Take a sonic trip with Randi to some of the best areas in the world: San Francisco, NYC, and the UK!
This weeks genre of music did not originate in one specific place – in fact, the music known as Hi-NRG started developing in San Francisco, NYC, and in the UK simultaneously. Although these areas are not geographically close to one another, each one of these areas is teeming with culture and people with progressive viewpoints. In light of the current struggle to legalize same-sex marriage, I am highlighting a musical genre (Hi-NRG) that was especially popular among LGBT communities, specifically in the coastal cities of San Francisco and NYC.
What is Hi-NRG, and where did it get its name? The music of this scene is a high-tempo version of disco that emerged in the early 1980s. The beats and sounds of Hi-NRG had the excitement of disco, but without the so-called “funky” elements that are usually prevelant in disco music. Hi-NRG also differs from regular ol’ disco in that the songs are composed of synthesizer noises rather than live instruments. The bass booms in these tracks, and there is heavy use of the “clap” sound throughout to create a staccato noise. The tempo of the music is usually around 125 to 127 BPM, and the music got its name because of the “high energy” of the dance music. Donna Summer is credited with coining the music genre’s name in 1977, for in an interview she described her hit “I Feel Love” as having a “high-energy vibe.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hi-NRG).
I mention the LGBT community because from around 1979-1988, Hi-NRG was the preferred music in this scene. Producer Patrick Cowley promoted Hi-NRG at The EndUp Club in San Fran, and producers Bobby Orlando, Ian Levine, and Stock Aitken Waterman were also responsible for some of the biggest Hi-NRG hits of the time. By 1983 in the UK, there was a weekly Hi-NRG chart (http://www.80s-radiomusic.com/broadcast.php?item=29), and the music even became popular in Canada. It is peculiar to note that, although Hi-NRG was the chosen music for the LGBT crowd in the U.S., the genre was not as tightly associated with the gay club scene outside of the U.S. (Side note: Some of the songs in the playlist I included were in the Sean Penn movie Milk, about gay activist Harvey Milk).
To be fair, not all of the tracks that fall under the Hi-NRG categorization are amazing. In fact, some of them are downright Cornwallis. My favorites from the genre are tracks that have a lot of singing in them and border on pop music. Hi-NRG was a clear break from disco, and was also a precursor to house music – by the 1990’s, raves, club kids, and techno music replaced the music of Hi-NRG. There are still songs being made today in the style of Hi-NRG – they are mostly pop songs remixed to have a Hi-NRG sound – but based on what I heard on iTunes, the best stuff is the old stuff.
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