Eurodance is a genre of electronic dance music originating back in the late ’80s in Europe and combining elements found in House, Disco and Rap. It’s main distinct features are: rich synthesized melodies, upbeat tempo, galloping bassline and catchy female vocals strongly accompanied by male rap. The principal feelings transmitted by an eurodance song circle around the ideas of love, happiness and partying.
During the decade of the 1990s, Eurodance gained a huge acceptance among general public in Europe and Latin America, with a popularity peak in the years of 1995 and 1996. Starting with 1998 its popularity began continuously declining to the present day and many regard Eurodance as morphing into another musical style called Trance.
The term “Eurodance” gradually became associated with a specific style of European dance music over time. During its golden years in the mid 1990s it was just as likely to be referred to as “Euro-House” or “Euro-NRG”; in Europe it was often called “Dancefloor” or simply “Dance”.
While some use a much broader definition of what is considered “Eurodance”, over time, the term particularly came to refer to an NRG-based genre from the 1990s which included a solo vocalist or a rapper/vocalist duet and is also used to describe later European dance acts such as Cascada.
Eurodance is nightclub-oriented music that is usually produced somewhere in Europe and sounds commercial enough to be played by radio stations and music television. Some of the more prominent Eurodance songs go international, especially if an act manages to score more than one hit.
Characteristics of the music
Most Eurodance is characterized by synthesizer riffs, female or male vocals with simple chorus, male rap parts, sampling and a strong beat. Sometimes with female or male vocals singing throughout the whole song without rap.
Eurodance is often very positive and upbeat; the lyrics often involve issues of love and peace, dancing and partying, or expressing and overcoming difficult emotions. The early-mid 1990s Eurodance vocals were frequently done by a solo vocalist or a mixed rapper-vocalist duet.
Many projects utilized variations of the rapper-vocalist theme, such as a German rapper with American singers (Real McCoy), or the use of reggae rap as in Ice MC and Fun Factory, or scat singing as in Scatman John. Solo singing artists such as Alexia, Tess, Whigfield and Double You also contributed to the genre.
Eurodance lyrics are almost always sung in English, regardless of the artist’s nationalities. However, some artists release their songs in both English and their native languages.
Almost all Eurodance emphasizes percussion and rhythm. Eurodance percussion is generally a “kick” bassdrum with some variations on a 4/4 time signature. While the percussion is always done by synthesizers, it is a sound more typical of dance music and not the “beat box” sound typical of rap music. The tempo is typically around 140 beats per minute, but may vary from 110 to 150 BPM.
Most Eurodance is also very melody-driven. Unlike most pop music which is usually written in major keys, most Eurodance songs are in minor keys. This along with positive lyrics helps contribute to the overall powerful and emotional sound of Eurodance. Besides the contribution of the female vocals, there is often a noticeable use of rapid synthesizer arpeggios. This is a very distinctive feature of Eurodance that separates it from Hi-NRG disco. The synthesizer often has a piano or barrel organ but sometimes mimics other instruments, such as calliope (e.g., “Touch the Sky” by Cartouche). There is often a short, repetitive riff, while other times there is a whole tour de force of synthesizers (e.g., Close To You by Fun Factory). Some songs have a second riff cycling in between verses.
Characteristics of the bands and business
Eurodance is widely commercialized. Some producers, like Max Martin or Larry Pignagnoli, have fronted dozens of bands. From thousands of records released, only a few bands have existed in the mainstream beyond two records. Many acts, such as Captain Jack and Jonny Jakobsen (Dr. Bombay), had a carefully planned humoristic image. A group called E-rotic received attention with sexually provocative lyrics and music videos.
While Eurodance singles regularly went to Gold, Platinum or multi-Platinum status, it had been more difficult to get a full length album to get to the same level of success. Typical problems cited include the album as a whole not up to the strength of the singles, the performers not being charismatic enough to hold the attention of millions of people past a song or two, or weak promotion of the remainder of the album after the singles have become hits.
