Much like fashion trends rebooting themselves after X number of years, music is identically cyclical. Most of the time, both trend lines come and go quietly. Sometimes they go violently and we pretend they never touched our eyes and ears. Much like Zubaz or Crocs (soon to be), disco music went violently. Brought on by an undercurrent of racism and homophobia, DJ personality Steve Dahl and thousands of rock enthusiasts crowded Comiskey Park in the Summer of 1979 for the Disco Demotion Party where dance records were run over, thrown, and burned in effigy, signaling the close of an era of freedom for gays, blacks and lovers of shaking their booties. Soon after, an era of Yuppies and Reaganomics was a prelude to even more homophobia as the mid-eighties AIDS epidemic cleared out the disco clubs and the stigma attached to the music.
Disco never really went away. It went underground (House, Hip-Hop) and overseas, mainly to Italy and the UK where groups like Black Box, Kylie Minogue and the Pet Shop Boys kept the home fires burning until Disco could rise again.
Now, I know even your mother knows that dance music has been back in the mainstream for a few years now, really peaking this past year. For instance, in this week's Billboard Top 20 alone, at least half the tracks are dance or dance-infused, with even the likes of Swedish House Mafia, Calvin Harris, and DJ Baauer holding some of the strongest spots, and only two of the 20 are really rock- or roots- oriented. So now that dance has gone mainstream again, is it time for a new Disco Demolition? Is it a Dance Dance Revolution this time?
1. Gays, Latinos and African-Americans lead the charge, both in the 1970s and now, to bring the music of their clubs to the "straight" majority.
2. In the '70s, traditional mainstream artists, desperate to stay relevant, recorded disco records: Dolly Parton; Barbra Streisand; KISS; Rod Stewart and Rolling Stones to name a few. Today acts like Maroon 5 and Taylor Swift have gone the way of the GaGa in making full-on dance or disco hits and leaving their rock and country worlds behind, thinking they'll go back to their roots after.
3. The homophobia and racism that spawned the Disco Demolition was, no doubt, due to the fear of minorities becoming too prevalent in the nuclear household. With a black president and gay marriage imminent, you can just hear the "right wing" of music rumbling underneath, most likely with Ted Nugent waiting for his first hit in 40 years.
4. Finally, simple saturation and boredom will kill dance. Already 50% of the DJs I surveyed avoid mainstream club hits and have either gone more experimental or completely retro, cutting their BPMs in half in favor of a more soulful groove, and that's starting to show in recording as well.
Acts like Solange, Miguel, Frank Ocean and Justin Timberlake have all tiptoed away from more upbeat fare in favor of a more relaxed vibe. This columnist's prediction: Dance as heard thumping from Lakeview clubs will die out soon, but this time not by the hand of a beat-hating bigot, but by our own evolution. We're too strong now to have our strings pulled by the man, one thing that's changed since the '70s.
Keep track of Moose's rebellious DJ gigs at www.facebook.com/moosebox