Nightcore DJ Team - Nightcore Mega Hits (Review)

Nightcore Mega Hits

This, my friends, is the prime example of an underground movement having lost any of the original intention, appeal and ideas that once started it, by moving away from a pure underground niche towards a mainstream crowd that wants to think of itself as a niche without understanding its essence. To be fair, the primal premise of Nightcore was never outstanding to begin with: speeding and pitching up song that already exist. As simple as that. But the circumstances, reasons, and also the musical outcome was a completely different story.

Those who don’t live in Europe or Asia probably don’t know them that well, but the group Scooter is a huge deal over here, and probably the biggest techno project in all of the world. While their standing in the original underground techno community is debatable, as purists would prefer producers and acts that aren’t as mainstream, they still reflected the current trends in their genre pretty well in the two past decades. They started off with happy hardcore in the 90s, adapted a more eurodance oriented style later on, before changing to trance, then to hands up, then to jumpstyle, then to hardstyle, then to dubstep and then to house. Those are all fairly different subgenres whose sole similarity are the stomping kicks. Although they made poppier, more chart oriented versions of the styles, they still always were a good indicator of the stylistic preferences of the respective era, and had big chart successes with it. And they themselves also set one very characteristic trend that should make your ears perk up: they used high pitched vocal samples as choruses, throughout the 2000s. Now, the original idea of Nightcore was to recreate this very sound that consisted of high pitch vocals and trance music, which was Scooter’s sound at the time the trend started.

Trance is a very melodious, harmonious sub-style of techno that features spheric and ambient sounds rather than wild loops. Often, it features soft, flangered synthesizers and calm female vocals (in Scooter’s case, pitched very high). Year for year, hundreds of trance compilations, underground tapes, DJ promo releases, etc. are released, and numerous tracks are performed on festivals and in clubs. These were the songs the Nightcore community originally selected to speed up. They had a certain knowledge about the scene to pick underground classics that a wider audience wouldn’t know and subjected it to a makeover by raising its speed and pitch by 25%. This way, they discovered music they wouldn’t heard otherwise in times when hashtags weren’t yet a thing. Actually, in more underground techno circles, slight alterations aren’t uncommon. If you buy two trance compilations, and one song is featured on both, it’s not uncommon that one is slightly faster and has a different length, because it needs to fit within the entire tracklist, granted it’s a non-stop megamix, because after all, techno music of any kind is all about getting ecstatic and feeling the music, which also demands a common tempo. As for Nightcore, a faster speed of the stomping bass drums in addition to hearing the graceful, angelic singing higher might cause your limbic system to go a tad bit crazier than usual. The usage of (usually extremely detailedly and well drawn, mysterious looking and fantasy or scifi-themed) anime pictures as videos can be explained pretty easily by the resemblance of sound. Eurobeat, a subgenre of the eurodance music that was Central Europe’s primary charting genre in the 90s, is a crucial part of the Japanese ParaPara dance culture, and quite often, the vocals on such records tend to be fairly high in pitch. In the European world, Japanese is primarily associated with anime, that’s why the combination of this sound and this images appears just right to the predominantly European audiences, although I am sure Japanese audiences feel differently about this topic, which would be perfectly understandable.

The Nightcore style spread pretty quickly when YouTube popped up in the mid-to-late 2000s. While initially listened to by a techno loving community, the audience became bigger, including several other subcultures of different parts of the world, or even audiences that are fully mainstream, and they all wanted “their” music to be remixed too. And this is where the problem kicks in that ultimately leads to me reviewing this 2018 album, subtly titled Nightcore Mega Hits.

If you start raising the pitch and speed of a Latino song, a 70s rock jam, an emo tune and a soulful pop ballad, what do you get? Right, popular songs in a Chipmunk style. This technique was already introduced in the 1950s by David Seville, and was for humorous purposes and novelty music. That’s pretty far away from what Nightcore intended to be, and more often than not, the songs are absolutely not suitable for speeding up. The beat must be based around steady kicks to keep its vibe when increasing the BPM and octaves so that it doesn’t come off as clumsy, chaotic, or in the worst case, ridiculous.

On Nightcore Mega Hits, among the songs that are used are The Ketchup Song, My Heart Will Go On, Like a Virgin, Get the Party Started, Don’t Stop Believin’ and Try Again. That’s something like a selection of everything one should not use for this type of music. It includes songs with hip hop / RnB beats (whose rhythms are far from having a kick on every quarter note), songs whose original singers already have a high voice or songs that are ballads. I’d really like to give the Nightcore DJ Team credits for actually knowing the great Scandinavian singer-songwriter duo M2M and including their song Don’t Say You Love Me, but being a song that’s mostly acoustic and originally performed by two teenage girls with naturally high voices (Marit Larsen still has the same high pitch as an adult), it makes no sense at all. In addition, the songs are way too heavily pitched and often too fast. Nightcore is not supposed to sound as comical as the Smurfs, but like performed by a female singer with a delicate, high voice. The songs still need to come off as as atmospheric.

I am not sure if the team re-recorded the songs before increased the tempo or used the original. I didn’t artificially slow it down, but from what I can hear from the final versions, the instrumentals and the pre-pitching vocal delivery (vibrato, timbre,...) comes close to those of the original tunes, but there are slight alterations, such as the lack of scratches on Mambo No. 5. In the end, it doesn’t really matter because the outcome is the same. It’s a cheap adaptation of a trend/wave/movement/whateveryoumightcallit without the slightest idea of what it’s actually about, merely forcing the aesthetics of it onto random songs, but ignoring if they actually fit there. And throughout all of the duration, it doesn’t.