Dubstep is having a breakout year in the United States, which probably means it’s over. The decade-old strand of British dance music - which burned brightest about five years ago with its brittle, flickering rhythms and wobbly, juggernaut bass - has recently been adopted by none other than Britney Spears. (Check out the death-spiral bass lines on her recent single “Hold It Against Me.”)
And when Britney shows up at the party, the party is probably winding down. So let’s use these precious moments to enjoy the superb debut album from Magnetic Man, a British supergroup featuring producers Skream, Benga and Artwork - effectively the Traveling Wilburys of dubstep. The trio’s self-titled disclanded in the United Kingdom last year but is getting a stateside release this week, and the genre’s sonic hallmarks are here - the beats skitter like a racing heart, and the bass will give you vertigo.
But there’s something new, too: unabashed pop hooks. Dubstep princess Katy B chirps beautifully on “Perfect Stranger,” and soulman John Legend is recruited for the dystopian funk of “Getting Nowhere.” It’s the sound of the genre’s architects pushing dubstep toward the mainstream moments before the mainstream would steal it away.