Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What is "Disco"?

Disco is a funk-influenced style of music completely particular to the 1970s. It represents, quite possibly, one of the largest and most short-lived crazes of modern times; as quickly as it came rushing in, it came crashing down. Disco music itself, apart from the trend, is characterized by a solid bass driving the song (and often offering the only melody), guitar mired in wah-wah pedal, and very specific drumbeat: a steady kick drum hit on every 4/4 beat, snare on the second and fourth beats and an eight-beat hi-hat shuffle that opens at every snare. Sounds complicated, but this disco beat is shockingly familiar outside of the text.

Disco music at first was never intended for listening; it was simply the soundtrack to a dance phenomenon. The music, as well as the trend, reflected a sort of decadence that served as the anti-hippie; instead of fighting civil hatred with hugs and love, the disco era fought it with drugs and dancing, hedonism. But even as disco spawned out of fairly noble, political roots, its commercialization stripped it of any sort of social commentary. Disco remained largely underground until the movie "Saturday Night Fever" shed light on the trend. Suddenly, the music became listenable outside of the dance, and the dance was all anyone wanted to do. Record labels began releasing disco albums at warp speed, and even rock bands like Kiss hopped on the wagon by creating disco-driven singles.

This level of saturation was all the trend needed to come to a grinding halt. People began to loathe it as quickly as others had loved it, and the backlash against disco was one of the largest in music history. Disco albums were burned and clubs were abandoned; the commercialization that brought so many people so much money was suddenly seen as the downfall of modern musical society. Rock bands, specifically the influx of anti-disco punks, were the new saviors.

Ironically and strangely, disco has recently seen a revival within the very scene that once shunned it. New independent bands with an ear for the past have recently begun toying with the disco beat, creating something coined by critics as "disco punk." But, just like they did before, modern rock fans have grown tired of the disco revival, spawning a new backlash that shows no immediate signs of stopping. Disco is one area of music that makes a revival next to impossible.

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