June 6, 2020

The dance-rock craze of the late 2000s: preservation of disco beat during its abandonment by club music

In the historical survey of accented offbeats in dance rhythms, we saw that the dance fever of the late 2000s was anomalous in having such sparse percussion that there was no accent on the offbeat -- and hardly any on main beats either. That makes the rhythm difficult to coordinate your body to, since a wind-up motion wants a clear marker on the offbeat, and the delivery-of-force motion wants a marker on the main beat.

Rather, most of the rhythmic duties were given to the synthesizers, in order to avoid the stigma of UNH-tss music from the '90s. This style is called "electropop" and derives its minimalist percussion, and usage instead of rhythmic synths, from "electroclash" of the early 2000s.

With Lady Gaga and others, the synth notes did accent the offbeat, but that instrument is not as forceful as a drum kit or drum machine for setting the basic rhythm. So it left the mega-hits of the dance clubs somewhat less danceable than their counterparts of other restless warm-up phases of the excitement cycle, when dance fever breaks out.

However, I noted that all was not lost for those craving a driving disco beat during the dance fever of the late 2000s. It was preserved by the rock camp of the music world, who were making crossover songs for dance clubs. Since they came from a rock background, and were still using standard rock instrumentation, they could not have suffered from guilt by association with the UNH-tss techno music of the '90s. So they had no problem adopting a disco beat on drums.

This crossover genre is broadly called dance-rock (also dance-punk, disco-rock, and disco-punk). Its heyday was 2005-'08, with a couple proto examples from '04, and trailing into 2010. With the arrival of the manic phase in 2010-'14, it was no longer necessary to go through warm-up exercises -- that was the job of the restless warm-up phase of 2005-'09, in order to get people out of their vulnerable-phase shells of 2000-'04.

But now that we've just gone through another vulnerable phase from 2015-'19, and are entering a new restless warm-up phase, dance-rock could easily see a revival. I pointed to a few early examples here, although it has not exploded in popularity so far. Because it's dependent on the dance club setting, which has been closed down indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic, this genre may take a bit longer to catch on in this restless phase. Or maybe it will just go viral on TikTok instead -- who knows just yet?

Now onto the survey of key songs. Most have a hi-hat dedicated only to the offbeats -- the "and" beats during the count "1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and". Rounding out the disco beat is a bass drum on all four main beats, and a snare on 2 and 4. Some of them use the hi-hat on all 8 of the main beats and offbeats, but that's still more than was done in most electropop songs that dominated club music. And others only use the disco beat in some sections of the song.

Below these clips, I'll comment briefly on the particular songs. For now, an uninterrupted survey to give the overall impression of the style, and its development over time.

* * *

"Somebody Told Me" by the Killers (2004):

"Take Me Out" by Franz Ferdinand (2004):

"Banquet" by Bloc Party (2005):

"An Honest Mistake" by the Bravery (2005):

"Dance, Dance" by Fall Out Boy (2005):

"Tear You Apart" by She Wants Revenge (2006):

"Le Disko" by Shiny Toy Guns (2006):

"Paralyzer" by Finger Eleven (2007):

"Shake It" by Metro Station (2007):

"Hot n Cold" by Katy Perry (2008):

"Shut Up and Let Me Go" by the Ting Tings (2008):

"Heads Will Roll" by Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2009):

"What You Know" by Two Door Cinema Club (2010):

* * *

The two songs that anticipate the style in 2004 only use the disco beat in some sections -- during the chorus in "Somebody Told Me", and after 1:04 in "Take Me Out" (but hitting both off and main beats during the refrain of "I know I won't be leaving here with you"). It's maintained through most of "Banquet" after the intro, and uses some quicker hits during the chorus to add variety.

What truly kicked off the style in 2005 was "An Honest Mistake," which has a disco beat throughout. The hi-hat does play on main beats as well, but it's opened and closed during the count to accent the offbeats. It also uses a rhythmic synth, reminiscent of "Blue Monday" by New Order, which plays on the two sixteenth notes before each main beat, providing those main beats with a galloping rhythm. The hi-hat rhythm keeps going even during the bridge, when the other instruments quiet down, to keep the momentum going instead of giving the body a rest like most other songs would.

For me this song is second only to the new wave classic "Living on Video" by Trans-X for high-energy, body-possessing, explosive gymnastic motion. It's impossible to stay within your normal footprint, and large leg movements will propel you all around the dance floor.

