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Hi-NRG (pronounced "high energy")[2] is a genre of uptempo disco or electronic dance music that originated in the United States and United Kingdom during the late 1970s.

As a music genre, typified by a fast tempo, staccato hi-hat rhythms (and the four-on-the-floor pattern), reverberated "intense" vocals, "pulsating" octave basslines, was particularly influential on the electronic dance music scene. Its earliest association was with Italo disco, which incorporated new American electronic sounds of post-disco and hi-NRG. Later, the genre became essential in the evolution of techno, and, to a lesser but important degree, house music.[2] Artists like Daft Punk, Jus†ice or Calvin Harris represent only a small portion of those artists, coming mostly from a house music and electro-funk background, who gained a renewed interest in hi-NRG.[citation needed]


In 1977, Donna Summer was interviewed about her single "I Feel Love", which was a mostly electronic, relatively high-tempo disco song without a strong funk component. In the interview, she said "this song became a hit because it has a high-energy vibe".[3] Following that interview, the description "high-energy" was increasingly applied to high-tempo disco music, especially songs dominated by electronic timbres.[citation needed] The tempo threshold for high-energy disco was around 130 to 140 BPM. In the 1980s, the term "high-energy" was stylized as "Hi-NRG". Eurobeat, dance-pop and freestyle artists like Shannon, Stock Aitken Waterman, Taylor Dayne, Freeez or Michael Sembello were also labeled as "Hi-NRG" when sold in the United States.

In the 1980s, "Hi-NRG" referred not just to any high-tempo disco/dance music, but to a specific genre, only somewhat disco-like. Hi-NRG is, however, typified by an energetic, staccato, sequenced synthesizer sound of octave basslines or/and where the bass often takes the place of the hi-hat, alternating a more resonant note with a dampened note to signify the tempo of the record.[4][5] There is also often heavy use of the clap sound found on drum machines.

Ian Levine, a Hi-NRG DJ, the in-house DJ at Heaven Nightclub in its early years and subsequently a record producer, defines Hi-NRG as "melodic, straightforward dance music that's not too funky."[6] Music journalist Simon Reynolds adds "The nonfunkiness was crucial. Slamming rather than swinging, Hi-NRG's white European feel was accentuated by butt-bumping bass twangs at the end of each bar."[6]


Short sample of "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)", Hi-NRG song, originally released in 1978 by Sylvester.

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High-tempo disco music dates back to the mid-1970s. Early examples include several British disco songs by Biddu and Tina Charles in 1976 and Patrick Hernandez Born to be Alive in 1978.[7][8] From 1979 to 1987, unlabeled high-tempo disco music was especially popular among LGBT communities in American coastal cities such as New York and San Francisco.[citation needed] San Francisco-based Patrick Cowley and New York producer and composer Bobby Orlando were behind a number of Hi-NRG hits in this period.[9] The genre found moderate mainstream popularity in Europe, despite being the icon of British and American LGBT communities around 1983–85, while opposing both Euro disco and electro on the dance scene. Examples of Hi-NRG disco acts include Claudja Barry, Miquel Brown, Amanda Lear, France Joli, Sylvester, Divine and The Weather Girls.

During the same period, a form of Hi-NRG (EDM) became popular in Canada and the UK. The most popular groups of this style are Trans-X and Lime. The genre is closely related to space disco. Bands include Koto, Laserdance and Cerrone. The Hi-NRG sound also influenced techno and house music.[2]

Short sample of "Blue Monday", electropop song featuring "Hi-NRG" bassline octaves, originally released in 1983 and in 1988 (remix) by New Order.

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Commercial success[edit]

In 1983 in the UK, music magazine Record Mirror began publishing a weekly Hi-NRG Chart. Hi-NRG entered the mainstream with hits in the UK and US pop and dance charts, such as Hazell Dean's "Searchin' (I Gotta Find a Man)" and Evelyn Thomas's "High Energy".[10][11] In the mid-1980s, Hi-NRG producers in the dance and pop charts included Ian Levine and trio Stock Aitken Waterman, both of whom worked with many different artists. Stock Aitken Waterman had two of the most successful Hi-NRG singles ever with their productions of Dead or Alive's "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" (UK #1 & US #11 in 1985) and Bananarama's "Venus" (US #1 & UK #8 in 1986).[12] They also brought the genre full circle, in a sense, by writing and producing Donna Summer's 1989 UK and US hit "This Time I Know It's For Real" (UK #3 and US #7).

American music magazine Dance Music Report published Hi-NRG charts and related industry news in the mid to late 1980s as the genre reached its peak.[13] By 1990, however, house music and Eurodance had superseded Hi-NRG in popularity in many danceclubs. Despite this, Hi-NRG music is still being produced and played in various forms, including many remixed versions of mainstream pop hits, some with re-recorded vocals. Later in the 1990s, Nu-NRG music, a fusion of Hi-NRG and trance, was born.[14]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Allmusic about Hi-NRG influence on techno music: "techno expanded with the mechanical beats of Hi-NRG."
  2. ^ a b c "Explore music...Genre: Hi-NRG". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-07-20. 
  3. ^ Jones, Alan and Kantonen, Jussi (1999) Saturday Night Forever: The Story of Disco. Chicago, Illinois: A Cappella Books. ISBN 1-55652-411-0.
  4. ^ Top 10 Electronic Music Genres you probably haven't heard of. | Boy in a Band. Retrieved on 2-7-2010
  5. ^ Fritz, Jimi (1999). Rave Culture: An Insider's Overview: "Hi-NRG is an early evolution of new-style disco. Simple, fast, danceable early house where the bass often takes the place of the high hat". Publisher: SmallFry Press, p. 94. ISBN 0-9685721-0-3
  6. ^ a b Reynolds, Simon (2006). Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984. p. 380. ISBN 978-0-14-303672-2. 
  7. ^ I Love to Love: Tina Charles at AllMusic
  8. ^ Dance Little Lady: Tina Charles at AllMusic
  9. ^ [1][dead link]
  10. ^ Chartstats.com - Hazell Dean "Searchin'"
  11. ^ Chartstats.com - Evelyn Thomas "High Energy"
  12. ^ Allmusic.com - Stock Aitken Waterman
  13. ^ Discomusic.com - Forum post relating to Hi-NRG charts, december 1986
  14. ^ Electronic Music Styles - NU NRG TRANCE. 2-7-2010.

External links[edit]