Monday, May 14, 2007

Things That Are Underrated: New Wave and Disco

I got the idea for this post while watching "100 Greatest One Hit Wonders" on VH1 for about the 5th time this weekend.

New wave music is fantastic. I never really thought of new wave as an offshoot of punk rock, but I guess it is. The Wikipedia page about new wave defines new wave pretty clearly as post-punk music. All I know is that I love it. Given the definition, you could put a whole lot of bands into the new wave category, but I think of it slightly differently, I guess. For me, new wave is 1980s synthesizer/keyboard based music. You need guitars, you need drums and a bass, but you can't have new wave without the keyboard on some setting other than piano.

I don't want to go on forever about how awesome new wave is, even though I could. I think the appeal is the melodrama. It's about the synthesizer and a melodic vocals. It's a really teenage angst kind of music. It's all about delving not too deeply into the trivial issues that really matter to us while we're young. I love that. I think you can carry that with you forever through new wave music. Even though you've stopped caring about what 15 year old girls are thinking or doing, you can look back fondly on the time when it was all that mattered.

Some of the best music ever is new wave. My absolute favorite new wave song is "I Melt With You" by Modern English. Just a beautiful song. It's so distinctly '80s but timeless and universal at the same time. But there are so many others. Anything by Duran Duran or Depeche Mode, really the heroes of the genre. "She Blinded Me With Science" by Thomas Dolby, or "I Ran" by Flock of Seagulls, who were more than just hairtyles (not much more, mind you), "Whip It" by Devo. Another one of the best ever is "Take On Me" by A-Ha. The video and the song just dropped perfectly into that era. Did you know that A-Ha is still together and is still successful in Europe? I saw them on London Live not one month ago promoting their new album. (Incidentally, if you don't have an HDTV, then you're missing out on some fabulous music related programming on HDNet, INHD, and a channel that I think is called MoJo.) What about "In A Big Country" by Big Country? Fan-fucking-tastic. "Come On Eileen" by Dexy's Midnight Runners. I could go on and on.

And what about the new wave of new wave? Also pretty fucking good. The Killers are my favorite. They brought synth-rock back in a big way for me. Hot Hot Heat are also very good, but a bit more on the punk side. Franz Ferdinand brought back the hairstyles and everything. I want to see more new wave comebacks. That's a genre that should never die. Damn you, '80s backlash. I'm glad other people love new wave too, and are making more.

Disco is an entirely different animal. The reason that disco is awesome is because of the basslines. Disco, in my opinion, was really the precursor to hip-hop music. I know it draws more blatantly from funk music, especially in its early days, but in the beginning, rap was all about the DJ and the rapper was secondary. Disco was the same way. It was all about the producer and the singers were kindof secondary. You get a funky beat and a badass bassline and you had a hit. I guess at the time disco represented commercialism and excess and that's why there was a backlash, but I think we're far enough removed from that today to really appreciate disco music. I can still remember the stigma of disco in the '80s, and you weren't allowed to like disco music. Except today disco just fucking rocks.

Even the cheesiest disco songs are catchy and danceable. The best ones are just fantastic. Donna Summer is a great singer who happened to come around in the disco era. Same for Gloria Gaynor and a bunch of others. I'm not going to list disco songs. Every disco song that you can name is great. I'm sure there are bad ones, but the ones that have survived (At first I was afraid, I was petrified...) are all great for the same reason, bassline. The vocals just fit in between the bass. It's all about dance and getting lost in it. Plus, you know you love the nightlife, you love to boogie, on the disco ra-hound, yeah.

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