Although more pop-punk, "Dance, Dance" is pretty, well, dance-y. Rather than the usual hi-hat, it's the bass drum that plays a few offbeats in the driving rhythm. During the bridge, the hi-hat rings out loudly on the offbeats before 2 and 4. And the first verse and final interlude have a tambourine playing both main and offbeats. "Tear You Apart" is not quite so disco as the others: the hi-hat plays on both main and offbeats. But it does use a double backbeat on 2 (and single backbeat on 4), just like another dance-crazed restless phase -- the first half of the '60s. The timbre on the guitar also recalls surf rock of the same period. "Le Disko" is also not the most disco example, but it does use a steady hi-hat on main and offbeats, unlike its electroclash roots (notice the heavy rhythmic use of the synth during the verse).

"Paralyzer" stands out not only for its consistent disco beat, but for the highly unusual type of rock that is fused with dance -- namely, post-grunge, with its growly voice, slurred vowels, and doom-and-gloom tone. Typically it's a more upbeat type of rock, or an art-school rock that shares the urban nightlife setting with disco. Grunge and post-grunge were more suburban, working and lower-middle-class, and divorced from art-school pretensions. And yet this is one of the most danceable of the entire bunch. The chorus does not use the disco beat, until the time it follows the bridge. Its unexpected appearance there, combined with the hi-hat standing out so clearly from the overall quiet, packs one final rhythmic punch before the end.

On the pop side is "Shake It", with hi-hats on the offbeats during the verse, then on both main and offbeats during the pre-chorus and chorus. I always kept the offbeat rhythm going during the chorus, though, by switching to larger motions that require more than a half-beat to wind up for. Wind up your leg on 1 and kick as high as you can on 2, then the other leg for 3 and 4. The kicks hit on 2 and 4, which are the weaker of the main beats, and are accented by the snare's backbeat. The tempo is so fast anyway, at 150 bpm, that the 2 and 4 main beats feel almost like offbeats for a slower-paced song in 2/4 time.

Also from the mainstream side is "Hot n Cold", whose chorus uses hi-hats to accent the offbeats. The verses are more electropop, though, and have minimalist percussion and rhythmic synths instead. The hybrid style stems from the inclusion of rock instruments -- if it were only synths, they would not have bothered with the disco beat during the chorus.

Although it starts off with a brief intro of offbeat-only hi-hats, "Shut Up and Let Me Go" plays them on both the main and offbeats, sometimes opening and closing the hi-hat to accent the offbeat, but not strongly so. It's the mellowest of those in the survey. Rather than a rhythmic synth, there's a standard rhythm guitar from the original disco era, which heavily accents the offbeat before 1, to wind up your body for its strongest delivery motion.

"Heads Will Roll" is noteworthy for the background of the group, who started as hard-edged garage-rockers in the early 2000s vulnerable phase. But during a restless phase, even the prickly punks and gloomy goths become infected by dance fever.

The final major example, "What You Know," only came out so late due to production delays. The album it's from was recorded in summer 2009, but not released until February 2010 -- and the single not until February 2011. Even if it had been recorded in 2010, it would still be the only one of its kind by that time, as the manic phase began. The guitar on this one really adds to the offbeat accents, probably borrowing from some Celtic folk dance I'm unaware of.

The intricate footwork that this straight-up rock song makes you want to do just shows how, during the late 2000s dance fever, danceability was inversely correlated with a purely electro/techno club music background. They dropped percussion to distance themselves from UNH-tss music, so somebody had to hold onto the disco beat -- and rock bands were not about to let the opportunity slip through their hands.

With the return of percussion, rather than rhythmic synths, to dance music during the current restless phase's dance fever, I don't expect dance-rock to be as huge as it was during the last restless phase. But there should still be enough interest to produce one or two stand-outs.


  1. "Shake It" by Metro Station was a TikTok trend late last year, speaking of whether dance-rock could go viral on that platform. Some compilations:



    That was when the ahead-of-the-curve people were anticipating the end of the mopey vulnerable phase and beginning of the dance-fever restless phase. "Say So" and "Don't Start Now", for example.

    If you search YouTube for the artist, song title, and "dance," almost all of the videos are from the late 2000s (it was a dance hit back then too), then hardly anything until the recent TikTok trend. So it's not as though the recent ones are just continuing an ongoing popular song, it really is more of a revival.

    Those clips show how insanely danceable the song is -- way more so than the Lady Gaga anthems of the same period, as fun as they are. In the late 2000s, dance music had to rock.

  2. I wonder why one doesn't see as many issues SJWs on campus as much anymore (even as the shockwaves have moved out from campuses).



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