This one will come as no surprise to my long-time acquaintances in this genre; on forums and in several other places I’ve been incredibly vocal about Eurobeat expanding its horizons and trying new things. Of course, in a genre in which simply suggesting that the genre make the best of a less-than-stellar situation gets you barked at and derided as having ‘poor taste’ and being a lesser-quality member of the community, imagine how radical this post’s assertion is to make! They’ll lynch me where I stand!!
…and that’s fine by me. If people would rather let the genre grow stale and stagnant because they can’t get enough masculine-aggressive Initial-D fodder over and over and over again without ever deviating from the norm established in the lat 1990s/early 2000s, then perhaps the genre would be better off dead than pandering to the same “good old boys”. You’re free to like that style all you want (I know I d0), but to suggest that Eurobeat not try new things is to wish it death before the extent of its potential, and I disbelieve that any fan would wish death upon its genre.
Before anyone accuses me of wanting to “kill” Eurobeat through assimilation of other genres, allow me to point out two things: 1, Eurobeat is already the bastard child of Italo Disco, J-Pop, early techno, guitar-based rock ‘n roll and several other styles. Talk about the charcoal-coated pot calling the kettle black! Eurobeat exist BECAUSE of its assimilation of other styles into itself. 2, I don’t see most of these people barking at me paying THEIR bills with Eurobeat, working long hours on an individual tune to make it sound “just right”, crying tears of joy for hearing a Eurobeat song that speaks deeper than words and tears of sorrow at the idea of losing a beloved musician from the scene, or… you know what, I’ll save you some time. Their money isn’t where their mouth is, but it’s from the end that’s doing their speaking for them. I’ll let your imagination determine which end that is.
Angry ranting aside, the fact of the matter is that Eurobeat labels, indie or traditional, need to innovate or they will die out. And, granted, they are! Most of them, anyway. SCP has been exceptional at incorporating popular club trends into their Eurobeat tunes as well as remixes of those very tunes. Ace’s “Set Me Free” has three versions— Eurobeat, Mainstreet and the third one I don’t own. You could play ANY of those three in a nightclub and have people dancing, HERE IN THE USA! Same goes for some of Jager’s recent releases, with “Lady J” (rimshot) mixes of the singles as well as their Eurobeat counterparts. Even Hi-NRG Attack, a label I was very ready to deride for NOT experimenting, has taken on a HUGE spin in trying new things. They’ve slowed down to Italo Disco speeds, sped up to older-school traditions, incorporated dubstep (CRY HARDER ANTI-DUBSTEP FANBOYS, YOUR TEARS ARE DELICIOUS FUEL) elements and even made fun of the new Super Hatsune Beat release in a very creative way that also showcased their new efforts. These songs have been panned somewhat from my end of the community as far as I can see, and, shoot, I don’t necessarily LIKE the songs myself, but I can recognize the difference between “likable” and “good”, and these definitely fall into the latter category. My most immense respect goes to Hi-NRG Attack and its three “mad scientists”, Rimonti, Festari and Accatino.
As well, Sun Fire is not without artistic merit. While I’m not entirely a big fan of Luigi Raimondi’s later productions with ABeatC (pre-Sun Fire, SEB 170s to 190s), one thing he did manage to pull off really well was deep, intricate, artistic introductions. This is a trend that Dave and Futura have managed to really foster into something unique, and while not all of their songs are very solid production-wise (some of the mixing/EQ is a bit less solid than the Oliva days), I can hear a massive amount of expression being poured into them. As well, I can hear how Dave Rodgers tries to make his songs more than just a mere OONTS OONTS Eurobeat rehash; consider Fire Dragon in the later 190s. Who’d have thought that a Eurobeat intro would include spoken word, footsteps, deep bells and FREAKING ELEPHANTS. My respect goes to Sun Fire to putting expression ahead of shiny production, even if sometimes it serves against them.
This is not to say that labels like Delta, Eurogrooves, or SinclaireStyle don’t experiment. They do, but to my knowledge I haven’t heard much radical departure from their original formulæ. SinclaireStyle seems to take explicit pride in how they sound much like they did in the 150s and 160s— not a bad thing by itself, and truth be told it’s made for some great recent tunes (1, 2, 3, 4, Fire! for example)— but when Eurobeat is under as much pressure as it is to change (whether or not it recognizes this!) we need less Live It Up (by Nathalie) and more King & Queen <Classic Mix>— not that Live It Up was a bad song at all, but… we need to start pushing more boundaries than perhaps Live It Up did when it was released. And, truth be told, there HAVE been innovations; this is more for the sake of example.
Most of my fans may notice I’ve largely neglected the independent side of things here; this is because I feel it’d be largely preaching to the choir when they already know the sermon. Indie Eurobeat, especially right now, knows exactly what it wants to do, and is unhindered in doing so. We have songs that touch back to the earliest of traditions (Maybe Lucky, Take My Key, etc) and some that forge new ground (Kiss the Fire by Tsunamix, several Disko Warp releases, etc). The reason for this is, they’re not under the same pressure to make something ‘familiar’ and ‘comfortable’ as the avex-related labels are, so they’re free to throw in whatever messed up stuff they so desire. Wanna add a didgeridoo solo? Go for it. Add screamo vocals? Why not? Make room for the elephant/car-horn duet, that’s important.
