Saturday, August 13, 2011

Pop Goes the Dubstep (Part 3): Maroon 5 - "Moves Like Jagger" (feat. Christina Aguilera)

By Kurt Bitter, Vertigo Shtick Contributor

Loyal Vertigo Shtick readers will recall a two-part series of posts several months back where we chronicled the journey of dubstep from the underground London clubs to the pop mainstream (Read Part 1 here; Part 2 here). Because the usage of dubstep in pop music is becoming so commonplace, I’d venture to say that we’re no longer listening to “a pop song with dubstep influences” when we turn on the radio and hear any number of offerings from Britney Spears, Ke$ha, or the like. Rather, we’re listening to a song from an emerging genre: "Popstep."1 I am here now to report that rock music has officially gone dubstep as well. Behold: the creation of RockstepTM.

Okay, I may be jumping the gun just a bit. There have been no known reports of dubstep influences in any forthcoming Metallica, KISS, or Dave Matthews Band records. I can report, however, that I was pleasantly surprised to discover several trademark popstep elements in “Moves Like Jagger,” Maroon 5’s latest single (featuring Christina Aguilera).

While it’s true that Maroon 5 is unequivocally a pop-rock band and certainly not full-blown rock nor alternative nor heavy metal nor punk in any way, who is to say that the powers of the wobble won’t transcend further genres in the future? Keep in mind that pop music has come a long way since its bubblegum stage in the late ‘90’s. I won’t claim to be any sort of authority on the matter, and to be honest I’m not even convinced that this will ever happen. All I’m doing is throwing the idea out there. So please, catch.

The nods to popstep that I’m referring to are subtle, for sure. But there’s no doubt that they’re actually there, essentially forming the backbone of the song underneath the band’s characteristic guitar melodies in some parts, and in other parts serving to accent it. While not as obvious, I’d say the dubsteppy-vibe I get from the song is similar to Britney Spears’s “Seal It with a Kiss,” especially considering the ever-present grinding wobble2 that underlies both tracks.

I’ve chronicled the occurrence of popstep influences in the song below. (I’m using the studio version of the song available for purchase on iTunes as a reference, NOT the performance from The Voice.)

  • 0:30- The grinding wobble begins, and continues throughout the whole song.
  • 1:13- Fun voice warp. This is definitely an element common to many popstep records; listen to virtually any track on Spears’s Femme Fatale for proof.
  • 1:14-1:18: Air whooshing effect that pulsates with the beat. I’d argue that this is very popstep as well, or at least very electro-pop. Producers like Pharrell and have been known to use similar effects extensively – see Madonna’s “Give It 2 Me” for a deliciously drawn out example from 3:30 until 4:01.
  • 1:28, 3:18- Fun whistle warp. See “Fun voice warp” above.
  • 1:37-1:44- Fast snare that speeds up. Again, I’d argue that this is very popstep.
      While this list is relatively short and my bullet points may seem totally trivial, it’s important to note that we’re definitely in a transition phase for this genre. Maybe pop-rockstep will take off and spawn the emergence of rockstep, maybe it won’t. I’m a pop music lover and I consider Maroon 5 to be a patent pop-rock band, and thus, to me, this song is very progressive. I can see how someone (perhaps a heavy metal fan) would consider Maroon 5’s music to be pure pop, in which case these elements may seem like a total sell-out.

      What do you think? Is rockstep on the horizon, or is “Moves Like Jagger” just an anomaly? Ruminate while you watch the video below, and let us know in the comments!

      1Funny story: I came up with the term “popstep” entirely on my own and was quite impressed with my ingenuity. However, a quick Google search revealed that the term had been used before. D'oh! 

      2The term “grinding wobble” may make no sense at all, but hopefully you know what I’m talking about. And if there is a more accurate way of describing it, please, comment and inform me!

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