|Cultural origins||British Eurobeat:|
Mid-1980s, United Kingdom
Mid 1980s, Germany, Italy and Japan
Eurobeat refers to two styles of dance music that originated in Europe: one is a British variant of Italian Eurodisco-influenced dance-pop (this type is only sold in Japan), and the other is a hi-NRG-driven form of Italo disco. Both forms were developed in the 1980s.
The Japanese Para Para dance culture is influenced by Eurobeat. Eurobeat music often accompanies anime, which made the genre more popular in the US, where Eurobeat was historically marketed as hi-NRG (pronounced as "high energy"). For a short while, it also shared this term with early freestyle music and Italo disco.
Super Eurobeat, a Japanese Eurobeat CD compilation, is the longest running CD compilation in the world. It was used as the main soundtrack for, and is often associated with, the anime Initial D, which is about Japanese mountain pass street racers.
A highly polished production with "musical simplicity" at its core — from Bubblegum Pop-like lyrics, catchy (in some cases Italian, in other Eurodisco-like) melodies, to "elementary" song structures — an average British Eurobeat song took very little time to complete. Bananarama's "Venus" and Mel & Kim's "Showing Out (Get Fresh at the Weekend)" were said to be completed in a day, according to Pete Waterman of Stock Aitken Waterman.
Both variants are not recognized by the complexity of their lyrics. Tempo and style vary, sometimes resembling "slower" Italo disco, sometimes "fast and happy" music like happy hardcore, with a sequenced octave bassline. Many feature guitars as a method of "Sabi", or a beginning section, followed by a thunderous, highly technical synthesizer riff which is then repeated after the chorus. Songs usually repeat the verse, bridge, and chorus multiple times during the song. The beginning is typically like an instrumental rendition of the verse, bridge, and chorus, while the riff is a lot like an instrumental version of the chorus.
Use of the term
British record producer Ian Levine's Eastbound Expressway, released the single "You're a Beat" in recognition of the slower tempo of hi-NRG music emerging from Europe. Many European acts managed to break through under this new recognition, namely the likes of Modern Talking, Bad Boys Blue, Taffy, and Spagna. The term "Eurobeat" was subsequently used commercially to describe the Stock Aitken Waterman–produced hits by Dead or Alive, Bananarama, Jason Donovan, Sonia, and Kylie Minogue which were heavily based on the British experience with Italo disco. During 1986–1988, it was used for specific Italian 1980s Euro disco imports, such as Sabrina Salerno, Spagna, and Baltimora but was also used in the United States as a catch-all term for UK-based dance and electropop groups of the time such as Pet Shop Boys, purported to have a "European beat", hence Eurobeat. By 1989, with the advent of Eurodance and Euro house, the term was dropped in the UK.
"The New Motown"
—Waterman (1986) on Bananarama "I Heard a Rumour".
The trio of British record producers, songwriters, and former DJs Mike Stock, Matt Aitken, and Pete Waterman were involved in the British underground club culture, encountering the Black American soul music-focused scene called Northern Soul, Italian pop-Eurodisco, and sped-up Motown Sound-inspired tracks. As underground record producers, they sought to recapture the "nostalgia" of Motown Sound with a hint of campy playfulness where the simplicity of musical structures, like in Italian disco, was preferred. This musical formula was proven to be successful enough to be capitalized on as they had a string of top 10 UK hits in the 1980s to the point of their version of Eurobeat becoming synonymous with British pop music as a whole.
Pete Burns of Dead or Alive regularly fought the production team over "[having to adhere] to their production methods and concepts" which SAW were "quite firm about". Burns went on making a next album, produced by Burns and Dead or Alive drummer Steve Coy, without them, called Nude. Epic (licensed by Sony Europe) was reluctant about releasing the album but it turned out to be so successful in Japan that it was awarded the Japan Record Award Grand Prix for Best International Album of 1989 in the 'Pop' or 'Popular' Category.
Italy and Japan
"By the Italians, for the Japanese"
—avex trax's Haji Taniguchi (2000)
Meanwhile, in Japan in 1985, the term "Eurobeat" was applied to all continental-European dance music imports. These were mainly Italian and German-produced Italo disco releases. That sound became the soundtrack of the Para Para nightclub culture, which has existed since the early 1980s. Japan experienced Italo disco through the success of the German group Arabesque, which broke up in 1984. This did not prevent the release of two Italo disco-sounding singles in 1985 and 1986, produced and mixed by Michael Cretu (of Enigma). The later solo success of Arabesque's lead singer Sandra further introduced this sound to Japan. This attracted the attention of many Italo disco producers (mostly Italians and Germans), though by the late 1980s the Germans had faded out of Italo disco and focused on more popular scenes, mainly trance. The Italians went on to create a new sound especially for Japan, but it was virtually unknown in the rest of the world. In Japan, this music is called "Eurobeat", "Super Eurobeat", and "Eurobeat Flash".
