Most people probably think of 1970's disco era monster hits when they think of a dance classic, but there really never were any "last days of disco". Whether forced underground or on heavy rotation at mainstream radio, dance music evolved through the following decades as new forms emerged.
Dance music achieved huge mainstream popularity in American culture in the 1970's with the rise of disco, but major labels homogenized the genre for mass consumption, causing it to lose its edge. The hateful attitude of the "disco sucks" era that followed was kicked off by a Chicago White Sox sponsored Disco Demolition Night in 1979. Critics objected to the perceived sexual promiscuity and illegal drugs associated with club culture and rock fans objected to the idea of music that was focused around electronic drum beats and synthesizers instead of live performers. Many Top 40 radio stations dropped all disco music from their playlists and several music labels folded.
The irony is that in the 1980's dance music resurfaced as more popular than ever in its many forms. Whether it was new wave, electro, freestyle, techno-pop, Hi-NRG or any of the other emerging forms, there seemed to be major label and radio support. House music originated out of Chicago and eventually spread to Europe, where it was infused with mainstream pop and dance music worldwide. The Second Summer of Love was a name given to the period in the U.K. in 1988-1989 when acid house and electronic dance music fueled massive parties and the beginning of the rave era.
The next backlash arrived in the early 1990's. In 1989 MTV launched their first Club MTV Tour, headlined by Milli Vanilli, who were allowed by promoters to lip sync to prerecorded tracks. One night a track skipped while the show was being taped for broadcast, leading to the eventual revealing that their vocals had been recorded by other various studio singers. In the early nineties, Martha Wash successfully sued to receive proper credit and royalties for vocals she had performed on hits by Black Box, Seduction and C+C Music Factory, where the videos for the songs featured models lip syncing to her vocals. Late in 1992, MTV canceled the dance music programs Street Party and Club MTV with no explanation. Many popular dance artists who previously had several videos aired on MTV and VH1, were suddenly unable to get their new videos into rotation. By the mid-1990's, several government attempts were launched to ban large rave events, mostly due to the perceived association with a number of drugs that club-goers used to enhance the dancing experience. Negative stereotypes from the disco-era past were reinforced and still remain to this day.
While dance music continued to thrive in mainstream popular culture in Europe during the 2000's, U.S. commercial radio programmers and major label executives mostly turned a deaf ear. Commercial radio listeners may have only been exposed to club hits by the occasional one-hit wonder or novelty act. However, the high quality of underground dance music continued in the 2000's. With the popularity of new technologies such as Internet file sharing and social networking sites, dance music fans were no longer dependent on traditional outlets to discover new music. With satellite and internet radio, listeners did not have to live in a major market to enjoy dance music in their car or home. Dance/Electronic artists discovered music licensing through films, advertisements and tv shows as a new way to reach mass audiences and generate income. The early part of the 2000's may be seen in history as another "gestation period" for dance music.
In 2011, dance music is back on mainstream radio playlists and new superstars have emerged. It has emerged vibrant, youthful and edgy and will continue as long as we continue to support the artists.
Keep on Jumpin'