2020 saw a disco revival that swept mainstream music. Dua Lipa, Kylie Minogue, Jessie Ware, Doja Cat, The Weeknd; everyone was hopping on that sweet 70s vibe. When the clubs closed, these artists brought them to our homes instead, giving us all the tunes we needed to keep our heads up with a little pandemic boogie.
Of course, the pandemic could have been the main reason for this sudden revival. Disco has been more or less an underground genre since the turn of the 20th century, with elements of it everywhere, but not a full dedication to the vibe of the sound. Disco samples, for instance, are pretty common, like Madonna sampling ABBA‘s ‘Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight)’ in her 2005 track ‘Hung Up’, Shakira sampling Chic‘s ‘Good Times’ in ‘She Wolf’, and Kendrick Lamar sampling James Brown‘s funk-influenced track ‘Get Up Offa That Thing’ in ‘XXX’. Come the pandemic, however, and the chaos that was 2020, disco was suddenly dominating the airwaves once more. ‘Say So’? Possibly one of the biggest songs of the year, with its huge disco influences, from the wavy beat and groovy guitar to the tingling bells that run throughout. Future Nostalgia? A journey into Dua Lipa’s own disco heaven. What’s Your Pleasure? A soundtrack to a night at a club ripped straight out of 1975. Disco? The name is on the tin. Disco undoubtedly RULED 2020, but the question is: why?
You could argue we all needed a little bit of nostalgia last year when our present was so uncertain. The 70s vibe erupted not only on the music scene, but also in fashion, with the return of crochet dresses, halter neck tops and chunky boots, and huge puffed out hair and loud eyeshadow. A decade-or-so full of colour, unabashed self-expression and joy in the music scene feels like the perfect thing to cling to, especially one with so many groovy tunes. Just try and put on any disco tune and not dance along! Artists capitalised on this nostalgic craving, bringing us disco tune after disco tune. And we loved it, as did the critics: at the 63rd Grammys, 2 of the records nominated for Record of the Year had clear disco influences, and nearly all of the artists nominated for best pop solo performance had gone down the disco route in their musical style.
Disco as it’s been revived today, however, is not an exact copy of itself at the time of the height of its popularity in the 70s. New age influences are clear, with over-emphasised beats, coming from house music, instrumental choruses that pack a punch (Dua Lipa’s ‘Levitating’ is a perfect example of this), differing vocal deliveries and less reliance on traditional instrumentation, like brass instruments. Strings are still heavily edited, layered and filtered to give that dreamy effect, however, and some singers like Jessie Ware and the Weeknd still follow the traditional airy vocal delivery that runs throughout trad-disco tracks, like The Communards ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ and pretty much anything by the Beegees. Disco has been ‘revived’, but also adapted to better suit the listeners of the contemporary era. Dua Lipa’s disco homage album, Future Nostalgia, perhaps best epitomises this in its title; disco is still recognisable in the sounds of today, but it has nonetheless been forever changed for the future of the genre.
Want a taste of disco, from then ’til now? Check out our ‘Disco Revival’ playlist down below!