Music is art and just like anything art-related, it is and should always be subjective. The nuances and differences brought about by its stylistic interpretation/rendition aka genres and sub genres, is what makes music that much interesting. They are like colors in the proverbial rainbow that is music. Each one compliments the other no matter how disparate they are in the grand scheme of things. That’s why, it’s impossible to claim that one is better than the other. You can’t say that black is better than pink, metal is superior to pop or electronic music is more fascinating than house. Comparing music is counterproductive because it leads nowhere.
That’s why when a bold and for a lack of a better term, presumptuous musical genre emerges out of nowhere; it creates a buzz or some level of controversy. Exhibit A: The emergence of Intelligent Dance Music (IDM) in the early ‘90s. So what is it exactly? As per Wikipedia, “IDM is a genre of electronic music that emerged in the early 1990s. Its creation was influenced by developments in underground dance music such as Detroit techno and various breakbeat styles that were emerging in the UK at that time. Stylistically, IDM tended to rely upon individualistic experimentation rather than adhering to musical characteristics associated with specific genres of dance music.”
It’s quite a loaded and vague definition but for simplicity’s sake, it’s basically just like saying that it doesn’t box itself into a specific style and doesn’t conform to industry norms, gimmicks and tropes. Noble, but I guess the reason why it riled people up and caused quite a bit of a stir was because of the way that it’s branded. The operative word is ‘intelligent’ and it quite rubbed music lovers and especially musicians the wrong way. Even Aphex Twin criticized it as derogatory towards other styles as it creates an impression that it is an intelligent genre and everything else is stupid.
IDM might’ve created negative publicity regardless of its intentions and aspirations but if you really think about it, even if it’s widely reviled due to its presumptuous label, it’s really immaterial because in the entertainment industry, any publicity is good publicity. By drawing attention to itself, it has served its purpose as it kept people talking and introduced them to something quite different than the usual.
So is IDM more discerning than its more commercial counterparts? I guess we’ll never know. One thing is certain though, it’s undeniably audacious and unapologetically engaging and in the music industry, that’s more than enough.