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James Blake

Dubstep's mainstream takeover

Dubstep's mainstream takeover

At the 2:17 mark of Britney Spears' 2011 hit single "Hold It Against Me," dubstep entered the mainstream.

It had been bubbling around pop's surface before Spears put her glossy touch on it, but this was Top 40's most blatant — and effective — use of the increasingly popular electronic dance music sub-genre.

As Spears' vocals cut out, the track builds to a climactic "breakdown," signified by dubstep's trademark bass wobble. It's deep enough to crush your chest, and it's a huge part of what makes the genre so appealing: A song builds and builds until the rug is suddenly ripped from under it, only to re-form. It's dance music that constantly rewards...