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The name "Hi-NRG" (without the "Disco") was first mentioned in the UK music magazine Record Mirror in 1983, which championed the gay underground sound and which also published a weekly Hi-NRG Chart. The first ever "Hi-NRG" record to hit the UK's Top 100 was Hazell Dean's "Searching (I Got To Find A Man)", released on Proto Records. However, the term "Hi-NRG" was brought to mass attention by Evelyn Thomas's hit, "High Energy" (1984), produced by Ian Levine in London. Hi-NRG is typified by an energetic staccato sequenced synthesizer sound 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). There is often heavy use of the clap sound found on drum machines. DJ/Producer, Patrick Cowley first made Hi-NRG music popular at the The EndUp in San Francisco in 1982. At the time, this music style didn't have a specific name. During 1984 the music began to crossover into the mainstream pop charts in the United Kingdom and the United States, largely due to the success of the Record Shack record label.

The label Record Shack also enjoyed chart success with tracks by Break Machine, Miquel Brown and an unlikely comeback single by Eartha Kitt ("Where Is My Man", 1984) which proved to be a massive hit on both sides of the Atlantic. Stock Aitken Waterman were Hi-NRG producers at the start of their career, working with Divine and Hazell Dean, and producing the most successful Hi-NRG track, Dead or Alive's "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)", which reached number one on the UK Singles chart and the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S.. SAW's music style on the next years, would involved to "eurobeat". Hi-NRG was largely superseded by House music by 1990, but still enjoys an underground following, usually in the form of Hi-NRG versions of mainstream pop hits. The second generation of Hi-NRG that emerged during the 1990s is a major force in the Club/Dance music world thanks to a several essential Hi-NRG artists. Those artists are RuPaul, Kristine W, Abigail, Nicki French, Lonnie Gordon, Kym Sims and more recently, Sean Ensign. Its basic production has remained nearly the same. However, the rhythms and synths used sound different as it is usually edgier. As with most Hi-NRG, it still emphisizes vocal personality. Next to no Hi-NRG songs are intrumental.


Hi-NRG disco and Hi-NRG timeline

Hi-NRG Disco started in 1976 at the United States as an underground, faster and more electronic form of disco. The first commercial hit of the genre was Donna Summer's "I Feel Love".

During 1977 - 1979, the same sound existed in Europe in the form of Space Disco with artists such as Cerrone, Space (electronic band), Dee D. Jackson and Sheila B. Devotion. Space Disco became one of the roots of italo-disco later in the '80s (Laserdance and koto continued this european Hi-NRG variation in an instrumental way for years). Space Disco wasn't sexually oriented as 70s Hi-NRG Disco, but more of a Sci-Fi thing. In America most of those European productions marketed as Hi-NRG Disco.

During the summer of 1979 to 1983, Hi-NRG was the only music style that remained under the "disco" flag on United States, because it became intensely popular, especially among gay males in coastal cities such as New York City and San Francisco. During this period, most Hi-NRG disco productions was produced in Canada and France. Typical examples of artists or singers of early 80s USA Hi-NRG disco are Amanda Lear, France Joli, Sylvester James, Divine, Weather Girls.

At the same period, a non gay Hi-NRG disco-like music style emerge in Canada, called (by the Europeans) Canadian Disco. The most popular groups of this style are Trans-X and lime. In Europe, those Canadian Disco productions, became an active part of the Italo Disco scene (later labeled 80s euro disco).

On 1982/3, Hi-NRG Disco helped influence the creation of House music in Chicago. The term "Hi-NRG Disco" disappeared. The term "Canadian Disco" followed a year later and replaced by Italo-Disco in Europe and Hi-NRG in USA (without the "disco").

On 1983, the term "Hi-NRG" appeared (without the "disco"). It became widespread in its usage with the Evelyn Thomas's hit, High Energy(1984), produced by Ian Levine in London. Its use as such continued in the United States with such hits as Time Bomb by Jeanie Tracy (1983),From A Whisper to a Scream (1985) by Bobby Orlando, Helpless (You Took My Love) (1984) by The Flirts, Work Me Over (1983) and Born To Love (1985) by Claudja Barry. For the next years, the term "Hi-NRG" used in Europe and United States in a very different way.

For the USA, "Hi-NRG" was used as the first name of Freestyle music, during 1984, 1985 and early 1986. Shannon, Freeez (I.O.U.) and Michael Sembello (Maniac (song)) was labelled "Hi-NRG" at the time. During 1985-1986-1987 the term "Hi-NRG" also used to describe the Eurobeat productions of the Stock, Aitken and Waterman british producer team. The main reason for this, was the success of the hit You Spin Me 'Round (Like A Record) by Dead or Alive in 1985. This was followed by equally successful hits by Bananarama, especially, Venus (1986) and I Heard A Rumour (1987). These eurobeat hits, labelled "Hi-NRG" in USA, to gain popularity among the remaining Hi-NRG Disco fans (a "retro" underground gay scene of NYC). All the Eurobeat hits that imported on USA for the next couple of years, was labelled "Hi-NRG" because of this.

For Europe, "Hi-NRG" became the term to describe the (commercial) USA Freestyle music and some Dance-pop artists. During 1985 to 1988, Hi-NRG for Europeans meant Taylor Dayne, Cover Girls and Mandy Smith. In 1988-1989, the term used one final time to describe a speed up version of eurodisco (with italo disco and eurobeat elements), very popular among European gay fans, then American fans. Examples of this music style was Paul Lekakis and the London Boys. This last change in definition has remained what Hi-NRG means as of the present.

Hi-NRG (High Energy) is a type of electronic dance music which emerged and then became popular in nightclubs in the early 1980s. It continues to be popular today.


All of these records reached the Hi-NRG charts in the 1980s:

Number Ones

These records reached Number One in the Hi-NRG charts compiled by James Hamilton and Alan Jones in Record Mirror

Cover Versions in the Hi-NRG style


Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Hi-NRG" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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