In the early 1990s, Eurobeat's popularity was gradually decreasing in Japan. Two Japanese men, the owner and a managing director of Avex, a small import record shop at the time, decided to release a compilation CD. They went to Italy and met Giancarlo Pasquini (later known as Dave Rodgers), then a member of the Italo disco band Aleph. Together they released the first Super Eurobeat, a compilation CD which saw instant success and re-ignited Eurobeat's popularity in Japan. Avex also collaborated with foundational Eurobeat labels A-Beat C, Time, and Delta long after Eurobeat's mainstream popularity peak.
Eurobeat's sound (in the Japanese market) is its main link to its Italo disco origins, where it was just one of many different experiments in pure electronic dance. There are certain synth instruments that recur across the entire genre: a sequenced octave bass, the energetic (sometimes wild) and heavy use of synths, distinctive brass and harp sounds, and tight, predictable percussion in the background. These sounds are layered with vocals and natural instruments (guitar and piano are common) into complex, ever-shifting melodies that burst with energy.
The anime series Initial D, based on the manga by Shuichi Shigeno, uses Eurobeat music regularly in its episodes during racing scenes between the characters, and because of this it has come to the attention of some anime fans outside Japan. The series as well as the video games use a large playlist of Eurobeat songs including some by Dave Rodgers, like "Deja Vu" and other artists such as Max Coveri with songs like "Running in the 90s". (Many of these songs also became memes.) There are also many Eurobeat songs based on the series itself, including: "Takumi" by Neo, "Speed Car" by D-Team, "Initial D Hell" by Dave Rodgers and "DDD Initial D (My Car is Fantasy)" by Mega NRG Man. In the movie version of this anime (Legend 1 Awakening, Legend 2, and 3) there is no Eurobeat and it has been criticised by fans for this reason. The songs used in the films are instead modern-day J-rock songs.
In 1998, Bemani, a branch of the video game company Konami made a hit video dance machine, Dance Dance Revolution. The game acquired Eurobeat songs from the Dancemania compilation series published by Toshiba EMI. Over time, DDR has featured Eurobeat songs on-and-off in their song lists. However, their number has dwindled due to efforts to make DDR more marketable to North American markets. Currently, there has been a push to add more Eurobeat into DDR, most recently with the addition of Super Eurobeat tracks in the latest arcade release, Dance Dance Revolution X2. Other music games in Konami's lineup feature a large number of Eurobeat tracks, including Beatmania, Beatmania IIDX, StepMania, jubeat, and many more. The popularity of the genre also led Konami to create a Para Para game; ParaParaParadise.
There have been three types of music called "J-Euro" (Japanese Eurobeat);
- 1. Eurobeat songs made in Italy, covered by Japanese artists with Japanese lyrics.
- 2. J-pop songs made in Japan, remixed in the style of Eurobeat by Italian Eurobeat producers.
- This type of "J-Euro" appeared first on the 1999 issue of Super Eurobeat, Vol. 100, with several tracks of this type of "J-Euro" by MAX, Every Little Thing, and Ayumi Hamasaki. This type of "J-Euro" has been popular in the para para scene since around 2000. Avex Trax launched the Super Eurobeat Presents : J-Euro series in 2000. This series included Ayu-ro Mix 1, 2 and 3, plus a fourth remix album missing the "Super Eurobeat" tag featuring Ayumi Hamasaki, Euro Every Little Thing featuring Every Little Thing, Hyper Euro MAX featuring MAX, Euro global featuring globe, Euro Dream Land featuring Dream, J-Euro Best, J-Euro Non-Stop Best,
- 3. Eurobeat songs made in Japan, and sung by Japanese artists themselves.
- This type of Eurobeat has always been present since the 2000s, but only started to gain attention once the para para scene began promoting songs in this style. Most songs are anime remixes or J-pop covers, which has led to some calling it an anime boom.[tone]
- Eurobeat labels that showcase this type of J-Euro are A-One, Akiba Koubou INC/Akiba Records, Eurobeat Union, Fantasy Dance Tracks, Plum Music, SuganoMusic and more.