Original Eurodance is a fusion of several styles of dance music, primarily house and rap with the Hi-NRG variant of eurodisco music.
Hi-NRG and Italo-Disco
Hi-NRG started in the United Kingdom and United States as an underground, faster form of disco after disco had lost mainstream popularity. In the late 1980s, it became associated with British record producers Stock, Aitken and Waterman, and by the early 1990s bands such as Masterboy & 2 Unlimited were producing a Continental version of Hi-NRG.
Eurodance shows a strong Hi-NRG influence, such as the high BPM and the strong use of female vocals. Eurodance can also be seen as a more technologically advanced form of Euro disco, just as Hi-NRG is the more technologically advanced form of Disco.
Italo Disco and its later evolution, Eurobeat, are sometimes thought to be sub-genres of Eurodance, but rather they are offshoots of the European version of Hi-NRG, called “Space Disco”. Italo was influential on the production of Eurodance in general, while Italian-produced Eurodance artists, such as Alexia, Cappella, CO.RO, and Double You, tended to preserve features such as operatic female vocals. Later artists such as Eiffel 65 adopted a sort of “marching” beat in their productions. The term “Eurobeat” appears to be more common in Japan, where this style of music is featured in the video game Dance Dance Revolution, as well as in some Anime soundtracks, for example the street racing scenes in Initial D.
House music, also an underground genre in the United States, had come to the UK and continental Europe with the rise of acid house and “rave” techno in the late 1980s. By the early 1990s, with the rise of the Belgian New Beat, house then became associated with Belgium and the Netherlands.
Some of the first songs with elements of what would later be called Eurodance are house music. For example, “C’mon and Get My Love” by D Mob (1989), “Strike It Up” by Black Box (1990), “Get Ready For This” by 2 Unlimited (1991) and “Rhythm is a Dancer” by Snap! (1992) all have the duet characteristic of Eurodance, and “Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good)” by Rozalla (1991) has the characteristic synthesizer riff.
Not all European house music was absorbed into the Eurodance genre. By the early 2000s, it remained a style distinct from Eurodance with harder synthesis and a slower tempo, for example “Satisfaction” by Benny Benassi (2003).
Rap verse has been one of the main distinguishing elements of Eurodance. While Eurodance makes use of rap vocals, it does not contain the lyrical themes of “gangster rap”, nor does it follow many of the instrumental conventions of rap music, such as turntable scratching or heavy basslines. It does however focus on danceability similar to funk music which was a critical basis to the hip hop genre since many songs from that genre were sampled by hip hop artists.
Eurodance has, however, served to popularize rap music in Europe. While rap had been made in Europe at least as far back as Falco’s Einzelhaft album (1982), the American variety only gained a more widespread acceptance when Technotronic landed their hit “Pump Up the Jam”, followed by Snap’s “The Power”. The combination of house music with rap vocals in general came to be referred to as Hip house or “house rap”.
Rapper Flo Rida’s second album, R.O.O.T.S., is heavily influenced by the Eurodance genre.
Some examples of “original” Eurodance acts are Eiffel 65, 2 Brothers On The 4th Floor, 2 Unlimited, Alcazar, Alexia, Bad Boys Blue, Cappella, Captain Jack, Disco Polo, Captain Hollywood Project, Centory, Corona, Culture Beat, Double You, DJ Bobo, Dr. Alban, E-rotic. E-Type, Electro Team, First Base, Fun Factory, Ice MC, Imperio, Indra, Infernal, La Bouche, Lobby, Le Click, Magic Affair, Masterboy, Maxx, Playahitty, Real McCoy, Santamaria, Vengaboys and Whigfield.
These bands included emphasis of the combo female chorus together with male rap performances, leading directly to the duo revival. Each group featured their own signature sound, persona, visual imagery, and vocal approach.
Solo artists who performed Eurodance include Amber, Haddaway. Rozalla supported Michael Jackson during his European “Dangerous” tour. In 1994, Amber made history becoming the first singer in Eurodance history to be signed to a label as a solo artist, not a singer who is bound to a producer.
