Beyonce’s album “Renaissance” is jam-packed with samples (music or lyrics from songs already in existence that are used by another artist) from some legendary disco classics. Queer, Black musicians invented the genre. How did it start to have an impact on music? We clarify.
The 2023 Grammy Awards, which primarily honor performers in the English and Spanish-language music industries, saw American singer Beyonce become the recipient of the most awards in history after taking home four medals.
Beyonce has been singing since she was a little girl, and in the 2000s, she became more well-known as a member of the girl band Destiny’s Child. Since then, she has experimented with a number of musical styles, including pop, rap, R&B, Disco, and House in her most recent album from 2022, “Renaissance,” for which she received honors on Sunday. The singer stated in her speech, “I’d like to thank the queer community for your support and for creating the genre.
She also expressed gratitude to her gay uncle, who had assisted in raising her. He was courageous and outspoken at a period when our country wasn’t as accepting, she remarked in 2019. One of the most agonizing moments of my life was seeing him struggle with HIV.
Disco and House music dominated in the 1970s, and in recent years, their appeal has increased as a result of a huge number of contemporary musicians drawing influence from the genres. We examine the origins of the genres and the LGBTQ community’s contribution to their development. What genre of music is meant by the term “disco”?
In the 1960s, the word “disco” initially referred to the French word “discotheque,” which described a location where music was performed. This was abbreviated to refer to settings that resemble clubs. The name originally referred to a type of music that was created at these clubs when the concept arrived in the US from France.
These sounds were novel because they combined synthesisers, four-beat kick drums, saxophones, and bass. Here are some of the most well-known songs from this time period with disco sounds to help you grasp what it means: “Daddy Cool” by Boney M, “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees, and “I Feel Love” by Donna Summer. Bollywood tunes like “Disco Deewane,” “Disco Dancer,” and “Yaad aa raha hai” are also included in this genre.
Beyonce’s ‘Renaissance’ is full of samples (tunes or words of existing songs that are taken by another artist) from some iconic disco hits. What is the link between disco and queer communities?
It has to do with how music was composed and consumed. In an episode of their podcast “You’re Wrong About,” journalists Sarah Marshall and Michael Hobbes discussed how there wasn’t much danceable music available at the time in nightclubs. In cities like New York, DJs started chopping up and fusing together existing songs to create their own, longer versions. These versions may last up to six or seven minutes, which was unusual at the time.
They would mostly borrow from Latino and Black musicians because the tunes they produced frequently looked to be appropriate for fast-paced dancing, like jazz and soul. Additionally, because black and brown LGBTQ individuals were not as widely accepted at the time, these temporary dance clubs became important. They were refused entry into the most elite clubs, and there was also the fear of violence.
Since these populations could identify to aspirational themes that projected confidence, singers started recording unique disco tunes, and the lyrics started to convey themes of love and empowerment.
How disco rose and fell. Following the civil rights revolutions of the 1960s, which included the Stonewall riots of 1969, which later served as a catalyst for the LGBTQ community’s mobilization, this era saw a number of cultural developments. The history of DJing is discussed in the podcast, which quotes the book “Last Night A DJ Saved My Life,” which claims that the disco craze is similar to what enormous dance halls with crystal chandeliers did during the Depression when the economy was awful.
Record companies and reputable organizations started attempting to capitalize on these developments by the middle of the 1970s. John Travolta’s 1977 blockbuster “Saturday Night Fever” was heavily influenced by the music and the sequence in this movie. But in order to appeal to a wider audience, these mainstream movies and music had to downplay their origins from underrepresented communities.
As the decade came to an end, disco’s declining popularity in pop culture was due to both overexposure to the genre and pushback from more traditional music lovers. In what has come to be known as the “Disco Demolition Night,” a radio host in Chicago incited crowds to assemble at a stadium prior to a baseball game to burn Disco CDs. A return to the mainstream. Many contend that disco’s influence on Western music persisted long after this particular evening. A good example of this is the “House” genre, which combined disco songs with other components like electronic beats. The French music group Daft Punk popularized this sound in the late 2000s and early 2010s, as did singers like The Weeknd, Dua Lipa, and even K-pop performers in the 2020s.
Also outside of the West, disco gained popularity. In the 1980s, Bappi Lahiri introduced the genre to India. He once remembered, “I was in a club in Chicago when I made my first trip to the United States. There were no DJs at the club at the time, but there was a man spinning records.