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Nu-disco is a 21st-century dance music genre associated with a renewed interest in the late 1970s US disco, [1] synthesizer-heavy 1980s European dance music styles, and early 1990s electronic dance music. [1] [2] The genre was especially popular in the first half of the 2000s, and experienced another mild resurgence through the 2010s.


There are several scenes associated with the nu-disco term, the original one is characterized as house music fused with disco elements (sometimes incorrectly referred to as disco house), [3] [4] and disco-influenced balearic music, also known as balearic beat revival [5] or balearica. [6]

Nu-disco is often confused with the other disco-influenced house music genres, such as French house or disco house. French house has heavily sample based production, compared to the usually programmed or live original instrumentation that nu-disco relies on. [7] The other key difference is in the song structure - nu-disco usually have the typical song structure of pop or classic disco song, with various breakdowns, and often with verses and a chorus, whereas disco house generally has a more constant and unvaried character throughout, [7] as the most of house music.


Disco edits: 1970s–early 1990s

Disco edits or re-edits emerged at the same time as disco appeared in the early 1970s when DJs were looking for ways to make music easier to mix. [8] Disco edit is a modified version of the original master, edited by disco and house DJs to extend and emphasize the best and most dance-friendly elements. Todd Terje's edit of the Bee Gees hit "You Should Be Dancing" does exactly that, downplaying the old-school vocal riffs in favour of driving bass, lively percussion, and an overall sense of space. [9]

In the early days, edits were done with scissors and tape. Some edits became even more popular than the original records that they came from, hence, the early editors, such as Walter Gibbons, earned reputation and studio career from their editing work. Given the popularity of edits, labels predominantly releasing edits and remixes began to appear. The first one to arrive was Disconet in 1977, followed by well-known DJ edits services and labels such as Hot Tracks, Rhythm Stick and Razormaid. [8] Such labels remained active until the first half of the 1990s, when an increase of copyright issues gradually went out them of business. [8] But the scene's activity didn't fade away, it went underground, where many disco edits labels continue to exist nowadays, such as Brooklyn's influential Razor-N-Tape. [10] Many nu-disco producers are also disco editors and often there is a bit of overlap between the two genres as many nu-disco songs feature samples of classic disco tracks. Modern notable disco editors include Greg Wilson, Todd Terje, Dimitri from Paris, Joey Negro, Late Nite Tuff Guy and Luxxury.

Emergence of nu-disco: mid-1990s–late 1990s

The early developments of the genre are linked with the Black Cock Records, disco edits label, primarily active in 1993-1998, founded by DJ Harvey and Gerry Rooney. [11] The label was focused on releasing non-official re-edits of disco tracks and some funk-influenced rock. [11] It was not the only existing disco edits bootleg label in the 1990s, but had a huge impact on a generation of house music producers, inspiring many in digging decadent genre and adjusting their own house music productions with disco-sounding elements. [11]

In the mid-1990s Nuphonic Records was the house label for British artists Idjut Boys, Faze Action, [12] Raj Gupta and Crispin J Glover, [11] which are considered to be the pioneers of nu-disco. [3] The Idjut Boys, best known for pioneering a house music style called "disco-dub" were heavily inspired by the freestyle and dub-influenced, post-disco dance sounds of the early 1980s. [11] Faze Action were one of the first house production units to make "all live" productions that insisted on drawing on methods used in disco. [11] DJ Dave Lee aka Joey Negro and Crazy P are also called to be the pioneers of the genre. [3]

In 1997, DJ I-F released the track Space Invaders Are Smoking Grass, a track based around electro-funk drum patterns, 80s FM synth stabs and vocoder vocals, that single-handedly started the electroclash movement, and brought melodic, European sounding electro-disco back to clubs and DJ sets. [11] In 1999, I-F released the first of his "Mixed Up In The Hague" mixes, made up almost entirely of Italo disco and Eurodisco, which became hugely influential. [11]

Mainstream success, French house and disco house synonym: late 1990s–mid-2000s

In the late 1990s to early 2000s, disco-inspired dance genres became popular; many French house, funky house, and disco house songs broke into the charts. [11] Popular tracks such as Kylie Minogue's "Spinning Around", Sophie Ellis-Bextor's "Take Me Home" and "Murder on the Dancefloor", Jamiroquai's "Little L", and Freemasons "Love on My Mind" all made the top ten of the UK Singles Chart. By this time, the nu-disco scene was heavily associated with disco house [7] and French house. [12]