In late 90s, it also became a trend in Eurodance music to blend the element of Reggae. The origin was “All That She Wants” by Ace of Base. The hit of this song caused a lot of followers such as “Coco Jamboo” by Mr. President, “Sweet Sweet Smile” by Tatjana, “Help Me Dr.Dick” by E-Rotic, “Ole Ole Singin’ Ole Ola” by Rollergirl,”Bamboleo” by Garcia etc.
Canada was a major Eurodance market, the largest outside Europe, which produced its own variant called Candance. From about 1992 to 2000, acts such as Capital Sound, Emjay, First Base, Love Inc., Temperance, Jefferson Project, Kim Esty, The Boomtang Boys, Solina, Roxxy, and BKS among others; originating mainly in major cities of Central Canada such as Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa were hitting the airwaves. Eurodance received significant airplay on radio stations in the Greater Toronto Area such as Energy 108 and Hot 103.5 then Hits 103.5 and in 2000 became Z103.5.
By the late 90s, the popularity of this genre was in decline. Today, Eurodance receives little airtime on Canadian radio stations, however Z103.5 plays the genre in rotation almost daily. Some nightclubs in the Toronto area have dedicated nights to this genre including the long running live to air. On Z103.5, “Wayback Wednesdays” plays this type of music since April 2002.
Eurodance is not well known in the United States outside of the major cities New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, etc. A few Eurodance artists (including La Bouche, 2 Unlimited, Real McCoy, and Ace of Base) made the Rhythmic Top 40, Top 40 Mainstream and the Billboard Hot 100 during the early-to-mid 90s. However, it tended to be the more house and rap-oriented artists that received airplay. For instance, the hip-house project Snap! received quite a bit of airplay early on.
The more Hi-NRG-oriented artists were typically played during special “mix” shows if at all, and it was often necessary to go to a club to hear Eurodance music. While Eurodance did become popular with club DJ’s in the United States, radio stations were cautious about playing anything that sounded too much like disco during most of the 1980s and 1990s. By the end of the 1990s, however, some of the later acts such as Blue (Da Ba Dee) by Eiffel 65 and Barbie Girl by Aqua did receive extensive airplay.
Despite lack of widespread radio play, many Hi-NRG and Eurodance songs are popular at professional sporting events in the United States, especially basketball.
Compilation albums, such as the DMA Dance: Eurodance series of compilation albums (1995–1997) from Interhit Records and Dance Music Authority magazine, were popular and helped to define the genre as well as to make it accessible in the U.S. and Canada.
Techno always had an important influence on Eurodance music, which at times was basically its more commercial counterpart. From the late 1990s onwards, Trance began to take more influence from Eurodance as well, while techno music was in decline since the late 1990s. By 2006, Trance started slowly losing popularity as quality releases that lived up to the early 2000s sound declined. Interest in Eurodance reignited. However, this time the comeback was largely helped by interests through music and video websites, which includes significant support from media sharing and online networking sites. Although this would be considered the second generation of Eurodance, the 2000s saw renewed interest in Eurodance.
Such groups as Basic Element (active in the 90’s as well), Alcazar, Scooter, Ian Van Dahl, Milk Inc., Merzedes Club, Infernal, Special D, Groove Coverage, Santamaria, Cascada, Sylver, Danijay, Colonia, and solo artists such as Madonna (e.g. Hung Up single), Kate Ryan, Luca Zeta, Gabry Ponte, DJ Aligator, Máni Svavarsson, Lucas Prata and O-Zone, represent some of the best of the second generation of Eurodance artists. Most of them have released hit singles and/or albums stateside.
The late 2000s saw a revival of the 90s Eurodance genre. Some US-based musicians are now heavily influenced by Eurodance, prominently Lady Gaga.
Only a few mainstream artists produce music that can be categorized as eurodance. One of the most popular artists of 2000’s, Cascada has moved towards electro with her 2011 album, “Original Me”. Generally eurodance lives on with old hits and remixes, as new dance music is often closer to electro and techno.