Remembering The Massive Impact of Porter Robinson’s ‘Worlds’

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The early 2010’s, aka the start of the EDM mainstream boom, was dominated by the mainstage sweethearts and big-room house icons. This is not to knock these artists, as the David Guettas, Steve Aokis, Tiestos, Hardwells, and Swedish House Mafias of that time are a massive reason why EDM garnered so much popularity during that time.

However, despite the euphoric, emotive, addicting music being played, there was a sense of repetitiveness and lack of creativity in their performances as the festivals raged on over those years. The sets felt telegraphed with senses of unnecessary knob turning and a cavalcade of “1, 2, 3, let’s go!” chants strewn throughout.

Enter Porter Robinson. At the tail end of 2013, Robinson was one of the next rising stars in this mainstage EDM world. Coming off of a tour alongside other future megastars Skrillex and Zedd, Robinson ditched his more status quo sound and show for what was at that time a bold endeavor.

In March of 2014, Robinson stunned the EDM world with his release of “Sea of Voices”, the first single from his Worlds album. Gone were the mechanical overtones of “100% In The…” and “Say My Name”, the massive breakdowns of “Language”, and the genre-fitting flows of “Unison”. Robinson took a risk and ushered in a new era of EDM.

“Sea of Voices” was just the beginning as many flocked to this fresh innovative sound from an already established name in the game. “Sad Machine”, “Lionhearted”, and “Flicker” all followed the trend of not fitting the trend, and when Worlds finally dropped in its entirety in August of 2014, the scene took notice of what Robinson was doing.

The album is an all-time great, but I’m not here to talk about the album. I am here to talk about the accompanying tour. One that changed EDM forever, even more than the album itself.

Like previously stated, at this time the majority of mainstage acts followed a certain pattern in their live performances. Standing behind the decks, jumping, shouting, hands in the air.

Porter Robinson did something not entirely typical at the time: he added live music elements.

He sang, he played drums, he played keyboards. He had custom graphics he made himself to pair with the tracks. It wasn’t bigroom, it wasn’t necessarily house, it was simply Porter Robinson.

Word of this new inventive live show spread rapidly, and the crowds and fan following exploded. Robinson brazenly gave a middle finger to the contemporary live DJ performance and created an immersive live experience. If you were at any of the shows of that tour’s inaugural iteration, you left knowing you had witnessed something special.

Not only did fans take notice, but other artists clearly did as well. Which leads me to talk about the present state of EDM live performances. Robinson raised the bar to a degree that everyone else felt the need to raise themselves to also. And the biggest festivals realized the mainstage is a place for all genres, not just that one big sound that defined it for years.

Today, we see elements of live performances more than ever before. Illenium has a full band complete with guitars, drums, piano, violin, and singers. The Chainsmokers, fresh off of pressing play and taking selfies on American Idol, reversed course and began shifting to more a live show of their own. ODESZA has their brass section, drumline, and vocalists. Alison Wonderland and her cello, GRiZ and his saxophone, the list goes on and on. Even those behind the CDJs have found ways to keep it a live feel with actual mixing and use of MIDI controllers (hi Fred Again…).

Were there others doing live elements before Porter Robinson? Absolutely. But, Robinson brought this to the mainstream. He put pressure on all of the big names to create an experience for their audience. To push the boundaries of their live shows and music production. To take chances and try new things. He also opened the door for Excision, Dillon Francis, Nora En Pure, and countless others outside the norm to get their shot on the mainstage with their already huge followings.

As we come upon a decade since its release, it is important to recognize that Porter Robinson’s Worlds album and live show changed the entire landscape of EDM forever. It is one of the most important and influential projects in EDM history and its impact is still very much being felt today. Stream Worlds once again below and enjoy!

Porter Robinson – Worlds

-Written By: Derek Lavezzo