- Arena, James (2017). Europe's Stars of '80s Dance Pop. McFarland. p. 85. ISBN 9781476630144. Retrieved 2020-01-29.. Relevant pages 29-32 (Pete Burns), Pages 44 & 85 (high-energy music). Page 29 quote: "I got really sick working with them during the making of the Mad, Bad album. I got really, really sick." [...] The Stock Aitken Waterman team was reportedly quite firm about adhering to their production methods and concepts, which Burns said was a major source of friction. "We would butt heads so fucking badly; it was unbelievable. That's why we eventually walked away from them. For instance, there was a lyric from 'Something in My House' [from the follow-up album, Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know] where I make a reference to a 'wicked queen.' The actual producer, Mike Stock, stopped me and said I couldn't use the term because it would mean the record is about gay people. I was like, 'Fuck this; it's going on!' They actually wiped the original vocal, but then Pete Waterman came back and said, 'Let [Burns] do it the way he wants to.' There you go."
- Cunningham, Mark "Good Vibrations: A History of Record Production" (Sanctuary Music Library), Alan Parson (Introduction), Brian Eno (Introduction) Sanctuary Publishing, Ltd; 2 edition (1998, Digitized 20 May 2010). ISBN 1-86074-242-4, ISBN 978-1-86074-242-2
- David D. Laitin, Robert Schuman Centre (2000). Culture and National Identity: "the East" and European Integration. European University Institute. Page 14.
- Keizai, Kokusai & Zaidan, Kōryū (cont.) "Japan Spotlight: Economy, Culture & History, Volume 23". Page 24 (Ng Wai-ming: "The Rise of J-Pop in Asia and Its Impact"). Japan Economic Foundation & the University of California. 2004. Quote: "JAPANESE pop music is commonly I referred to as "J-pop", a term coined by Komuro Tetsuya, the "father of J-pop", in the early 1990s. The meaning of J-pop has never been clear. It was first limited to Euro-beat, the kind of dance music that Komuro produced. However, it was later also applied to many other kinds of popular music in the Japanese music chart, Oricon, including idol-pop, rhythm and blues (R&B), folk, soft rock, easy listening and sometimes even hip hop."
- Society for Asian Music (2003). "Asian Music: Journal of the Society for Asian Music, Volume 34, Issue 1". Page 1 ("Japanese Popular Music in Singapore"). The University of California.
- Ang, Ien & Morley, David (2005). "Cultural Studies: Volume 3, Issue 2". Routledge. pgs. 171, 173, 170. ISBN 9781134957927. "Eurorecords had to have immediate cross-national appeal, musical simplicity was of the essence- a bouncy beat, just one chorus hook, elementary lyrics. The fun of these records was entirely a matter of sound quality, but once a record was a hit it took on a kind of sleazy, nostalgic charm of its own. It was precisely the brazen utility of these records, in short, that gave them gay disco consumer appeal too.[...] Eurodisco also had an obvious element of camp -British club audiences took delight in the very gap between the grand gestures of Eurosingers and the vacuity of their songs."
- BMI: The Many Worlds of Music. Broadcast Music, Incorporated, 1986. p. 17.
- "Eurobeat Creation Theory: Synth Riffs/"Sabi"s". Odyssey Eurobeat. 2010-08-06. Retrieved 2019-10-22.
- Manning, Sean (2008). "Rock and Roll Cage Match: Music's Greatest Rivalries, Decided". Crown/Archetype, Aug 26, 2008. Page 69. ISBN 9780307449658.
- McClure, Steve. "Midem 2000: JAPAN: Execs Stress Dance & Urban". Billboard (Nielsen Business Media, Inc.). Jan 22, 2000. Page 80. ISSN 0006-2510. Quote: "[T]o maintain an existing relationship with our clients we want to show our special appreciation to our collaborators for the success of 'Super Eurobeat Volume 100,' which has sold more than a half-million units since being released in August," says Avex's Haji Taniguchi. [...] Taniguchi says the three companies to which Avex feels especially grateful for their support over the years are A-Beat C, Time, and Delta, all of which are from Italy."
- Stuckmann, Chris (2018) "Anime Impact: The Movies and Shows that Changed the World of Japanese Animation". Vincent R. Siciliano segment. Mango Media Inc. ISBN 9781633537330.
- Bakuren, List of J-EURO Original Tracks Archived 2008-10-10 at the Wayback Machine (in Japanese)
- Tsutaya, J-Euro Non-Stop Best > Summary (in Japanese)
- Avex Trax, J-EURO (in Japanese)
- Karen Ma (1996). "The Modern Madame Butterfly: Fantasy and Reality in Japanese Cross-cultural Relationships". Charles E. Tuttle. ISBN 9780804820417. Quote: "[T]he para-para girls-young women in their late teens and early twenties dancing in unison in Japanese dance steps to the sound of fast-tempo Euro-beat. Para-para dancing is not a new invention: it dates back to the early eighties."
- Roland B. Tolentino, Jin Hui Ong, Ai Yun Hing (2004). "Transglobal Economies and Cultures: Contemporary Japan and Southeast Asia". Page 241. University of Michigan & University of the Philippines Press. ISBN 9789715424196.