I Don’t Like Electro Swing

Louis Barnes
4 min readNov 9, 2022
famous electric swing DJ Skyler Gilmore

If you’re familiar with any of my previous work, then you know that I consider myself something of a jazz fan; an advocate for jazz, if you will. In my work, I try to listen, research, and write about things that encompass all the boundaries of jazz. I’ve written about controversial jazz subgenres in the past, and I’ve always tried to find the good in them. However, there’s one subsection of a subgenre that has stuck out to me that I just can’t find myself enjoying: electro swing. In this article, I’m going to try to elaborate on my disdain for electro swing. Be warned: very little research has gone into this article, so it’s going to rely heavily on personal opinion. As much as you, the reader, may treasure my musical opinion(s), I would like to state that this is very much my personal opinion. It’s why the title is “I Don’t Like Electro Swing” and not “Electro Swing Is Objectively Terrible!”

Electro Swing is a flavor of dance music that got popular in the early to mid-2010s. The music itself relies heavily on samples (or composed) swing music, primarily big band swing that was popular in the 30s and 40s. Like swing music, electro swing is easy to listen to and dance-centric. One of the most popular electro swing songs is We No Speak Americano by Yolanda Be Cool. I remember first hearing this song a ton back on Flipnote Hatena, an animation-sharing service that was located on the Nintendo DSi.

Electro swing gained popularity in the early 2010s and existed for quite some time in the internet space. From intros to internet meme compilations to background music to random YouTube video essays to soundtracks of some person online cosplaying as some dapper pop culture icon, electro swing had (and honestly still has) its staying power. There’s something infectious about the subgenre. Maybe it’s the lightheartedness that each song brings? Could it be its easy-listening attributes?

But where does my disdain for this subgenre come from? To be honest, this is a real soul-searching question that I’ve spent a good deal of thinking on. I think it comes down to the founding concepts of electro swing that rub me the wrong way. I believe that electro swing values aesthetics over actual music substance. While searching for a cover photo for this article on Google Images, a certain aesthetic appeared. Gramophones, art deco, women in flapper dresses, and more related things filled my results page. It’s clear that the internet had a certain aesthetic picked out for electro-swing.

I think the music itself also tries to “fit in” with the aesthetic. While I would never subject myself to it, if you were to listen to hours of electro swing on end, you can tell that they all have sort of the same feel. I think that many electro swing artists make music with the intention of making the listener think “Wow, living in the swing era must have been so dope!”. I refrain from calling the subgenre “repetitive” and “boring”, because house/dance music itself relies heavily on samples, which can make many songs very repetitive. Plus, I love repetitive songs, I’m a huge fan of Playboi Carti.

“But how does the sampling jazz/swing of electro swing get hate from Louis, while hip-hop does the same thing?” I’m glad you asked that, dear reader! The relationship between hip hop and jazz is deep, arguably deeper than house music. I don’t want to downplay the relationship between house and jazz, I’m sure the history behind house and jazz music is rich and interesting. Here’s the thing, though, with jazz samples/performances in hip-hop, you get both the creative use of the jazz sound along with the creativity of the rapper that you’re listening to. The creativity in house music comes from how well you chop up the sample. You can get pretty crazy and outlandish with a sample. But, as I said before, electro swing is caught up with the aesthetics of the swing era. So you may have these swing samples, but you can’t really *do* anything crazy or interesting with it. My question is this then, why not just listen to/create swing music?

my Google Images results page for “electro swing”, see the aesthetic that i’m talking about?

That’s my main issue with electro swing, its pursuit of aesthetics over musical substance. The genre could be more interesting, but due to its pursuit, it just comes off as a more bland offshoot of swing music. You’d be better off listening to other forms of house music or even swing music for that matter. It’s just a bad combination in general. Thanks for reading!