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Hi-NRG (High Energy) is high-tempo disco music (often with electronic instrumentation), as well as a more specific, derivative genre of electronic dance music that achieved mainstream popularity in the mid to late 1980s. The term was also applied to Eurobeat when sold in the USA.


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". Following that interview, the description "high-energy" was increasingly applied to high-tempo disco music, especially songs dominated by electronic timbres. The tempo threshold for high-energy disco was around 125 to 127 BPM. In the 1980s, the term "high-energy" was stylized as "Hi-NRG".

In the 1980s "Hi-NRG" referred not just to any high-tempo dance music, but to a specific genre, only somewhat disco-like. 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 also often heavy use of the clap sound found on drum machines.

Ian Levine, one of Hi-NRG's pioneering DJs & producers in the UK, defines Hi-NRG as "melodic, straightforward dance music that's not too funky." 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."

Mainstream success

From 1979 to 1988, Hi-NRG was especially popular among LGBT communities in U.S. coastal cities such as New Yorkmarker and San Franciscomarker , however in the UKmarker some Hi-NRG songs peaked on the charts of the UK Singles Chart. In particular, DJ/producer Patrick Cowley helped popularize Hi-NRG music at the The EndUp club in San Francisco. Cowley and New York producer Bobby Orlando were behind a number of Hi-NRG hits in this era. Examples of early 1980s Hi-NRG acts include Amanda Lear, France Joli, Sylvester James, Divine, and The Weather Girls. In the same period, a form of Hi-NRG became popular in Canada. The most popular groups of this style are Trans-X and Lime. It wasn't as closely associated with the gay club scene as the form that was popular in the U.S.

In 1983 in the UK, music magazine Record Mirror championed the gay underground sound and began publishing a weekly Hi-NRG Chart. Hi-NRG also entered the mainstream with hits in the UK pop charts, such as Hazell Dean's "Searchin' " and Evelyn Thomas's "High Energy". 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 " (UK #1 & US #11 in 1985) and Bananarama's "Venus" (US #1 & UK #8 in 1986). 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. By 1990, however, house music 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. Almighty Records and Klone Records , for example, are recording labels which offer songs in this style of music.



  1. Jones, Alan and Kantonen, Jussi (1999) Saturday Night Forever: The Story of Disco. Chicago, Illinois: A Cappella Books. ISBN 1-55652-411-0.
  2. 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 0968572103
  3. 80s - Record Mirror Hi-NRG charts
  4. - Hazell Dean "Searchin'"
  5. - Evelyn Thomas "High Energy"
  6. - Stock Aitken Waterman
  7. - Forum post relating to Hi-NRG charts, december 1986

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