The moniker "nu-disco" first appeared in print as early as 2002. In 2002, The Independent described nu-disco as the result of applying "modern technology and pin-sharp production" to 1970s disco and funk. [13] Metro Area's self-titled album, released in 2002, is often regarded as one of the most influential albums in the genre. [11] The album named the second best album of the decade by Resident Advisor [14] and the best nineteenth of the decade by Fact magazine. [15] In the early 2000s the genre was a dance music mainstay, [12] right until the mid-2000s when electro house gained commercial success, leaving nu-disco in decline from mainstream and pushing it to further development. [3]

Decline in popularity and development: mid-2000s–late 2000s

In the 2000s nu-disco gained a new sound, which was developed in various local scenes:

In July 2008 Beatport added genre category "Nu Disco / Indie Dance", stating that nu-disco is "everything that springs from the late '70s and early '80s (electronic) disco, boogie, cosmic, Balearic and Italo disco continuum". [1] Originally, service associated it with re-edits of classic disco records and a handful of European electronic producers who made music in that style. It was used alongside alternative dance up until September 2019, when Beatport separated categories into two, leaving nu-disco in "Nu Disco / Disco". [28]

In 2008 Spin magazine stated that disco is experiencing a worldwide renaissance, with a flowering of new labels, compilations, and club nights, calling the disco of the 21st century seedy, underground, and punk in attitude. [2] The magazine pointed that Eurodisco sound, including instrumental space disco and the late-1970s—early-1980s Italo disco, was the main influence on the nu-disco scene of that time. [2]

Tensnake's single "Coma Cat" hit the European charts in 2010 and was one of the most successful nu-disco tracks of that time. [29]

Back to mainstream: early 2010s–present

In the early 2010s, bands such as Metronomy, Hercules & Love Affair [12] and Friendly Fires started using nu-disco elements in their songs, bringing nu-disco back to mainstream popularity and critical acclaim. [3] [12] Nu-disco artists Aeroplane and Soulwax became massively influential and have been released on major labels, while other producers are commissioned anonymously to work for pop acts. [3] Steve Kotey, a member of cult band Chicken Lips, said in 2012: "30 percent of music in the charts have the feeling of this left-field disco production style in it. The producers give it that kind of shine that makes it more for radio than your DJ box. You can hear the electronic Chicken Lips stuff that was prevalent in 2003 in some of Lady Gaga's music". [3]

In 2013, several disco- and funk-influenced songs charted as top hits, this time in a 1970s style. One source stated that the pop charts had more dance songs than at any other point since the late 1970s. [30] The biggest disco hit of the year was "Get Lucky" by Daft Punk, featuring Chic's Nile Rodgers on guitar. [30] The song was initially thought likely to be a leading candidate to become the summer's biggest hit that year; however, the song ended up peaking at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for five weeks behind another major disco-styled song, Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines", which spent twelve weeks at number 1 on the Hot 100, and in the process became the eventual song of the summer itself. [30] Both were popular with a wide variety of demographic groups. [30]

From the mid-2010s to early 2020s, the trend continued. Many major dance-pop artists dabbled into the style. Taylor Swift and producer Ali Payami incorporated nu-disco influences into Swift's 2015 single "Style". [31] Calvin Harris released the nu-disco and funk [32] album Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 in 2017, which reached high positions on the British and American charts. Dua Lipa released the nu-disco [33] album Future Nostalgia in 2020, which also broke into the tops of the charts in many countries. The album also spawned the nu-disco single "Don't Start Now", which peaked at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 2020, [34] the album was nominated for Album of the Year at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards, and won Best Pop Vocal Album. Same year Róisín Murphy released nu-disco album Róisín Machine, which has received widespread critical acclaim and occupied many end-year tops.

In May 2020, Studio 54, the former nightclub and 1970s center of disco culture, launched a record label called Studio 54 Music, featuring newly re-imagined versions of classic club disco tracks by Don Ray and T-Connection. [35]


Drum groove

Since nu-disco is a dance genre first and foremost, the drum grooves are an essential part. They often feature four-on-the-floor beats with an organic, lively feel based on the sounds of classic disco recordings by Chic, Sister Sledge, and others. [36] In some cases, producers will sample these grooves directly. Los Angeles-based producer Goldroom uses both house and disco influenced drum grooves in tracks such as "Waiting to Ignite".

Live instrumentation

While modern production is abundant with synthesized sounds, many nu-disco records are, in the disco tradition, driven by guitar or bass licks. Guitarist, producer, and songwriter Nile Rodgers brought riffs to the forefront of the groove with Chic in the 1970s and again with Daft Punk in 2013. [36] Other notable modern examples include "Baby I'm Yours" by Breakbot and "Holding On" by Classixx. [37] "Be Good 2 Me" by Luxxury is an example of mixing live instrumentation (bass, gtr, vocals) with samples (beats, percussion).


