Kylie Minogue brings back Disco: In 2020, it's a genre we need the most
The logistics of executing the genre for personal consumption notwithstanding, 2020 is perhaps the one year that needs the spirit of disco the most.
“Dance through the darkness,
So come on, let the music play
We gon' take it all the way…”
…croons Kylie Minogue in 'I Love It,' a song from her 15th album Disco, as the acclaimed Australian singer-songwriter seemingly rouses us to fight the ghastly year that 2020 has been, by dancing no less. 'I Love It' is an unbridled call to the disco era that defined the '70s with its foot-tapping beats, strong bass lines, groovy melodies, un-tinny synth, and distinctive joie de vivre. It also serves inadvertently as clarion call for a genre that has been gradually experiencing a revival over the last few years.
When dance music legends Daft Punk took home top honours at the 2014 Grammy Awards for their disco album Random Access Memories, it was the first time that the genre was bagging Record of the Year and Album of the Year, apart from topping the sub-category awards. Evoking the disco era found wide appreciation as it straddled nostalgia as well as novelty.
Ever since, there have been smaller waves of disco-themed songs and albums, (though not quite as effectively as it was in its prime) culminating all the way in Minogue’s Disco.
In the last 12 months alone, the spirit of disco via syncopated basslines and unmistakable synthesising, has come alive in Dua Lipa’s 'Don’t Start Now,' Justin Timberlake and SZA’s 'The Other Side,' Lady Gaga’s 'Stupid Love,' and Doja Cat’s 'Say So' phenomenon. The TikTok dance rage of the number that was heavily influenced by disco classic 'Chic,' took the genre to a generation far removed from its origins. This revival of all sounds bombastic also found traces in R&B demigod The Weeknd’s 2020 outing After Hours.
While influences of the disco era have usually emerged in a couple of songs in an artist’s album, Minogue’s Disco is unapologetically paying tribute to the genre that made you irresistibly take to your feet. Compelling synth rhythms and groovy hooks define songs like 'Say Something,' which even has some electric guitar riffs, not considered standard disco practice.
Nevertheless, 'Magic' harks back to the era with hand claps and staccato, almost making us picturise strobe lights and mirror balls. As if to reiterate her passion for disco, Minogue follows this song with 'I Love It'. Then there is 'Supernova,' that embraces funk, and a typical Daft Punk-ness in songs like 'Real Groove' and 'Dance Floor Dancing.'
The rise of disco in a year when dance floors are shut for want of social distancing solutions, and home is where most of the action is, may seem rather ironic. However, the logistics of executing the genre for personal consumption notwithstanding, 2020 is perhaps the one year that needs the spirit of disco the most!
Think about it: The '60s and its famed counter-culture movement that stood for so many socio-political causes and used the arts to give expression to protests and revolutions, were followed by an era (the '70s) that is often derided as lacking in the gravitas of its predecessors. While the 1960s hippie movements of free expression countered the rigidity and stifling policies and conduct of the '50s, they were typically marked by the various fights against oppression, economic failures, joblessness, and government opacity among others.
The generation that followed took to disco as not a solution, but an escape from the reality of the times. Unlike the calls for liberation in the '60s, the disco era was marked by its commitment to having a good time. It epitomised the realisation that while we cannot do much to fix the circumstances of our times, we can definitely escape for a few hours, lose ourselves to the most upbeat of music, and treat ourselves to rhythmic feel-good-ness.
When we study popular English music genres over the years, disco stands out as the only one where pathos, disillusionment, disappointment, rage or even nostalgia is not at the core of the song-writing. While the growing popularity of disco in the '70s came with its own share of drug problems, at the heart of the composing and songwriting, was the desire to give the listener a musical escape. Only the judgmental would find disco frivolous. After all, the complex arrangement of the instrumentation and sounds meant that the listener found it easy to consume even though the process of putting it together was far from it.
And that is precisely what this year needs. 2020 has offered us on a platter everything from health uncertainty to tumbling economies, bigotry to joblessness and more, all in the confines of our homes. Being physically cooped up and increasing anxiety can find some much-needed solace in lingering strings, polished brass, slapped bass, sliding hi-hats, and driving beats.
Just imagine: when it feels like our world is coming apart, and there is distrust, hatred, and injustice everywhere, we have the option to pause all that chaos, and simply find a space for ourselves to physically give vent through dance. It may be in our toilets for all you know, thanks to the lockdowns, but at least at that point in time, the madness of the world can wait.
You can listen to the full Disco album here.
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