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What is Hardstyle?
Every hardstyle fan will recognize this. Whether you’re sitting behind your computer or partying at a big festival, as soon as you hear that one track, you close your eyes and feel the shivers running down your spine. A feeling of pure euphoria rises from within you as soon as the track builds up and explodes into a massive climax, filled with hypnotizing melodies and poundings kicks.
The music can take you back to that special moment and lets you relive it. The love for hardstyle can be hard to understand sometimes. Perhaps this article will clear some things up and help you to discover the beauty of it.
What is hardstyle?
Hardstyle is a part of the electronic dance music family. But the fact that she doesn’t like to be compared with EDM perfectly portrays the genre’s personality. The average tempo of hardstyle lies around 150 beats per minute, which is exactly in between the tempo’s of house (128) and hardcore (170). Together with the uplifting melodies, pounding kicks and rough beats, hardstyle makes for an accessible genre for dance music fans who prefer the word hard, or who are looking for something new.
The genre tries to avoid compartmentalized thinking, but we can clearly distinguish different styles. Artists often choose to focus on one specific style, but it also happens that they experiment. That often leads to refreshing productions and performances which, in turn, can lead to new developments within the genre. The most popular styles are Euphoric-, Raw-, Early-, Hard Drop and Nu-style Hardstyle.
This style uses a lot of melodies, cheerful samples and, most of the times, easy to remember lyrics. This ensures that an entire crowd can sing along when the tracks get played at festivals.
Artists focus on the overall vibe of the track, with euphoria as a core ingredient. But that doesn’t neccessarily mean that euphoric hardstyle isn’t hard, otherwise it wouldn’t be hardstyle. This style is the most accessible form of hardstyle. Popular artists operating within this style are Wildstylez, Noisecontrollers, Frontliner and Brennan Heart. Listen to a selection below.
Somewhere around 2009 a sort of seperation between euphoric hardstyle and ‘harder’ hardstyle occured. This new style was quickly adopted as ‘Raw hardstyle’. A lot of artists made a switch to this new style and kept releasing harder and harder tracks.
Raw hardstyle feeds on dark sounds, aggressive lyrics, raw kicks and deafening screeches, instead of cheerful melodies. Many fans consider this style as ‘real hardsyle’. Popular artists operating within this style are Digital Punk, Radical Redemption, Zatox and Delete.
But there is more. Early hardstyle represents the time when the genre was born up until 2005. Artists go back to their roots and spin tracks that made hardstyle to what it is today. Fans of this style, besides the people who generally love this sound, consist mostly of the people who have witnessed this era themselves and want to be remembered to those times. Back to when it all started. Most popular are the hardstyle tracks from 2000 – 2005.
Back in 2006 the hardstyle sound started changing. The typical revesed bass made way for hard kicks with a large dose of distortion. The genre also became more and more cheerful, which resulted in large number of tracks with euphoric melodies. This was the time when hardstyle slowly got introduced to the majority of the people. Hardstyle became more and more accessible during the years 2006 – 2010. Popular names from this period are Technoboy, D-Block & S-te-Fan, Coone and Headhunterz.
Dubstyle is a crossover between hardstyle and dubstep. By combining both elements this unique sound was born. In the years 2010 – 2012 dubstyle was pretty popular. Hardstyle artists suddenly started experimenting with different genres. Nowadays things are rather quiet around this style, but occassionally an artist decides to use the typical sounds again.
House music has really exploded the past couple of years. It’s something that hardstyle artists have also noticed. In the beginning of 2014 hardstyle artist Dr. Rude started using the term Hard Drop for his tracks, which spread across the scene. The style uses cheerful melodies and somewhat sofer kicks. After the build-up there will almost always be an anti-climax, which means that the melodie gets replaced with other sounds. This style is just as accessible as euphoric hardstyle. Popular artists operating within this style are Dr. Rude, TNT, Tuneboy and Crystal Lake.
The rise of the Hardstyle era
The Netherlands has always been a country with a wide and open culture. She is open to other genres and loves to experiment with them. The 90’s where a home to many different new genres, like hardhouse, rave and hardtrance. A lot of dance-lovers liked the hard sounds, but didn’t like to high tempo. That’s when they started looking for other types of music.
Artists quickly picked this up and they developed a whole new sound, which would soon after be adopted as Hardstyle. This happened around 1999, which was also the year of the first hardstyle tracks. Within a few years the first events popped up and hardstyle music was a fact.
The underground, home of the ‘real’ fans
A new genre was born and organization like Q-dance started hosting monthly hardstyle nights, called Qlubtempo, back in 2001. The Dutch dance audience was instantly addicted to the sound and started craving for more. They enjoyed the fact that the genre was a part of the underground and that only ‘real’ fans listened to it. And with so many new things, a genre first has to achieve a certain degree of popularity before it catches on and reaches the majority.
This was just a matter of time, because something that appeals to many people’s taste can’t stay ‘hidden’ for long. Other known organizations that started hosting hardstyle nights are Bass Events (Reverze, The Qontinent), b2s (Hard Bass, Decibel Outdoor) and Art of Dance (Supremacy, Dominator).
From underground to worldwide
Nowadays tracks like “Year of Summer” and “Imaginary” have found their way to the Dutch radio and multiple hardstyle artists are collaborating with house artists, or artists from other popular genres. Some people believe the genre is losing her charme, while other love the fact that their favourite music is globalizing.
Reality shows that humanity is simply afraid of change. They are scared that their favourite genre will divert too much from her core essence. But change doesn’t neccessarily have to be something negative. Artists love to experiment with other genres like dubstep or house, but hardstyle in her core will always remain the same. Experimenting keeps them motivated and helps to provide new ideas.
Organizations used to focus mainly on Europe, and especially The Netherlands, but now hardstyle seems to have gone global. The popular concept Defqon.1, which is hosted by Q-dance and sells out in no-time, has also moved to Australia since several years and will host her first edition in Chile this year. But that’s not all, because Q-dance also hosts hardstyle areas on events such as Tomorrowland (BE), TomorrowWorld (US), Mysteryland USA (US) and Electric Love Festival (AT).
Hardstyle is globalizing and fans all around the world are eager to see their favourite artists. Come to think of it, us Dutchies are pretty spoiled when it comes to festivals and indoor events. We have multiple (big) hardstyle events taking place every week. That’s not the case in many other countries. For example, people in Australia and the United States look forward to a single event for an entire year. It’s much more of an unforgettable experience for them.
In conclusion, I feel it’s safe to say that hardstyle has conquered a large part of the world in a relatively short period of time. It has also grown to become one of the best dance-products The Netherlands has to offer.
“From underground hit, to worldwide sensation.”