxophone solo in M83’s “Midnight City”). However, a good deal of them are not. They use a computer to create their melodies.

My roommate continued to talk about how most of the time, she dislikes modern music for that very reason. There’s no naked display of talent by the music greats of today—no skills necessary, she said.

As she spoke, it occurred to me that I could probably use some program like GarageBand and make my own music, and maybe it wouldn’t sound all that different from some of the stuff on the radio today. (I’ll admit that this first led to some real intense daydreaming about being a famous electronic superstar,  but I digress.) But I certainly couldn’t pick up a saxophone and make the world melt with my sexy melodies.

After we drove for a bit further, and we started talking about new topics, I turned on M83 once more.  As “Reunion” filled the car, I thought to myself how much I adored their sound.

Sure, I might be able to create something like M83 with the assistance of GarageBand—but only because I had heard it before. I bet anything I’d create would be so heavily influenced by M83 that there’s no way it would sound remotely original. It would be a bland, boring mix of everything I’ve already heard and admired.

I understood where my roommate is coming from. Being a die-hard Beatles fan, she just wants to hear naked, true instrumental melodies. But just because these newer artists don’t necessarily play a physical instrument, I thought to myself, doesn’t mean they have any less talent than that sweet saxophone player. They are able to create something beautiful. There’s a reason why I’ve been able to listen to M83’s album “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming” on repeat about a thousand times.

These latest artists have a vision that is totally new. For example, when I first heard M83’s “Midnight City,” it was something that touched me immediately, that completely immersed me in its sound, because I had never heard anything like it before in my life. And what I heard, I loved, more than any song I had ever heard.

Just because not all bands can make a guitar sing doesn’t mean they can’t produce music that makes my heart sing.

And if that’s not talent, I thought to myself as I laid back and fell into a blissful electronic daze, I don’t know what is.

M83, I’ll never doubt you again.

Photo by gasreaa

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