Super Eurobeat Vol. 250 cover art
|Cultural origins||British Eurobeat:|
Mid-1980s, United Kingdom
Late 1980s, 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 and the other is a Hi-NRG-driven form of Italo disco. Both forms were developed in the 1980s.
Eurobeat is directly related to the Japanese Para Para dance culture as it influences many song and business decisions. In the United States, Eurobeat was historically marketed as Hi-NRG and for a short while shared this term with early freestyle music and Italo disco.
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. "Venus" by Bananarama and Mel & Kim's "Showing Out (Get Fresh at the Weekend)", according to Waterman of SAW, were completed in a day.
- Classic Eurobeat-style
Either variant is not recognized primarily by the complexity of its lyrics. Very much like bubblegum Eurodance, Eurobeat has extremely silly or meaningless lyrics. Tempo and style varies, 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 very loud, 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 to 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 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 (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, that 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) and by the late 80s while the Germans faded out of the outdated Italo disco scene and went for other newly rising popular scenes, mainly trance, the Italians created a new sound especially for Japan, but virtually unknown in the rest of the world. In Japan, this music is called "Eurobeat", "Super Eurobeat", and "Eurobeat Flash".
In the early 1990s when 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, and eventually released the compilation CD, the first Super Eurobeat, which proved an instant success and re-sparked Eurobeat's popularity in Japan. Avex also collaborated with foundational Eurobeat labels A-Beat C, Time, 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, characteristic are 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, at their best, 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 videogames use a large playlist of Eurobeat songs (including some by Dave Rodgers, like Deja Vu) which also became memes in a lot of cases. In the movie version of this anime (Legend 1 Awakening, Legend 2, and 3) there’s no Eurobeat and for this reason, it has been criticized by the fans. 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 from Toshiba EMI. Over time, DDR has featured Eurobeat songs on-and-off in their songlists. 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, and jubeat. The popularity of the genre also led Konami to create a Para Para game; ParaParaParadise.
Subsequently 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 the "J-Pop Empress in the early 2000s" 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; 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 was always present since the 2000s, but only started recently to gain much attention with the para para scene promoting a lot of these songs. Most songs are anime remixes or J-Pop covers, which makes it an anime boom as some people call it.[tone]
- Eurobeat labels to showcase this type of J-Euro are A-One, Akiba Koubou INC/Akiba Records, Eurobeat Union, Fantasy Dance Tracks, Plum Music, SuganoMusic and more.
Yet another characteristic of Eurobeat is recurring song themes. Common themes include:
Theme Examples Cars (racing)
"Running in the 90s" by Max Coveri, "The Race is the Game", "Like a Speedy Car" by Danny Rock, "The Race of the Night", "The Race is Over", "Wheels of Fire", and "New Race Game" by Dave Rodgers; "Face the Race" by Powerful T.; "Hot Hot Racing Car" by Go 2; "Drivin' Crazy" by Ace; "My Car is Fantasy" by Mega NRG Man; "Car of Your Dreams" by Dave & Nuage; "Ready Steady Go!" "Limousine" and "Gas Gas Gas" by Manuel; "Go Racin' Go!" by Fastway; "Speedy Speed Boy" by Marko Polo; "Grand Prix" by Mega NRG Man; "The Top" by Ken Blast.
Energy "Adrenaline" by Ace; "Power" and "NRG" by Go 2; "Get Me Power" by Mega NRG Man; "Stop Your Self Control" by Marko Polo; "Max Power" by Dr. Love ft. D. Essex; "Electric Power" by Niko; "Overload" by Matt Land The Future "Futureland" by Ace Love "Killing My Love" by Leslie Parrish; "Love is in Danger" by Priscilla; "Love is Danger" by Linda Ross; "Need Love" and "Raising Love" by Mega NRG Man; "Crazy for Love" by Dusty; "Mystery of Love" by Virginelle; "Burning Love" by D. Essex; "I Need Your Love"; by Dave Simon; "Love Rhapsody"; by Victoria; "Love Countdown"; by Fastway Japan "Boom Boom Japan"; by Dave Rodgers; "Tokyo Tokyo"; by D. Essex; "Tokyo Fever" by Marko Polo, 'Japanese Girl' by Ken Martin, "No One Sleep in Tokyo" by Edo Boys, "Japanese Girl" by Mega NRG Man, "Night Flight to Tokyo" by Matt Land, "Made in Japan" by Dave Rodgers Eurobeat itself "Super Eurobeat" by Franz Tornado and The Tri-Star Girls; "Super Eurobeat (Gold Mix)" by Dave Rodgers and Futura; "Eurobeat" by Dr. Love; "King of Eurobeat" by Jordan; "Super Eurobeat (Eurobeat Mix)" by Alphatown; "Super Eurobeat" by Niko; "Loving Eurobeat" by Dejo and Bon Music and dancing in general "Music for the People"; by Dave Rodgers and Jennifer Batten; "Play the Music" and "Don't Stop the Dance" by Ace; "Music Come On!" by Go 2; "Don't Stop the Music" by Lou Grant; "Music Forever" by D. Essex; "Disco Fire" by Dave Rodgers; "Dancing" by Vicky Vale
Eurobeat also has notoriety for name recognition, lifting titles from popular songs and using them as the names of Eurobeat tracks e.g. "Like a Virgin", "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road", "What Is Love", "Dancing Queen", "Don't Stand So Close", "Station to Station" and "Spark in the Dark". Artists usually adopt different stage names according to the mood of each song, or depending on who wrote their lyrics. For instance, Ennio Zanini has stated on the SCP Music website that he goes by the name of "Fastway" on songs which are more upbeat and sprinkled with high-pitched female backing vocals, and goes by "Dusty" on his more "serious" tracks.
- 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 unbeliveable. 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 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.