2021 was another year to test the strength of the electronic dance music community.
Event organizers and ravers had to adjust to a new norm this year and adapt to the mercury COVID-19 health guidelines in the name of public safety. And while it was marginally better than the dystopian lockdowns of 2020, it wasn't easy.
But after all was said and done it became clearer than ever that the virus can try to take the person out of the rave, but it cannot take the person out of the rave. Even in a difficult year for the electronic music scene, it remained as compelling as ever.
Here are 21 stories that defined EDM in 2021.
Return of the Swedish house mafia
After a nine-year hiatus and countless cryptic teasing, the legendary dance music trio Swedish House Mafia finally returned with new music in 2021. The group, who are releasing a brand new album called Paradise Again in 2022, keep working with The Weeknd, announcing their first world tour in over a decade.
"We had the time to pick up and start over. And we go and do over and try over and regroup and have hope and then we stop again," Axwell said at the time. “And then grab the little hope we had, bring it back and start over and then find something. So the whole time it really helped us to be where we are with the sounds and the songs and to a place where we are proud. We love what we've done. "
Daft Punk Split after 28 years
This stings too much to experience it again, so on to the next blurb.
Porter Robinson releases "Nurture"
No album in 2021 had as much impact as Porter Robinson's Nurture. The album was not only a billet doux from Robinson for his fans, but for himself too: "(Nurture) came after a really emotional and creative low point for me where I just felt like I wasn't able Make music, "he told Anna Lunoe in a poignant interview in January.
Robinson was able to meet the sky-high fan expectations of his debut album, Worlds, and overcome his greatest trials and tribulations as a musician while sharing some of the most deeply personal music of his career to date. And unfortunately, given the seven-year gap between his two studio albums, it could be a while before fans hear a third one.
Porter Robinson / Wikimedia Commons
Coinbase shows NFT galleries at EDC
In 2021, the world's leading cryptocurrency exchange launched electronic dance music to increase its growth prospects.
EDC's innovative partnership with Coinbase underscores the idea that electronic music fans and artists are at the forefront, witnessing the disruptive potential of NFTs and cryptocurrencies. NFTs (non-fungible tokens) have often been cited as a big part of the future of the creator economy, and Coinbase's role in putting this medium in the spotlight at some of the largest music festivals in the country served as a catalyst for the adoption of NFT this year .
Coinbase (via Twitter)
EDC hosts historic 25th anniversary festival in Las Vegas
When Insomniac Events had a tumultuous year for EDC Las Vegas – marred by a controversial postponement and explosive fan backlash invented by the effects of COVID-19 – there was a heightened feeling that after two brutal years they would be without Flagship Festival.
And that is exactly what they did. On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the legendary EDC brand with its Las Vegas edition, which is widely regarded as one of the world's best EDM festivals, Insomniac managed to bring everything fans love about the festival together into one gorgeous weekend. And it will go down as the biggest electronic music festival of recent times.
deadmau5 and Richie Hawtin start PIXELYNX
Legendary electronic music artists deadmau5 and Richie Hawtin launched PIXELNYX in early 2021 with the aim of bringing together three of the currently most optimistic entertainment sectors: digital collectibles, games and virtual worlds. They then announced a high-profile partnership with Niantic, the company behind the hugely successful Pokémon GO mobile game, which has committed itself as a key developer to flesh out PIXELYNX's ambitious foray into the metaverse.
"When we cross the threshold of augmented reality, the future really is ahead of us," said Hawtin. "PIXELYNX is here to support positive and creative acceleration in this new space and to work with artists to boost their creativity in this new medium and with brands to develop unique digital assets with meaning and value."
deadmau5 / Twitter
Hardwell's return to the stage
As the Amsterdam Dance Event ended in 2021, Hardwell took a turn few saw coming. The Dutch dance music icon, who is still officially on hiatus – where it has been since 2018 – performed on stage at the label's showcase event with some of its Revealed Recordings artists.
Fans normally wouldn't have to read the tea leaves of such a return on stage if it weren't for the Ultra Music Festival, which announced weeks later that its 2022 edition will feature a closing performance by "one of the world's most iconic artists" in the history of electronic music. "The artist's identity is currently kept secret, but given his storied history with Ultra, Hardwell could be retired for the festival's meaningful return.
