Lately, it seems like with every single release on social media, an artist will also drop a sped-up or slowed-down version of it, prompting many to become infatuated with these effects. Particularly with younger generations on TikTok, this phenomenon has helped break artists throughout the last several years.
Although, many do not realize the effect stems from an underrated genre of music: nightcore. Beginning in the early 2000s, the genre has become the foundation of current hyperpop and pop songs, influencing the likes of producers like A.G. Cook and artists like Charli XCX and 100 gecs.
Nightcore is defined as songs that are sped up anywhere from 25% to 50%, usually accompanied by anime artwork. The genre is best suitable for songs that already have elements of other genres like electronic, dance, disco and hyperpop. The tracks are also usually not original works, with producers taking the songs and warping them to their liking to attract a new audience. However, a recent wave of producers have begun to create original nightcore tracks.
The history of nightcore began in 2002 after two Norwegian producers – Thomas S. Nilsen and Steffen Ojala Søderholm -- created a project consisting of sped-up, obscure trance tracks mixed with Dance eJay 3 production, titled “Dam Dadi Do.” In the production, the duo slightly raised the pitch of the original vocals, and then passed the song off as their own.
Thanks to Nilsen and Søderholm, the genre expanded as they continued to release more sped-up compilations. Their contribution helped albums in that same year gain traction throughout Europe like “Summer Edition 2002,” “L’hiver” and “Sensación.” However, at the time, nightcore artists could only upload their tracks to LimeWire, a free peer-to-peer file-sharing client for Windows, macOS, Linux and Solaris.
After LimeWire shut down in 2010, many nightcore songs became unavailable. Yet, fans of the genre banded together to create the Nightcore Universe forum to sort through Nilsen and Søderholm’s works in particular, chronologically sorting them from their first releases in 2002 and 2003.
In the early 2010s, YouTube channels like xMisterkinox and LonelyLilAngel started uploading more recovered and original nightcore tracks, pairing each song with an anime drawing. Some of their videos gained over three million views, and more aspiring producers released sped-up versions of songs to attract a following.
Besides producers releasing nightcore songs, they were also becoming heavily influenced by the genre, moving nightcore slowly into the mainstream by integrating elements of pop music and speeding up songs by 25% or more. This initiated the wave of hyperpop music throughout the mid-2010s, with particular artists branching out of traditional pop into the genre.
Several producers during this time came to prominence for their work in hyperpop, including A.G. Cook and SOPHIE. Inspired by nightcore, the two collaborated with pop artists to mix together the two genres, thus now why we have songs like Charli XCX’s “Vroom Vroom” and Shygirl’s “SLIME.” Through using sped-up choruses and sounds like sirens, synthesizers and high-pitched screams, the producers now are well-known for being some of the pioneers of hyperpop and modern-day nightcore.
Now into the early 2020s, the emergence of nightcore has increased again in popularity thanks to TikTok. TikTok has allowed its users to upload sped-up or slowed-down songs they create, which usually then go viral if they are fast-paced and catchy. For example, sped-up versions of songs like Steve Lacy’s “Bad Habit” and Cafuné’s “Tek It” went viral a year ago for the amount of times the version was circulated throughout the app, as users created sounds and dances to the tracks.
As the genre continues to regain its strength as a major foundation of hyperpop music, nightcore’s contribution of sped-up songs has already proven to impact how an artist promotes their work. Now, most artists are releasing sped-up and slowed-down versions of their songs in hopes that their TikTok success will translate over to their streaming numbers, which is quite interesting to see in this era of music.
Nightcore continues to change and elevate pop music, and it’s important for music lovers to see how the genre’s significant contributions have and will continue to affect modern music and media.