When Justin Bieber announced he might use something called dubstep in his next album, he probably had a lot of fans nodding and pretending they had a clue about what dubstep actually is. After all, it’s not exactly a self-explanatory dance move, like the two-step. The dubstep craze has taken on a life of its own: Musicians from Katy Perry to Korn are throwing around the term to describe their new releases and dubstep music producer Skrillex (real name: Sonny Moore) recently became the first disc jockey to ever be nominated for a Best New Artist Grammy, among his five nominations.
Dubstep generally refers to a type of electronic music that features heavy bass and fast, irregular beats; tracks are often filled with brassy sputtering and screeches that sometimes sound like a soundtrack from outer space. (Dubstep is often described as the sound of robots having sex.) But some disc jockeys say the popularity has diluted the true sound of dubstep and it’s impossible to define anymore.
“It’s just so big now it’s not even dubstep. It’s dance,” said Dan Stephens, one of two disc jockeys that comprise Nero, a London-based dubstep act that has played multiple shows in New York in the last few months. Alana Watson, the singer who does Nero’s vocals and Mr. Stephens’s girlfriend, was working as a midwife until she quit in August to keep up with Nero’s accelerating career.
But Mr. Stephens is wary of artists like Mr. Bieber co-opting his signature product. “There are a lot of people who want to jump on this kind of sound. That worries me a little bit. If people just want to jump on the back of this, it might not be so good.”
For now, Nero and others are enjoying their time in the spotlight. “It’s almost the new rock,” Mr. Stephens said. “We sort of feel like rockstars now.”