Electronic music has been described by some as a surface-level genre of music; however, it depends on what you’re listening to. Electronic music is an umbrella term for music that incorporates electronic elements, but many artists promote change and diversity through it. Three artists represent this in their music and stay close to their roots.
Arca was born in Caracas, Venezuela to a wealthy family. From a young age, Arca knew that he was a homosexual, a social taboo in Venezuela. He never felt truly comfortable or safe in his home country which is what inspired him to begin making music.
He moved to London in his late teens to become a DJ. After gaining a cult following for his signature industrial hip hop sounds and his avant-garde performances, he began collaborating with artists like FKA twigs, Kelela and Kanye West.
As his sound matured and developed, the South American influences mixed with Western electronics became more apparent. His self-titled third studio album sees Arca using his own vocals on the tracks, all of which are sung in Spanish. Slight hints of salsa and tango flavor these songs so well, that despite the album’s harsh and scary synths, it brings the listener an emotional connection.
Born in Reykjavík, Iceland, Bjork is one of the most celebrated voices in music. She is often regarded as one of the trailblazers of electronic music and is credited with helping it gain popularity in the late 90s.
She moved to London to explore more musical textures than what she had in Iceland which consisted of string instruments and flutes. She trained herself how to use electronic instruments and began blending the strings and flutes of her culture’s traditional music with programmed beats to create something new.
Iceland is central to everything the Bjork does. Growing up, she said, “I always saw music as a physical environment. When I would walk home from school, I would hum and walk up the road. The hill reminded me of a musical verse while the top of the hill was the chorus. It was interesting to me because it showed me music can be so much more than sound, it can be physical and visual too.”
SOPHIE was one of the most sought-after record producers in electronic music prior to her death in January 2021. She worked in the lines of pop with Charli XCX and the avant garde with artists like Let’s Eat Grandma. Her music has been described as hyperkinetic, glossy, watery and squeaky.
SOPHIE was openly transgender and one of the only trans women working in the music industry. In her career beginnings, she never showed her face, manipulated her voice in interviews and left most of her artistry open to mystery.
In 2018, SOPHIE released her debut single, “It’s Okay to Cry” with a music video. It was the first time SOPHIE revealed her identity and the first time she sang on her own track. It was a bold statement for electronic music and broke new ground for trans people in music.
Sam Clayton, a trans man living in Fort Collins, Colo., USA said while SOPHIE was alive, “I think it’s great that we have SOPHIE because it’s rare to find a trans artist that makes good music that trans people can connect to. She talks about things we go through everyday and it’s refreshing to hear.”
Electronic music may be written off by some as shallow and bland, but certain artists make the genre flow with diversity. Whether it be clashing cultural sounds together, bringing their backgrounds into music or even changing the culture within music, electronic music is a lot deeper than one may think.