Nile Rodgers and the EDM Disco Revolution

In recent months EDM has been moving in an entirely new direction, or rather, an entirely old direction.  Since “Random Access Memories” was released last spring, one of the most popular tracks on the radio has been Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” and to a somewhat lesser degree “Lose Yourself To Dance”.   And although it is certainly a credit to Daft Punk’s superior style and composition, the sound that has been growing at a viral rate in EDM and in popular music in general is the groovy guitar riff from “Get Lucky” that seems like it came straight from 1978.

And in some ways it did, because it came straight from the loving hands of disco master Nile Rodgers.  Rodgers is the lead Guitarist for Chic, the classic disco funk group.  Recently he has been very active with collaborations in the EDM Scene.  Soon after working with Daft Punk, Rodgers released “Lay Me Down”, a track on Avicii’s album “True”.  Nile and Avicii produced a house track that coursed with a groove that only disco can bring.  “True” and “Random Access Memories” were two of the most anticipated and popular albums of 2013.  The fact that two of EDM’s biggest names have included elements of disco in their albums has in effect given other producers permission to do the same, and it has made it better than cool: it’s made it groovy.

Since “Get Lucky” and “Lay Me Down”, Nile Rodgers has had a plethora of opportunities collaborating with other EDM artists and the offers don’t appear to be slowing down.  Recently Nile has been working with the likes of Tensnake, Disclosure, Nicky Romero, and even David Guetta.  It’s also recently come to light that he has a track planned with disco king Giorgio Moroder, another collaborator from “Random Access Memories”.

But it’s not only Nile Rodgers who has been riding the influx of funk into the current music scene.  Disco and funk have begun to infiltrate pop as well.  Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” has a heavy dose funky swing.  And as if to be a harbinger of groove, Pharrell Williams, another R.A.M. collaborator, lends his dulcet tones to Thicke’s famous track.  Robin Thicke, Bruno Mars, Chromeo, and many other artists across genres have begun to become more and more pertinent in pop and other areas by bringing in elements of disco.  The disco revolution has unquestionably spread beyond EDM.

With this new spotlight on disco influence in music, where should the credit be due?  Naturally, Nile Rodgers is at the center of it.  But now that he has been “found” again, who should get the credit for bringing him back into style?  The obvious answer would be Daft Punk.  “Random Access Memories” was permeated by disco and Nile’s collaborations on the album were the flagship tracks.  However, Avicii does deserve to be recognized as well.  After all, “True” has been one of the most popular albums of the year and Nile was prominently displayed there as well.  The “Levels” producer definitely seems to think that he is entitled to some credit, and in a recent interview with MTV he suggests that he “found Nile first”.


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“The first time I met Nile was at my Radio City show a couple of years ago, that was before I heard anything about collaborations with Daft Punk,” Avicii clarified. “A lot of people mention it like, now that Daft Punk has worked with him, now everyone is going to work with him too, but for me I had always been a fan, and I always wanted to work with him, from way before that.”

Avicii claims that it wasn’t any French robots that made him want to work with the guitar master.  But either way, Daft Punk did get to him first.  Ultimately though, the credit for disco’s reentrance into popular dance music is largely a credit to Nile Rodgers himself.  In a recent interview with Dubspot, Nile addressed methods of creating music and how they relate between generations.  He says that he learned music the way he did because that was what he had at the time, but if he had had today’s technology his potential might have been even greater.  In saying this, Rodgers challenges today’s generation of dance music to take advantage of the wondrous technologies that we have to create even better music.  And yet, at the same time, he suggests that it is not the instrument that makes the music, it is the creativity of the composer.  And at a certain point every instrument from an electric guitar to the latest version of Ableton is simply a transition between the artist and the music.  With the likes of Nile Rodgers, dance music and EDM in particular will continue to be an art form rather than just a party.  Who knows where popular music will go next, but wherever it is, Nile Rodgers and disco will be right there with it.