Hi-NRG (pronounced "high energy")[2] is a genre of uptempo disco or electronic dance music (EDM) that originated in the United States and United Kingdom during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

As a music genre, typified by a fast tempo, staccato hi-hat rhythms (and the four-on-the-floor pattern), reverberated "intense" vocals and "pulsating" octave basslines, it was particularly influential on the EDM scene. Its earliest association was with Italo disco, which incorporated new American electronic sounds of post-disco and hi-NRG.


In 1977, Donna Summer was interviewed about her single "I Feel Love", which was a mostly electronic, relatively high-tempo disco song without a strong funk component. In the interview, she said "this song became a hit because it has a high-energy vibe".[3] Following that interview, the description "high-energy" was increasingly applied to high-tempo disco music, especially songs dominated by electronic timbres.[4] The tempo threshold for high-energy disco was around 130 to 140 BPM. In the 1980s, the term "high-energy" was stylized as "Hi-NRG". Eurobeat, dance-pop and freestyle artists like Shannon, Stock Aitken Waterman, Taylor Dayne, Freeez or Michael Sembello were also labeled as "Hi-NRG" when sold in the United States.

In the 1980s, "Hi-NRG" referred not just to any high-tempo disco/dance music, but to a specific genre, only somewhat disco-like. Hi-NRG is, however, typified by an energetic, staccato, sequenced synthesizer sound of octave basslines or/and where the bass often takes the place of the hi-hat, alternating a more resonant note with a dampened note to signify the tempo of the record.[5][6] There is also often heavy use of the clap sound found on drum machines.

Ian Levine, a Hi-NRG DJ, the in-house DJ at Heaven Nightclub in its early years and subsequently a record producer, defines Hi-NRG as "melodic, straightforward dance music that's not too funky."[7] Music journalist Simon Reynolds adds "The nonfunkiness was crucial. Slamming rather than swinging, Hi-NRG's white European feel was accentuated by butt-bumping bass twangs at the end of each bar."[7]


You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) (sample)
Short sample of "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)", high energy disco song, originally released in 1978 by Sylvester.

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High-tempo disco music dates back to the mid-1970s. Early examples include several British disco songs by Biddu and Tina Charles in 1976 and Patrick Hernandez (Born to be Alive) in 1978.[8][9]

Examples of high energy disco acts include Claudja Barry, Miquel Brown, Amanda Lear, France Joli, Sylvester, Divine, and The Weather Girls. San Francisco-based Patrick Cowley and New York producer and composer Bobby Orlando were behind a number of high energy hits in this period. Orlando acts include Divine, The Flirts, and Claudja Barry.

In the early 1980s, high energy music found moderate mainstream popularity in Europe, while opposing both Euro disco and electro on the dance scene.

During the same period, a genre of music styled as "Hi-NRG" (EDM) became popular in Canada and the UK. The most popular groups of this style are Trans-X and Lime. The genre is closely related to space disco. Bands include Koto, Laserdance, and Cerrone. The Hi-NRG sound also influenced techno and house music.[2]

Blue Monday (sample)
Short sample of "Blue Monday", electropop song featuring "Hi-NRG" bassline octaves, originally released in 1983 and in 1988 (remix) by New Order.

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Commercial success

In 1983 in the UK, music magazine Record Mirror began publishing a weekly Hi-NRG Chart. Hi-NRG entered the mainstream with hits in the UK and US pop and dance charts, such as Hazell Dean's "Searchin' (I Gotta Find a Man)" and Evelyn Thomas's "High Energy".[10][11]

In the mid-1980s, Hi-NRG producers in the dance and pop charts included Ian Levine and trio Stock Aitken Waterman, both of whom worked with many different artists. Stock Aitken Waterman had two of the most successful Hi-NRG singles ever with their productions of Dead or Alive's "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" (UK #1, Can. #1, & US #11 in 1985) and Bananarama's "Venus" (US #1, Can. #1, & UK #8 in 1986).[12] They also brought the genre full circle, in a sense, by writing and producing Donna Summer's 1989 UK and US hit "This Time I Know It's For Real" (UK #3 and US #7).

American music magazine Dance Music Report published Hi-NRG charts and related industry news in the mid to late 1980s as the genre reached its peak.[13] By 1990, however, techno and rave had superseded Hi-NRG in popularity in many danceclubs. Despite this, Hi-NRG music is still being produced and played in various forms, including many remixed versions of mainstream pop hits, some with re-recorded vocals. Later in the 1990s, Nu-NRG music, a fusion of Hi-NRG and trance, was born.[14]


See also


  1. Allmusic about Hi-NRG influence on techno music: "techno expanded with the mechanical beats of Hi-NRG."
  2. 1 2 "Explore music...Genre: Hi-NRG". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-07-20.
  3. Jones, Alan and Kantonen, Jussi (1999) Saturday Night Forever: The Story of Disco. Chicago, Illinois: A Cappella Books. ISBN 1-55652-411-0.
  4. Jones, Alan and Kantonen, Jussi (1999) Saturday Night Forever: The Story of Disco. Chicago, Illinois: A Cappella Books. ISBN 1-55652-411-0.
  5. Top 10 Electronic Music Genres you probably haven't heard of. | Boy in a Band. Retrieved on 2-7-2010
  6. Fritz, Jimi (1999). Rave Culture: An Insider's Overview: "Hi-NRG is an early evolution of new-style disco. Simple, fast, danceable early house where the bass often takes the place of the high hat". Publisher: SmallFry Press, p. 94. ISBN 0-9685721-0-3
  7. 1 2 Reynolds, Simon (2006). Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984. p. 380. ISBN 978-0-14-303672-2.
  8. I Love to Love: Tina Charles at AllMusic
  9. Dance Little Lady: Tina Charles at AllMusic
  10. "Hazell Dean - Full Official Chart History". Official Charts Company. Official Charts Company. Retrieved 19 January 2016.
  11. "Evelyn Thomas - Full Official Chart History". Official Charts Company. Official Charts Company. Retrieved 19 January 2016.
  12. Allmusic.com - Stock Aitken Waterman
  13. "USA Hi-NRG chart, December 1986 *20 years ago*". DiscoMusic.com.
  14. Electronic Music Styles - NU NRG TRANCE. 2-7-2010.

External links

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