As with other electronic genres, nu-disco producers use both digital and analog synths to create melodic and harmonic lines, and add ambiance and color to their records. Gigamesh uses a heavily synthesized sound while still retaining old-school influences in tracks such as "Back to Life", and Poolside uses atmospheric synths to complement their drum, bass, and guitar sounds in "Do You Believe". [37]


Unlike its disco precursors, nu-disco and disco house are not beholden to song forms that are essential to the modern pop idiom. Rather than following the traditional verse-chorus model, nu-disco tends to take after its electronic cousins, with more drawn-out, repetitive sections that slowly ramp up to the chorus and back down again. Otherwise monotonous lines are brought to life with the use of filters, samples, and other subtle changes in the sound or groove over time in ways that make people want to keep dancing. Daft Punk's "One More Time" is considered one of the most influential examples of the application of "filter disco." [38]

Notable labels

Notable artists

Related Research Articles

Disco Music genre

Disco is a genre of dance music and a subculture that emerged in the 1970s from the United States' urban nightlife scene. Its sound is typified by four-on-the-floor beats, syncopated basslines, string sections, horns, electric piano, synthesizers, and electric rhythm guitars.

House is a genre of electronic dance music characterized by a repetitive four-on-the-floor beat and a typical tempo of 120 to 130 beats per minute. It was created by DJs and music producers from Chicago's underground club culture in the 1980s, as DJs from the subculture began altering disco songs to give them a more mechanical beat and deeper basslines.

Hi-NRG is a genre of uptempo disco or electronic dance music (EDM) that originated in the United States during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Dance-pop is a popular music subgenre that originated in the late 1970s to early 1980s. It is generally uptempo music intended for nightclubs with the intention of being danceable but also suitable for contemporary hit radio. Developing from a combination of dance and pop with influences of disco, post-disco and synth-pop, it is generally characterised by strong beats with easy, uncomplicated song structures which are generally more similar to pop music than the more free-form dance genre, with an emphasis on melody as well as catchy tunes. The genre, on the whole, tends to be producer-driven, despite some notable exceptions.

<i>Homework</i> (Daft Punk album) 1997 studio album by Daft Punk

Homework is the debut studio album by the French electronic music duo Daft Punk, released on 20 January 1997 by Virgin Records and Soma Quality Recordings. The duo produced the tracks without plans to release an album. After working on projects that were intended to be separate singles over five months, they considered the material good enough for an album.

<i>Discovery</i> (Daft Punk album) 2001 studio album by Daft Punk

Discovery is the second studio album by French electronic music duo Daft Punk, released internationally 12 March 2001 by Virgin Records. It marks a shift from the Chicago house sound prevalent on their first studio record, Homework (1997), to a house style more heavily inspired by disco, post-disco, garage house, and R&B. Comparing their stylistic approach to their previous album, band member Thomas Bangalter described Discovery as an exploration of song structures and musical forms whereas Homework was "raw" electronic music. He also described Discovery as a reflection of the duo's childhood memories, when they listened to music with a more playful and innocent viewpoint.

Funky house is a subgenre of house music that uses disco and funk samples, a funk-inspired bass line or a strong soul influence, combined with drum breaks that draw inspiration from 1970s and 1980s funk records. The use of disco strings are also common in the genre, although not always. Funky house uses specific techniques and specific sound, characterized by bassline, swooshes, swirls and other synthesized sounds which give the music a bouncy tempo with around 128 BPM.

Vocal trance is a subgenre of trance music that focuses on vocals and melodies. The subgenre came into existence in the early 1990s, when trance was still developing. Although many early trance records used vocal samples mixed in with the beats, the earliest examples of the style appeared in 1992–93.

Italo disco is a music genre which originated in Italy and was mainly produced in the 1980s. Italo disco evolved from the then-current underground dance, pop, and electronic music, both domestic and foreign and developed into a diverse genre. The genre employs electronic drums, drum machines, synthesizers, and occasionally vocoders. It is usually sung in English, and to a lesser extent in Italian and Spanish.

Eurodisco is the variety of European forms of electronic dance music that evolved from disco in the late 1970s, incorporating elements of pop and rock into a disco-like continuous dance atmosphere. Many Eurodisco compositions feature lyrics sung in English, although the singers often share a different mother tongue.

