'Songs Are Being Over-Engineered For Viral Success On Social Media', Says Emirati Music Producer

(MENAFN- Khaleej Times) Published: Wed 19 Jun 2024, 7:31 PM

Last updated: Wed 19 Jun 2024, 7:32 PM

Born and raised in Paris, France, the Emirati music producer known as icekream has been immersed in the music scene since his early teens, starting as a DJ at just 13. By the age of 24, icekream, originally named Issam Freiha, committed himself fully to his musical aspirations, launching a unique Trap music initiative on Soundcloud. Embracing the burgeoning Trap scene, his distinctive sound quickly garnered a dedicated international following and led to collaborations with both underground pioneers and mainstream icons, such as Wyclef and Diplo.

Now, in partnership with Cuban artist El Larra, the music producer has released his debut album, Santa Cruz, marking a milestone in his musical journey. In a conversation with Khaleej Times, the producer opens up about his journey, UAE's music landscape and how AI will disrupt the future of music production.

icekream's debut album 'Santa Cruz' features 10 tracks showcasing an electric blend of genres Early beginnings and influences

Born and raised in Paris, Issam found his calling early in life. As a teenager, he was captivated by the art of DJing after witnessing a fierce battle between DJs at a concert. At just 13, he began his DJing journey, immersing himself in the Parisian music scene.“I fell in love with the crowd reaction, the manipulation of the records, and the control over the crowd. I just knew that this was what I wanted to get into,” says Issam.

Despite his early passion for music, Issam's path wasn't without challenges. Growing up in an Emirati household, pursuing a career in the arts wasn't initially embraced by everyone. While his American mother wholeheartedly supported his musical aspirations, his Emirati father held reservations, viewing it more as a hobby than a viable career path.

“At the end of the day, you have to do what you feel is right in your gut. Even if you fall out with friends or family, they will ultimately come around,” says Issam.“Especially your family, when they see you doing well and progressing, they will feel proud of you.”

The evolution of icekream

Issam's trajectory took a pivotal turn when he moved to Dubai from Paris, amidst the backdrop of rapid growth and development in the UAE. Inspired by the growing music scene and newfound opportunities, it was in Dubai where icekream honed his skills, surrounded by diverse musical influences-from North African rhythms to Middle Eastern melodies-that enriched his artistic palette.

While Western musical influences played a significant role in his life, Issam's Middle Eastern roots remained deeply entrenched, blending sensibilities from both worlds in his mind.“In France, there's a large North African community with Algerians and Moroccans, so I was always exposed to a lot of Levantine music. Additionally, I listened to Lebanese and other Middle Eastern music through friends, so I was already deeply rooted in my culture,” says Issam, who now divides his time between Dubai and Miami.

Reflecting on the profound impact of both cities on his career, he adds,“Dubai provided the foundation where I could refine my craft, while Miami offered a gateway to the competitive American music market.”

Social media and music

Issam's journey underscores a broader shift in the music industry, particularly with the advent of social media platforms like SoundCloud, Apple Music, Spotify, Instagram, and more recently, TikTok.

Reflecting on the evolving landscape where artistes must navigate between creating authentic, timeless music and chasing fleeting trends engineered for viral success, he adds,“This is a very important question because I've experienced the shift from focusing solely on SoundCloud, which was originally designed for bedroom producers to showcase their beats and music-something we were content with. Then came Apple Music and Spotify, which didn't exactly destroy SoundCloud but forced us to rethink our approach.”

Just as artistes adapted to the shift, Instagram took over, followed swiftly by TikTok.“Now, music clips are condensed to nine, six, or fifteen-second segments, which are either slowed down, sped up or infused with mashups,” says Issam.“It makes you wonder, how am I going to keep up with this? How can I compete with those who seem to effortlessly capture viral attention?”

For the artiste, creating music to cater to the short-attention spans of audiences online through viral trends feels like“a chaotic mix of randomness and calculated engineering”, where creators aim“not to make songs but 10-second jingles designed for virality”, which is not his goal.

“I strive to create timeless music that reflects genuine emotions and experiences. I'm not in it to be a passing trend that dominates for a month, only to fade away,” says Issam, adding that music designed for trends and virality risks diluting the art by promoting music that's not always original.

“That's precisely what's happening. Artistes are expressing frustration everywhere, noting that audiences now only seem interested in capturing a seven-second Instagram clip at live shows. They're not singing along or engaging with the lyrics; they're just waiting to record that brief moment and then lose interest in the song,” he adds.

Artistic integrity and AI

As he looks ahead to his debut album, Santa Cruz, icekream remains steadfast in his commitment to producing music that transcends viral trends. The album represents a culmination of his creative journey-an eclectic blend of electronic, modern Latin, and groove elements that showcase his diverse influences and musical evolution.

icekream with El Larra

“As a music producer, I have limitations because I'm not a singer or rapper. I communicate through the music, through the beat. So, the best way I can express myself is when an artist does justice to my beat, bringing it to life. El Larra did just that,” says Issam.

Reflecting on the future of the music industry, he expresses concerns about the potential impact of AI-generated music on artistic authenticity.“Looking ahead, the next concern is AI. Unfortunately, record labels and big companies will likely start using AI due to its cost-cutting potential,” says Issam.

Going forward, it might become increasingly difficult to distinguish between AI-generated music and music created by human producers, he mentions.“This is concerning because there may not be legislation in place to disclose whether a song is AI-generated. AI software is getting advanced enough to produce similar stems that a human producer would create manually, blurring the lines between what is human-created and what is not. Ultimately, it will put pressure on artistes.”

UAE's thriving music scene

The artiste is also passionate about nurturing the music scene in the UAE, where he sees immense potential for growth and innovation. While he advocates for stronger copyright laws and intellectual property protections to safeguard artistes' rights, Issam says,“There are many artistes now in the UAE music scene, making it increasingly solid and diverse.” And this growth, according to him, can be attributed to strategic decisions that have attracted a diverse range of talents, fostering an ecosystem that supports alternative themes, underground hip hop, and various shows.

Sole DXB

Events, such as Soul DXB and BRED in Abu Dhabi are also pivotal in showcasing local talent and connecting artistes with global audiences, contributing to the UAE's emergence as a cultural hub in the Middle East.“These events provide platforms for artistes to showcase their talents and connect with audiences. Further developing the festival scene is crucial for advancing the music industry here and reaching newer heights. These efforts will play a pivotal role in achieving that goal."



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Khaleej Times

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