New Beat

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New beat is an electronic dance music term that was used in the 1980s with two different meanings, one a collective term used in the U.S. for various electronic music styles, and the other a reference to the new beat sound: a particular electronic music genre that flourished in Western Europe during the mid-1980s. New beat is also used as a reference to the wider Belgian underground music scene and subculture during the 1980s.[1]


The term new beat was first used in the United States during the early 1980s. At the time, this new beat music was a contemporary genre to techno from Detroit and house from Chicago, although not intrinsically linked. The Americans at the time used the term to describe those music styles that they never heard before. It was the new beat of the time, the new sound, very different from Hi-NRG disco, New Wave, synthpop and rap. The term was soon replaced by other terms, so virtually any U.S. hits once described as "new beat" are today considered a part of another music style, most of the time simply house or techno.

The second time that the term New Beat was used was in Europe. It first appeared in Belgium around 1987, to describe a local music style that mainly developed out of 'Bodybeat' heralded by the early formation of Front 242 and other such acts as Praga Khan and Lords of Acid. When MTV Europe began in the summer of 1987, it brought the term to the UK. In the UK, the term new beat was used in 1987–1988 for various local acid house/techno rave productions, to point out that this was a new sound of dance music and a less commercial alternative to the UK's Eurobeat. Eurobeat was at the time used in the UK for the Stock Aitken Waterman productions. Eventually, the term became mainstream, especially between the summer of 1989 and the summer of 1990, but faded fast after Eurohouse took over. Because of the relation of "new beat" and acid house in the UK during 1988, the later commercial "new beat" European productions sported the smiley as a symbol of love in the British related markets. Various British "new beat" productions eventually migrated to the 'Bacalao' scene in Valencia, Spain.

Before the term new beat began to fade (during 1990–1991), it was used one last time to describe many Belgian and German dance groups like Technotronic, Snap!, Confetti's, The Adventures of Stevie V, MC Sar & the Real McCoy and Twenty4Seven on the minor European (and related) markets (Greece, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Israel, Southern France). The term in this case was used again like the way it was used in the U.S., almost a decade before to describe the overall "new" dance sound of the time and not so much a music style. It was generally used to fill the "gap" between '80s Euro disco and '90s Euro-house.

U.S. fans of '90s Eurohouse (in the U.S. the term "90s Eurodance" is used) testify that the term new beat was also used for a short while during the early '90s, to describe various early '90s imports on the USA market, like 2 Unlimited, Quadrophonia, T99, etc.


The European new beat sound originated in Belgium in the late 1980s, especially in 1987 and 1988.[2] It was an underground danceable music style, well known at clubs and discos in Western Europe.[3] It is a crossover of electronic body music (EBM, which also developed in Belgium) with the nascent Chicago originated acid and house music. New beat is the immediate precursor of hardcore electronic dance music (at the time known as rave), which developed in the neighboring Netherlands and elsewhere around 1990.[4]

The genre was "accidentally invented" in the nightclub Ancienne Belgique in Antwerp when DJ Dikke Ronny (literally "Fat Ronny") played the 45 rpm EBM record "Flesh" by A Split-Second at 33 rpm, with the pitch control set to +8.[2][5][6] In addition to A Split-Second, the genre was also heavily influenced by other industrial and EBM acts such as Front 242 and The Neon Judgement, as well as New Wave and dark wave acts such as the likes of Fad Gadget, Gary Numan and Anne Clark. Mega-nightclubs such as the Boccaccio soon made the genre a major underground success.[2]

In 1989–90, the genre spawned some short-lived sub-genres or successor genres, hard beat and schizzo - the latter being a techno-influenced style, considerably faster than the original slow new beat style.

The most commercially successful new beat groups were Confetti's[2] and The Lords of Acid, which had heavy airplay on the MTV Europe show Party Zone. MTV Europe's VJ Steve Blame was a great fan of new beat and through his position on MTV News, promoted the Belgium's new beat sound through his reports.

Many Europeans consider New Beat as a forerunner of European house (Euro-house). Others consider "new beat" to have been the first European techno dance music style, less aligned with Italo disco/Euro house/Eurobeat and more aligned with acid house.


In the 2012 documentary The Sound of Belgium, director Jozef Devillé describes the rise and popularity of the genre. It features many pioneers and original producers of the era, complemented by an exemplary selection of tracks, as well as an explanation of the musical roots of the genre. The film was received very well by audiences at IDFA in the same year.


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