March 30, 2020

Is disco-punk coming back, now that excitement cycle is entering restless warm-up phase?

Last year I noticed that despite the overall similarity between the late 2010s and the early 2000s, on account of both being vulnerable refractory phases of the 15-year excitement cycle, there was no revival or disco-punk or garage rock this time around.

But disco music -- and disco-punk fusion -- typically emerges during the restless warm-up phase, when people are starting to wake up and want to do basic dance moves, or simple exercises, to get themselves back into the swing of things, body-wise and mingling-wise.

I suggested, as many others have, that the early arrival of danceable rock music around 2002-'04 was due to the post-9/11 social mood. It made everyone want to band together more than usual. Not necessarily to strengthen themselves in preparation for attacking back at the enemy (although there was that tendency, too), but at least in order to heal themselves socially and emotionally from such a spectacular catastrophe.

At any rate, disco-punk or dance rock continued and reached its peak during the late 2000s as expected, during a restless warm-up phase of the cycle. As of now, we're shifting back into that phase, having gone through the vulnerable phase for the past five years. So, will we see a return of dance-rock fusion?

It's too early to say at this point, but there are some hopeful signs that it will be, just as it was in earlier warm-up phases (not just the late 2000s, but the early '90s, and the original disco era of the late '70s).

The telltale mark of warm-up phase dance music is a rhythm with accents on the offbeat. I'll go into greater detail in a separate post, but to simplify, consider marching in place to a count that goes: 1, 2, 3, 4; 1, 2, 3, 4; etc. One of your feet is striking the ground on each of those four main beats. Now insert a little "and" in between each of those four main beats: 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and; 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and; etc. These "and" spots are the offbeat, and correspond to raising your leg up, before striking it down on the ground on the main beat.

Typically a dance rhythm will use the hi-hat cymbals on these "and" offbeats -- and usually, only the offbeats, not also the 4 main beats. For a standard disco beat, there is a bass drum on all four main beats (and none of the offbeats), and a snare drum on the 2 and 4 beats (and none of the offbeats). Listen to this brief explanatory video. The disco beat is just one example of a dance rhythm that uses little sounds on the offbeats, which is the most important aspect for our purposes -- whether it has a bass drum on all four main beats is not.

To hear some recent examples, take both of the videos I included in the post below: "Break My Heart" by Dua Lipa, and "Kings and Queens" by Ava Max. Both are from 2020, and both show the return of disco in the current warm-up phase. You're listening for that little "ts" sound on the "and" offbeats.

As for a fusion of disco or dance music with rock, here are two recent examples that use a disco beat, and feature guitars for either the melody or rhythmic accompaniment. The first one sounds like a mixture of two staples of late 2000s culture -- Bloc Party's 2005 album Silent Alarm, if it had been shaped creatively and sung by a Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

The second was a random recommendation from YouTube for a band that doesn't even have a Wikipedia page yet. Both music videos also touch on key corporeal themes of the restless phase -- simple warm-up exercise steps, and basic rhythmic motions even while doing other athletic activities like roller-skating (reviving roller disco of the late '70s warm-up phase).

Hopefully these two are only the beginning of a trend over the next several years. I think it'll help that they're getting reinforcements from the pop side of the spectrum, e.g. the Dua Lipa and Ava Max songs above.

"Lost Somebody" by Echosmith (2020)

"One Night Stand" by Supermassive (2020)


  1. For those keeping score on body shapes, Sydney from Echosmith fits the pattern of Manic Pixie Dream Girls. More in the hips / ass / thighs than in the chest. Clearly corporeal rather than cerebral, very in her element leading a dancercise class. Also a manic-phase birth (1997) like the others. Thanks to a commenter for pointing her out as a strong contender for a neo-MPDG in the current warm-up phase.

    The rollerbabes in the Supermassive video provide further evidence for corporeal types being ass men / women rather than boob men / women. We saw that with dancers, now rollerskaters -- might as well assume that for any group of kinesthetically inclined females.

    YouTube's algorithm must not have been totally random -- for this viewer, they knew to suggest one whose thumbnail had multiple bronze-skinned booties taking up the frame (albeit tastefully -- just showcasing their athletic skills).

  2. in short, no.

  3. Supermassive def. has late 2000s vibes. Sorta reminds me of a less intense version of this one, from the manic phase:

    Per the Supermassive video: Note the more moderate or tentative nature - sure, the girls are rollerblading at breakneck speed, but they're just hanging out by themselves in public, not interacting much with others or with the opposite sex - teasing others, like grabbing the soda, or just smiling at the ice cream guy, but that's it.

    Also, and this is deserving of its own analysis, but there's a real sense of wonder about being in public space again - but that sense of wonder is probably even more intense in the manic phase. But its totally absent from defractory-era videos.

  4. What's the difference between a rising excitement cycle and a rising crime cycle?


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