Nu-disco is a genre of dance music born in the 21st century. It’s related to a revival of interest in disco music in Europe and electronic dance music in the United States. The genre had a noticeable increase in popularity during the first half of the 2000s. Then, it continued to enjoy a moderate degree of recognition into the 2010s.
The early years
The original nu-disco genre is defined as house music fused with disco elements, known as disco house, and disco-influenced Balearic music, known as the Balearic beat revival or balearica. DJs were seeking ways to make music simpler to mix from the early 1970s. That’s how disco edits and re-edits emerged. A disco edit is a remix of the original master. This master is altered by disco and house DJs to accentuate and expand the greatest and most dance-friendly parts. Todd Terje’s remix of the Bee Gees’ “You Should Be Dancing” achieves just that. It favors pounding bass, energetic percussion, and an overall sense of spaciousness over the old-school vocal lines.
The Black Cock Records disco edits label, created by DJ Harvey and Gerry Rooney in 1993, is credited with the genre’s early growth. The label specialized in non-official re-edits of disco songs as well as funk-influenced rock. It was not the only disco edits bootleg label in the 1990s. However, it had a big influence on a generation of house music artists. This prompted many to enjoy the extravagant genre and add disco-sounding aspects to their own house music creations.
In the late 1990s to early 2000s, disco-inspired dance genres became popular. French house, funky house, and disco house songs broke into the charts. Popular tracks such as Kylie Minogue’s “Spinning Around,” Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s “Take Me Home,” “Murder on the Dancefloor,” Jamiroquai’s “Little L,” and Freemason’s “Love on My Mind,” all made the top ten of the UK Singles Chart. By this time, the nu-disco scene was heavily associated with disco house and French house. After its decline, starting around the mid-2000s to the late 2000s, nu-disco regained its popularity. Bands like Metronomy, Hercules & Love Affair, and Friendly Fires began using nu-disco aspects in their songs in the early 2010s. This reintroduced the genre to mainstream appeal and critical praise.
Musical aspects of nu-disco
Drum grooves are an important aspect of nu-disco because it’s primarily a dance music genre. They frequently contain organic, vibrant four-to-the-floor beats based on the sounds of iconic disco albums by Chic, Sister Sledge, and others. In certain cases, producers will directly sample these grooves. While modern production with synthesized sounds is abundant, many nu-disco records are, in the disco tradition, driven by guitar or bass licks. As with other electronic genres, producers of this style use both digital and analog synths to create melodic and harmonic lines and add ambiance and color to their records.
Unlike its disco precursors, nu-disco and disco house do not stick to song forms that are essential to the modern pop. Rather than following the traditional verse-chorus model, tracks in the style tend to take from its electronic relatives, with more drawn-out, repetitive sections that slowly ramp up to the chorus and back down again.