Hirakata, Osaka | Winter, 2005 | 20 years old
For some, there was Disco. For others, Hip-Hop, Rap, Trance, and for others still, even Rock ‘n’ Roll. Every generation has its own music that is widely considered to be wholly unlistenable by older generations, at least in the twentieth – and now twenty-first – century. Japan’s modern youth have Super Eurobeat.
Some background and explanation is of course necessary here. Back in the nineties, Eurobeat music was first developed in Europe, which hopefully surprises no one. Strong backbeats, powerful vocals, and just general danceabilty made it a huge phenomenon among dance clubs everywhere but the United States. Where it caught on most strongly, however, was Japan, where it was associated with the Parapara dance craze (think “Macarena” but somewhat more complex and slightly less embarrassing to look back on). That died down over time, as all fads do.
Then, rising from the ashes of its fallen previous existence like an allegory, came Super Eurobeat, a sort of fundamentalist Eurobeat music. The backbeats were increased from 120 beats per minute to 150 or even faster at times, and the music was further condensed into its purest elements. In fact, you too can write Super Eurobeat music! All you need to do is include the following elements:
1. A synthesized drum beat that starts four to sixteen measures after the melody, stopping briefly about three fourths of the way through the song
2. Very very fast synthesizer and/or electric guitar hooks at the beginning (bonus points for synthesized electric guitars), usually involving lots of scales
3. Lyrics that incorporate at least three of the following: Night, Love, Dancing, Fire, Whoa-oh-oh (See “Night of Fire” by NIKO for an example that contains all of these)
Truth be told, though, despite its starkly formulaic nature, I must admit that Super Eurobeat music is a guilty pleasure of mine – I’ve always been a fan of anything that can be summarized as “electric guitars and synth.” However, it seems possible, indeed likely, that Japanese youth’s infatuation with Super Eurobeat music involves more than the simple matter of just the music.
Most tellingly, it is generally heard in contexts involving a desire to break out of the norm: where American teenagers will blare R&B from their car stereos, the Japanese will make their presence known with Super Eurobeat (as well as, in many cases, flashing multicolored lights inside the vehicle – it is a wonder how some of these people even see the road from their car). In fact, the television show Initial D, which could be semi-accurately described as a Japanese take on The Fast and the Furious, is famous for its Super Eurobeat soundtrack.
What else is there to say about Super Eurobeat? It’s catchy, it’s popular, at least for the moment, and it displays an almost ironic indifference to its name, given where it’s most listened to. Of course, in a country where a vast number of the businesses are at least sort of named in a foreign language (Lawson, for example, or the almost-English Book-Off), it is perhaps little wonder that this attracts little notice.