"It's not official yet, but he's coming, he's coming," said KAAZE cheerfully at the microphone when Hardwell came to him on stage at ADE. At some point, Hardwell is overwhelmed by emotions and visibly tears when he speaks to the crowd. "I miss you so damn," he said.
c / o Press
Electric Forest reveals dates and lineup for 2022
Electronic dance music fans have come a long and winding road back to the neon flowers of popular Sherwood Forest. They were unable to set foot on the iconic backdrop of the Electric Forest in 2020 due to the effects of COVID-19, and potential attendees gave hope when vaccine adoption gained momentum in 2021, but the festival organizers eventually decided to close the plug in the name pulling public safety.
But it wasn't long before they announced dates and a huge line-up for Electric Forest's long-awaited return. The 2022 edition of the festival in Rothbury, Michigan features performances by Disclosure, GRiZ, Porter Robinson, TOKiMONSTA, Louis The Child and Big Gigantic, Duke Dumont and many more.
FifthLegend / Wikimedia Commons
Death of SOPHIE
Renowned music producer SOPHIE, whose groundbreaking productions pushed the boundaries of electronic and pop music, tragically died in January at the age of 34 after an accident.
As the leading trans woman in the EDM landscape, SOPHIE has built a stellar reputation as one of the true trailblazers of the genre by challenging the status quo with unconventional sound design. Her music helped redefine the intersection between electronics and art-pop, highlighted by Oil of Every Pearl's 2018 Un-Insides LP, which earned her a Grammy Award nomination for Best Dance / Electronic Album.
c / o Press
Coachella canceled in 2021 following a public health emergency order
After Coachella's organizers made the tough decision to abandon the 2020 festival, they proved that even the most powerful and influential event brands can fall victim to the effects of COVID-19. New dates were finally announced for April 2021, but these were abruptly abandoned in January so that influencers could again hang up their floral head wreaths and write Instagram captions for "Bring me back".
And, unfortunately, with the number of cases of the Omicron variant rising in the United States, it's impossible to know whether or not Coachella's two planned weekends next April will be ironclad – a notion that holds true for other major festivals in early 2022 could.
Triumphant return from Lollapalooza
The revival of Chicago's iconic Lollapalooza in 2021 was the energizing return that the electronic dance music industry needed. For its 30th anniversary, the festival served as a much-needed pressure relief valve for artists who wanted their return to the stage to be as memorable as possible, and the audience had every second of it.
Despite mercury restrictions, the leadership delivered the premium festival product fans have come to expect in Lollapalooza's storied history, and they wrote the roadmap that could allow events of similar magnitude to take place safely and securely in the months ahead.
Lollapalooza (via Facebook)
deadmau5 announces "cube" residency in Las Vegas
After Deadmau5 annoyed his stunning stage production "Cube v3" in early 2020, COVID-19 concerns forced him to postpone a lavish world tour. The production was prepared as a kind of tour de force for the legendary electronic music artist, with a complicated configuration based on code written by the "Strobe" producer himself.
Thanks to Zouk Group, the world's leading entertainment company and owner of Resorts World Las Vegas, the cube is set to make its long-awaited return in 2022. Its flagship club, Zouk Nightclub, is one of the few – if not the only – technologically advanced venue on the Strip that is outfitted for deadmau5's dazzling "Cube" show.
c / o Press
The Chain Smokers, Disclosure, More Back Audius in $ 5 Million Funding Round
It was hard to ignore the advent of the blockchain-based streaming platform Audius in 2021. The company has proven itself to be a true disruptor with Goliath competitors like SoundCloud thanks to its unique value proposition for creators looking to succeed in the crypto era.
In September, Audius announced that it had completed a $ 5 million funding round, in partnership with some of the contemporary music scene's most beloved creators. The Chainsmokers, Disclosure, Steve Aoki, Katy Perry, Jason Derulo, Pusha T, Mike Shinoda, and many others have thrown their weight – and money – behind Audius and helped grow the platform's presence in the streaming economy. The high-profile capital infusion represents a strong confirmation of the creative economy for the decentralized future of music.
