OPINION: On Swedish House Mafia, A-Trak and MSG – Dance as American pop done right


All signs point to 2012 being the year that dance music will again oversaturate the American consciousness. If looking for an example of the template of what this mostΒ  typical of international concepts will look like in a stateside interpretation, look no further than Swedish House Mafia’s headlining set at a sold out Madison Square Garden on December 16, 2011.

The heralded European trio of Axwell, Sebastian Ingrosso and Steve Angello’s national rise has been a measured study in expanding American pop standards. 2008’s “Leave The World Behind” was an electrifying house collaboration with powerful vocalist Deborah Cox. Their 2009 documentary Take One? A slickly produced promotional documentary for the joys of dance culture. The soundtrack to the feature included electro hop bangers “One” and “Miami 2 Ibiza,” more rave ready synths heightened with the rap vocals of Pharrell Williams and cheeky British kingpin Tinie Tempah, respectively. 2010’s hit was expansive, trance-trending winner “Save the World,” an insistence on power pop vocals and major key progressions prominent in the track geared to the beat of American hearts.


When demanded to meet the call of US excellence, Swedish House Mafia has set a precedent for excellence. Their table-setter at Madison Square Garden? In meeting with their note-perfect understanding of the American pop market, the selected DJ to ably handle the task was A-Trak. Though Canadian-born, the Fools Gold Records co-chief, half of top-disco house duo Duck Sauce with Armand van Helden and teenage DMC champion blends a hip-hop turntablist’s mindset with a note-perfect understanding of where dance tradition meetsthe most mainstream of US pop style. Tracks like his remix of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Heads Will Roll” and Duck Sauce’s acid house heavy hitter “Big Bad Wolf” are worthwhile tracks showing a stateside resurgence that shows the US able to contribute to its four on the floor expectation.

Though not all nights in the club in 2012 will meet the expectation of electro rising where Jay-Z famously “faded to black,” it certainly showed that the international arbiters of dance’s forthcoming domination absolutely understand where they’re expected to dominate and how it needed to be done.