French house, also known as French touch, filter house and tekfunk, is a style of house music originally produced by French musicians in the 1990s. It was a popular strand of the late 1990s and 2000s European dance music scene and a form of Euro disco. The defining characteristics of the sound are heavy reliance on filter and phaser effects both on and alongside samples from late 1970s and early 1980s American or European disco tracks, causing thicker harmonic foundations than the genre's forerunners. Most tracks in this vein feature steady 4
beats with a tempo range of 110–130 beats per minute. French house tends to be confused with a genre known as future funk, although they are not the same genre. Purveyors of French house include Daft Punk, Stardust, Cassius, The Supermen Lovers, Modjo and Étienne de Crécy.

Electronic dance music (EDM), also known as dance music, club music, or simply dance, is a broad range of percussive electronic music genres made largely for nightclubs, raves, and festivals. It is generally produced for playback by DJs who create seamless selections of tracks, called a mix, by segueing from one recording to another. EDM producers also perform their music live in a concert or festival setting in what is sometimes called a live PA.

Joseph Lorenzo Jr. Welbon, known by the stage name Joe Smooth, is an American house music producer and DJ who gained international acclaim during the late 1980s and early 1990s. By the new millennium he held the reputation of working with acts like Destiny's Child, Ludacris, New Order, Whitney Houston, and many others across genres. He is often credited as essential to the creation of house music as a genre and became an influence to major groups like Daft Punk, who often remixed Smooth's music during early live shows. Joe has earned gold and platinum record awards for his work. In 2015 he started his own record label, Indie Art Music, focusing on producing pop in all genres and all areas of the music industry.

Dance music Music composed specifically to facilitate or accompany dancing

Dance music is music composed specifically to facilitate or accompany dancing. It can be either a whole musical piece or part of a larger musical arrangement. In terms of performance, the major categories are live dance music and recorded dance music. While there exist attestations of the combination of dance and music in ancient times, the earliest Western dance music that we can still reproduce with a degree of certainty are the surviving medieval dances. In the Baroque period, the major dance styles were noble court dances. In the classical music era, the minuet was frequently used as a third movement, although in this context it would not accompany any dancing. The waltz also arose later in the classical era. Both remained part of the romantic music period, which also saw the rise of various other nationalistic dance forms like the barcarolle, mazurka, ecossaise, ballade and polonaise.

Post-disco is a term to describe an aftermath in popular music history circa 1979–1985, imprecisely beginning with an unprecedented backlash against disco music in the United States, leading to civil unrest and a riot in Chicago known as the Disco Demolition Night on July 12, 1979, and indistinctly ending with the mainstream appearance of new wave in the early 1980s. Disco during its dying stage displayed an increasingly electronic character that soon served as a stepping stone to new wave, old-school hip hop, euro disco and was succeeded by an underground club music called hi-NRG, which was its direct continuation.

Mark Picchiotti is an American DJ, producer, remixer and songwriter based out of Chicago, Illinois. As a remixer and producer, Picchiotti has amassed 24 number one singles on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart, and he has remixed such artists as Beyoncé, Katy Perry, Mariah Carey, Rihanna, Daft Punk, The Killers, AC/DC, Florence and The Machine, Amy Grant, Foster The People, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Sia, Sybil, Enriqué Iglesias, and Mary J. Blige. In 2002, he produced and co-wrote the Kylie Minogue single “Give It To Me” for her 8x-Platinum album Fever. Picchiotti was also voted one of the 40 most influential remixers of all time by UK publication Blues & Soul Magazine. His DJ residencies at nightclubs in his hometown of Chicago have included Shelter, Smartbar, Berlin, Crobar, and Medusa’s; as well as UK nightclubs Ministry of Sound (London) and Hard Times (Leeds). He continues to travel the globe performing at notable clubs such as Pacha (Portugal) and El Divino (Ibiza). He has also headlined the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras festival and DJed its infamous daytime after-party Laneway.

Boogie is a rhythm and blues genre of electronic dance music with close ties to the post-disco style, that first emerged in the United States during the late 1970s to mid-1980s. The sound of boogie defined by bridging acoustic and electronic musical instruments with emphasis on vocals and miscellaneous effects later evolved into electro and house music.

Electro house is a genre of electronic dance music characterized by heavy bass and a tempo around 130 beats per minute. Its origins were influenced by tech house and electro. The term has been used to describe the music of many DJ Mag Top 100 DJs, including Benny Benassi, Daft Punk, Skrillex, and Steve Aoki.

Zak Waters is an American musician, singer-songwriter, DJ, and record producer from Los Angeles, California, also known as Pretty Sister. Waters began his music career forming the band Blueskyreality. After the group disbanded, Waters started his solo music career, releasing his debut extended play (EP), New Normal (2011).


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See also