Judging by the recent pop charts, disco’s in for a very good 2014. The genre’s revival and rehabilitation have been going on for awhile, as anyone familiar with LCD Soundsystem and/or the deep cuts on Justin Timberlake albums could tell you, but heading into the end of 2013 the sound is poised at a major tipping point. The two most inescapable songs of the summer, Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” both work in the organic disco tones that LCD’s James Murphy’s been promoting for years, with Thicke’s smash being a rather unabashed pileup of ideas lifted directly from Murphy’s recordings. And now, just as we hit fall, two of the most influential artists in quite disparate fields have unexpectedly found discofied common ground, and are turning it into hits.
Currently at number seven on the Hot 100 is Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” a crisply melancholy midtempo track held down by a snappy minimalist drum beat and echoing, texturally interesting backing vocals. Drake has become one of those artists whose every move is being watched and noted by an entire army of musicians following closely in their footsteps. His even recording a disco song would almost definitely see a bunch of young, R&B-leaning rappers putting out their own disco songs no matter what.
But “Hold On” is a great enough song that we can probably drop the “almost” from in front of “definitely.” Drake’s Nothing Was the Same is one of the best albums released during a frequently stunning year for pop music, and “Hold On” is one of its more immediately hooky cuts. Produced by the Canadian duo Majid Jordan, it’s a slightly funkier cousin to the icy, house-inflected art-pop sound that’s launched acts like the XX and Disclosure to counterculture superstardom, and seems to be having little trouble finding an audience in the mainstream.
Much further down the chart at number 99 is the Arcade Fire’s “Reflektor,” a crisply melancholy midtempo track held down by a snappy minimalist drum beat and echoing, texturally interesting backing vocals. Produced by James Murphy, the song uses a disco structure to rein in the group’s usual cinematic sweep, resulting in something a lot more taut and direct—not to mention danceable—than their typical work. Like Drake, the Arcade Fire has their own legion of imitators, and the indie-rock bands that haven’t already been put on to disco by Murphy himself will certainly be getting into it now.
According to some disco fans, the style never really died, and it’s been on a slow comeback that goes at least as far back as turn-of-the-millennium pop divas, which is kind of a pedantic but defensible opinion. This is something deeper, though—the revival of a grimy, deeply nocturnal sound that’s a world away from the glossy, string-laden aesthetic that most people’s conception of disco is based on. If the next big trend on the pop charts is going to be slinky bass lines, stripped-down disco beats, and darkly narcotic dance floor vibes, I’m down.