Not even a great soundtrack could save Zac Efron’s EDM DJ star vehicle We Are Your Friends from grossing a mere $1.8 million in its first few nights, and having one of the worst opening weekends of a major studio release seen on over 2,000 screens in Hollywood history. While this suggests that this is the moment that EDM as a term can be considered dead, history proves that it doesn’t necessarily mean that dance music is dead, too.
In 1977, Saturday Night Fever–a legendary film released near the apex of disco’s popularity–proved to be much more popular than We Are Your Friends. Though Fever only opened to 726 theaters, the film grossed $2.538 million. In gross earnings inflation adjusted for 2015, that’s $10.152 million. How did Saturday Night Fever not fall flat out of the gates and lead to the demise of disco, but We Are Your Friends’ epic failure put the final nail in the coffin for EDM? In order to figure that out, we must consider the timing of the film’s release as it compares to mainstream public opinion regarding dance music and culture.
It wasn’t until 19 months after Saturday Night Fever’s 1977 debut that Disco Demolition Night–the night of Saturday Night Fever-related backlash at Chicago’s Comiskey Park where a rock-loving radio DJ burned disco records in centerfield and started a riot–took place. In 2015, the exact opposite of what occurred in 1977 has occurred. EDM records by the likes of Hardwell or Avicii were spared at Comiskey Park, but instead, a film just went down in flames at the box office. As Walmer Convenience blog editor Brice Sopher correctly points out in an article entitled “The Real Reason Why We Are Your Friends Flopped,” the film failed because it’s “behind the times.”
Taking his criticism surrounding the film one step further, Sopher writes, “Marketing We Are Your Friends as an ‘EDM’ movie is what killed it. Everyone who calls the music ‘EDM’ doesn’t actually fucking like it and everyone who likes the music doesn’t fucking call it ‘EDM.’ It was a movie that looked like some old ass producer’s lame nephew fucking told him about ‘EDM’ and he was like ‘this is marketing gold’ and then made the movie with human Ken doll Zac Efron.”
As Sopher continues regarding EDM, “Everyone who actually likes dance music calls it ‘dance music’ or fucking house music or techno or one of the other multiple genres that people like to party to.”
Oftentimes the mainstream media gets dance culture wrong and ultimately causes it great embarrassment when they ascribe buzzwords to, and create films about, what we love. However, dance culture survived in spite of disco, John Travolta’s white suit, and records burning in centerfield. Similarly, we will also survive Zac Efron playing that “EDM,” too.
In our scene, we may try our hardest to be friends with each other, but it’s readily apparent when it comes to the mainstream: they oftentimes misunderstand us and just are not our friends at all. However, as always, dance music survives and remains just fine.