May 19, 2022

Disco dance percussion in folk revival anthems of the 2010s

In 2020 I wrote extensively on the role of accenting the offbeats in the rhythm to maximize the danceability of a song. See this final survey post, and the three background posts linked in the first paragraph there.

To summarize, though: music and dance are intertwined, the main beats are matched with the delivery motion in the dance, while the offbeats are matched with the winding-up motions in the dance. Letting loose on the main beat requires you to have wound up decently well during the offbeat. To encourage that winding-up motion, the rhythm section accents the offbeat to draw your attention to it.

"Hey, you're supposed to be doing something important here! Like winding up your leg so you can swing it as far as possible for delivery on the main beat." Or winding up your arm, in order to deliver the hardest punch-in-the-air on the main beat, for those who are doing something as simple as fist-pumping.

During the techno danceclub craze of the '90s and early 2000s, the UNH-tsss drum rhythm became so saturated that the electronic danceclub musicians tried to wipe it out during the rest of the 2000s and 2010s. They used the synths as rhythmic instruments, in place of a multi-piece percussion set. This was the hallmark of electroclash, and then electropop.

However, if a genre of music was not closely associated with danceclubs, they were not as beholden to the crusade to eliminate percussion from the rhythm section. Most notable was the dance-rock craze of the 2000s and early 2010s, where disco-style drumming -- with a hi-hat accenting the offbeat -- was ubiquitous. Singer-songwriters could get away with it, too, such as pianist Vanessa Carlton in "Ordinary Day" early in the decade, and rock-oriented Orianthi in "According To You" later on.

As for mainstream mega-hits, though, no genre was more obsessed with using percussion to accent the offbeat than the folk revival craze of the late 2000s and early 2010s. Folk is usually associated with any location and any occasion *other than* boogeying down in a danceclub. So it was free of the stigma against UNH-tsss drum kits.

Within this campaign of the disco drumming reconquista, the opening salvo was fired by the song everybody unfairly loved to hate at the time, but which has gained "familiar fave" canonical status by now -- "Hey, Soul Sister" by Train, from 2009.

It gradually builds its rhythmic power until 2:50, when the distinctly disco hi-hat comes in for the offbeat, and then begins to really ring out during most of the offbeat interval in the choruses afterward. It's commanding your body to not just sit in your seat as though this were a typical singer-songwriter romantic ballad with cheesy lyrics. No! -- this is the climax, now you're supposed to get up, move around, and cut a little rug with the rest of the crowd!

Even a slow-tempo song like "Ho Hey" by the Lumineers, from 2012, uses a tambourine on the offbeat during the chorus, to motivate their irony-poisoned hipster audience to stand up and shake the snark free from their bodies, before returning to their lounging posture during the verses.

And even if the tone was brooding, a fast-paced song like "Stolen Dance" by Milky Chance, from 2012, uses hi-hats on the offbeats, and a heavy bass drum on the main beats, in a familiar disco percussion rhythm.

By far the closest alliance between the folk and disco genres was Avicii. In "Wake Me Up" from 2013, the folk-inflected verses use handclaps on the offbeat -- the trad percussion instrument for the trad passages of the song. Then during the electro-danceclub choruses, the familiar hi-hat from the disco era comes in on the offbeat. There's the same dynamic in "Hey Brother," but it's not as extensively worked out.

Also from 2013, the final major entry in the genre came from Down Under, in Vance Joy's "Riptide". (For whatever reason, the big British group from the 2010s folk revival, Mumford and Sons, kept percussion out of the offbeat, and relied on rhythmic strumming from the banjo or acoustic guitar.) It's going much further back than the mellow '60s hippie folk songs, evoking the frenetically kicking bodies of Jazz Age danceclubs, similar to the folk / old-timey dance jazz group the Squirrel Nut Zippers from the late '90s. It would've been totally natural to slip this song into the playlist at the trendy Great Gatsby-themed Charleston-dancing flapper parties of the time.


  1. Other cases: no offbeat percussion in either of Phillip Phillips' mega-hits ("Gone, Gone, Gone" and "Home"). Sometimes there's a thumping bass on the main beat, akin to Mumford and Sons, but overall it's not dancey.

    There's a faint hi-hat (or some other percussion) on the offbeat, during the chorus only, for "Counting Stars" by OneRepublic and "Let Her Go" by Passenger. The former is supposed to be danceable, but it really needs more emphasis on that offbeat percussion to make it body-moving. The latter isn't meant to be a club banger, but you can still feel it swaying and grooving along because of that faint hi-hat on the offbeat.

    The other major example is "Little Talks" by Of Mice and Men. It's only during the chorus, but it's so prominent that it defines the rhythm of the entire song.

    Another with a clear hi-hat offbeat during the chorus is "Best Day of My Life" by American Authors. Not quite as swingy and bouncey as "Little Talks," more like "Ho Hey" -- getting the irony-poisoned hipsters out of their slouched posture and shaking their affected cares away.

    To clarify on "Wake Me Up," the claps are during the chorus, and the hi-hats during the post-chorus instrumental. But the substance of what I said remains -- trad percussion for the trad part, disco hi-hats for the techno club part.