Ultra Music Festival announces return in 2022
To the delight of the entire electronic dance music scene, one of the most popular festivals has cracked its ticket until 2022 after a series of controversial postponements.
The journey to return the Ultra Music Festival officially began in October when organizers announced the first wave of artists to perform in 2022. The exciting line-up announcement came after a tumultuous year for the organizers of Ultra covering not only the pitfalls of COVID-19 but also a contentious class action lawsuit from disgruntled ticket holders.
Return of Nero
After a long hiatus, the legendary electronic music trio Nero returned in March with their first new track in over two years, a breathtaking remix of Daft Punk's "Emotion".
Nero's edit of "Emotion" is just breathtaking. The group managed to construct a painful dance number with the bones of the original, interpolating glowing chords and fluttering arpeggios with Daft Punk's vocoders in a dazzling way. Oscillating between halftime and double time beautifully with elegance and finesse, Nero served longtime fans seeking the cadence of one of their iconic dubstep tracks as he paid homage to the robots that notoriously split in February.
c / o Press
As the music industry sped into the Metaverse in 2021, no one made more strides than Sensorium Galaxy, using EDM on its way to revolutionize the live music experience as we know it.
Sensorium's breathtaking PRISM portal, which the company calls "the world's most advanced metaverse," offers a glimpse into the future of virtual concerts and music festivals. Here a number of the world's most renowned electronic music artists, including Eric Prydz, David Guetta, Charlotte de Witte, and Black Coffee, are featured in VR as part of an Avengers-like DJ team called "The Chosen."
ILLENIUM releases "Fallen Embers"
When its non-stop touring schedule stalled last year, ILLENIUM hit the studio with the aim of creating something truly remarkable. And after Illenials bowed on a triptych of albums in 2019 and only offered a handful of singles in 2020, Illenials wondered what was next.
He released his fourth album, Fallen Embers, which marked the beginning of an exciting new chapter in his career. The breathtaking album finally earned ILLENIUM its first Grammy nomination in the Best Dance / Electronic Album category.
c / o Press
Over 70,000 party in Dutch streets for the #UnmuteUs protest
On August 21, hundreds of Dutch music organizations held the #UnmuteUs protest in six cities. Hoping to make their voices heard in the face of the government's lack of clarity on the future of music festivals, over 70,000 people marched in protest of the COVID-19 restrictions affecting music festivals and the arts sector at the time.
Protesters partied in the streets, dancing behind a convoy of trucks, DJs, and sound systems playing electronic dance music. "They can mute our festival, but they can't mute us," claimed one DJ.
Unmute (via Instagram)
Iconic Stockholm concert venue renamed after Avicii
The star of Avicii's legacy got even brighter in 2021. In May one of Sweden's most visited and famous venues, the Ericsson Globe, was renamed the Avicii Arena.
The partnership between the Tim Bergling Foundation and ASM Global's Stockholm Live turned the venue into an icon of the #ForABetterDay initiative, which focuses on helping young people with mental illness and preventing suicide.
3LAU Sells Record Breaking $ 3.6 Million NFT in First Tokenized Album Sale
In a record breaking and groundbreaking way, electronic music producer 3LAU sold a limited edition collection of NFTs for $ 3,666,666 back in February. The dance music vet and cryptocurrency expert also broke the record for non-fungible token sales by selling 33 unique items for a total of $ 11,684,101.
The sale took place on 3LAU's custom website developed by the Origin Protocol team. To commemorate the three-year release of 3LAU's Ultraviolet album, the winner won a platinum-plated NFT vinyl record that can be redeemed for a custom 3LAU song, as well as access to unreleased music and a bonus physical vinyl.
Elon Musk hosts a "Rave Cave" event in the Tesla Gigafactory
In October, Tesla's Berlin Gigafactory had not yet produced any vehicles, but held their first rave. CEO Elon Musk, who also changed his official title to "Technoking of Tesla" in 2021, had previously joked that he was considering installing a "mega rave cave" in the complex.
With Giga Fest he made his intentions come true. The rave drew an estimated 9,000 visitors and Musk, himself a former EDM producer, also attended.
Name film / format: B.