All of that is to say, right now “larger” Eurobeat needs to be more free to try new things, to make something radically different from what it is now. One of the reasons it hasn’t sold so well is because it hasn’t really deviated much from its existing formula, and this tends to bore people away from those styles. Why listen to a genre if it’s the exact same every single time… for years? If nothing new happens, it doesn’t catch peoples’ attentions. Something’s got to give! While I don’t know avex’s strategies or plans to save Eurobeat, it would do well to consider the freedom independent labels/groups have and the success of some of the larger players in this field. Their own artists, producers, writers and staff have several new ideas that could really take Eurobeat beyond its current, sad state (on the mainstream level, anyway), but they’ve got to be open to them. They’ve GOT to try something new. SOMETHING. ANYTHING. Just let it live.
Now, let’s address some trepidation towards changes in the Eurobeat world.
“WOULDN’T CHANGING EUROBEAT MAKE IT LESS LIKE ITSELF? WOULDN’T ASSIMILATION WITH OTHER GENRES DAMAGE THE INTEGRITY OF ‘EUROBEAT-NESS’?”
This is possible. But at this point, it will either integrate with other genres or die where it stands, largely unheard-of until someone gets some nostalgia and produces a track ‘for fun’, as a side thing. If it allows for changes in the here and now, we’ll be able to hear more of those elements, more often. Even if the genre DOES die after allowing for changes, at least the pieces will be strewn about in such a way that they’ll be used in fresh and unique manners that we never expected. Synth brass of THAT sort in a jazz tune? That kind of pattern in electro house? Don’t mind if I do!
“BUT I LIKE THE OLD SCHOOL DAYS!”
So do I! But those days are gone past, and as you may notice Eurobeat hasn’t exactly done much of this. Producers are tired, so are writers and vocalists, and the only ones who seem to capture that magic again seem to be the new producers who are allowed to put new spins on things instead of adhere strictly to the formula. This isn’t to say veteran producers CAN’T get that back, but perhaps they’re simply too focused on other things?
“THE OLD DAYS WERE BETTER! EUROBEAT ISN’T AS GOOD NOW!”
THIS is where I disagree wholeheartedly. Yes, Eurobeat was more ‘solid’ and more frequently produced in earlier days, and we saw more variety. It was newer then, it was fresher then, and it still has a lasting, high-quality sound, that isn’t quite here in the same way in recent tunes, not as often. But there are still many stellar new Eurobeat songs being released all over the world that sound just as good without being required to adhere to old traditions!
I notice most of these kinds of fans are almost violently against listening to J-Euro, for reasons beyond my grasp. “I can’t understand the vocalist”? Then treat him/her as if his/her voice is just a bizarre sounding instrument! Besides, if you can listen to Domino songs you can listen to Japanese lyrics/vocals. If these folks are making claims about all of Eurobeat and don’t listen to half of the new releases (most of which only truly differ in sound by their vocalists), I’m hesitant at best to call them “fans”. That’s like saying you’re a fan of coffee but don’t bother with anything outside of Starbucks and Peets. You wouldn’t be a connoisseur, you’d be a delusional pseudo-fan who’s missing out on some amazing, wildly new and vivid experiences.
“YOU WANT EUROBEAT TO CHANGE SO IT CAN SOUND LIKE YOUR TOP 40 MUSIC/DUBSTEP! ONLY AMERICA CAN PRODUCE BAD MUSIC AND NOW YOU WANT EUROBEAT TO SOUND AS BAD! U HAVE CRAPPY TASTE IN MUSIC, AND YOUR PERSONAL TASTE BOTHERS ME! WAAAAAH!”
The USA is not the only country that can produce crappy music, it just does so in larger volume, because— SPOILER ALERT— we have more musicians/producers. And, another SPOILER ALERT— these “crappy” artists are seizing the market in ways that Eurobeat used to. Our favorite genre of music could have been someone else’s “Crappy USA Top 40″ back in its heyday. I also notice that most people with this opinion are more than happy with Eurobeat remixes of these very same chart-toppers, a point I find incredibly hypocritical. (And for the record, Dubstep didn’t originate in the USA at all, but in South London. WHOOPSIES UR SHIZZIE JUST CALLED OUTZIE.)
And, y’know what? Yeah, I like dubstep! I don’t even mind some Top 40 (obviously not all of it)! It’s not my favorite genre, but in the right context it’s actually a lot of fun. It’s like Cyndi Lauper songs— they’re not necessarily world-shaking or outright examples of good production, but in the right context it’s a nice soundtrack for whimsy and fun. If that means I have bad taste, fine— if my taste is bad, and it includes Eurobeat, then we’re all in the sinking failboat together.
I care about this genre to a level that even kind of embarasses me. I’ll even confess that I’ve been driven to tears in both positive and negative directions— positive, for hearing the more beautiful examples of this genre, or for being blessed with the kind of fans I have, or the fact that I’m in a place where I’m doing what I love and able to pay for my needs because of it; negative, for the idea of losing Super Eurobeat as a compilation, as if losing a long-time friend. This genre is more than just a fun side-thing for me, more than just something I think about every so often. This is my current career, my job, my passion. I may suggest things that aren’t necessarily what Eurobeat deserves (as much as I actually do like Vocaloids, for instance, Super Eurobeat should not be reduced to pandering to that audience for its sales), but it’s only because I see those actions as a means of bettering the genre and improving its longevity so it can reach more ears for longer. Ideally, of course, Eurobeat would be selling fine on its own and we’d have the genre for many more long, happy years. But until that happens, I’ll be fervent in my push for its life, even if it means swallowing some less than enjoyable medicine along the way. If Eurobeat does not adapt to the 21st century it will die, and I’m not ready to watch it die. Call me all the nasty names I’ve already been called, question my taste, do whatever. I’ll be busy fighting to protect the genre I love.