  2. Pokimane got me feeling schizo by opening up today's stream with "Dudes and dudettes," repeating it slowly just in case it wasn't clear, and commenting on how cool the term "dudette" is.

    That's Gen-X slang from the '90s, and the Urban Dictionary entries on it are all from like 2003. Millennials and Zoomers wouldn't know that phrase on their own.

    But it is one of my category labels. :) Including the recent post on how the woke crusade against toxic masculinity has eradicated the boy-band culture while allowing fuccbois to fester.

    If you are in fact reading here, welcome to one of the few remaining cool places outside the major platforms (some of which are total trash by now anyway, especially Twitter). A digital oasis, outside the walls of the mass insane asylum and Panopticon of the big platforms.

    I think that's why fellow content-creators hang out here -- to take a vacation, or at least a brief smoking break, from the literal insanity sucking the life out of them on those other platforms. And they know I'm not gonna clout-chase after them -- when my only presence online is, I'm not out to minmax my metrics.

    It's rewarding enough to know that other distinguished content-creators chose this place to hang around for awhile.

  3. Poki was the first streamer I ever watched, BTW. During the Among Us craze, nearly two years ago. But I first became aware of the streamer culture a bit earlier, while looking for potential Manic Pixie Dream Girl types in pop culture. Relevant section is toward the end:

    Two years later, my initial hunch was correct: she's the most visible example of that type in pop culture. The earthly guardian angel, nurturing and nursing people back to social-emotional health, while also being fun-loving and exciting enough to inspire and encourage them to achieve the best they can in life.

    She was already playing a very similar role during the late 2010s, when everyone was in an emo funk. Throwing a lifeline to the drowning, assuring them they would make it through. Crucially, by being positive, encouraging, and affirming, rather than negative, fault-finding, or nagging them into changing their life (the bad version of female nature).

    It's hilarious to look at the clueless reactions to the ASMR craze, to the effect of it just being softcore porn. Yeah, guys just want one thing, and it's disgusting (relaxing words of encouragement):

    Her recent comments about having baby fever reminded me of this instant classic react andy vid, showcasing her nurturing and maternal side:

    I appreciate that she mentions, or even displays, her hormonal weepy side during those few days of the month. It reminds her young male audience that girls are different, have their own set of needs, not to stigmatize them for it, and to just wait it out with them and take care of them in the meantime -- it's just a passing hormonal phase, not some permanent trend or burning of bridges.

    Woketards would never teach important stuff like that in sex ed, so it's reassuring to know that some of the influencers out there can teach boys about that, and not in a condescending or gross-out tone either, like most sex ed.

    She could also mention to her audience that it's totally worth a few hormonal weepy days out of the month, since the two fertile weeks of the month she'll be smiley, engaging, fun-loving, and encouraging. You don't get one without the other!

    The only alternative is the pill, which makes her into more of a constant zombie. No uncontrollable crying over cute baby-like creatures, but also no wide-eyed flirtation or eagerness to go on a magical journey by your side. :)

  4. Sprayed on Scent Intense by Costume National. Feeling dark, sultry, and 2000s edgy-rocker.

    [devil horns]

  5. Fauna's new song is quite a mixture of bouncy and wistful. Perfect for bossa nova. There's just enough of a video game soundtrack vibe to fit it in with her anime girl / Vtuber brand. Cute!

    It actually gives me an idea for some song lyrics, hehe.

    If a reader is part of the OG groypers, I don't see how you can't like her content (unless you're a girl-hater, but then you wouldn't like any streamers). She's basically the scene / Tumblr girl counterpart of 4chan guys like @that_groyper (just @groyper on Gab). Only she's chipper and upbeat because she was born during a manic phase of the excitement cycle ('95-'99).

    You've been searching for a New Age tropical rhythm Manic Pixie Dream Girl? Look no further, you sad sacks.

  6. Gura should work "Moi...Lolita" by Alizee into her karaoke streams, and really trigger the woketards on Twitter. From a recent stream of hers, where she's trolling the cancel culture freaks for melting down over the term "loli":

    I know she posted a mocking tweet about the cancel culture dorks, under her Senzawa persona. Love to see her channel that shitposting spirit still, when it's desperately deserved.

    I'm sure she's seen the discourse police suggesting that if you like a girl who's under 5'3, that's tantamount to being pervy / pedo. "We know why you're *really* interested in her..." Just jealous haters trying to sideline their smol bean competition.

    "Oh nyo, does my eternally youthful face, luscious locks, and lithe agile bod make you feew confused? Oh how saaad. Oh that's too baaad..."

    Yet another example of woketards only taking one side. They never go after women with striking, masculine, robust faces, and vampy maneater personas. Only the ones with soft cute faces who barely stand over 5' tall. Even if she's a meme-ing mastermind -- sorry, she doesn't look the part, so we have to melt down over it.

    All part of her mystique -- such shitposting power levels from such a dainty, diminutive thing!

  7. I'm Miss Atlantean meme since I was seventeen,
    Eleven months, and thanks to my genes
    I'm babyfaced for eternity
    They'll still be posting "problematic loli"
    In their Twitter feeds
    You wanna clip my stream?
    Go on and clip my stream


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