“A crucial link between Seventies disco and the dance/house boom that took off at the end of the Eighties” is how the BBC describes the track “Blue Monday” by New Order (Colman 2016). To this day, the song is widely known and frequently played at dance clubs, but what exactly made the song such a success amidst the rest of the music of its time?
One reason has to do with the style of the song. As Bernard Sumner of new Order recalled in an interview with NME, “Stuff like that wasn’t being played on the radio or in clubs. There was electronic music, but not much electronic dance music” (Nicolson 2015). The second aspect that sets it apart further is that many of the existing electronic bands at the forefront of the club scene were using real instruments, and “Blue Monday” was a sonic collage of electronic gear such as a Powertron Sequencer, Moog Source synthesizer, and Oberheim DMX drum machine (Colman 2016). The band was influenced heavily by Kraftwerk, and the song accurately imitates their peculiarly robotic, emotionless tone.
While I haven’t been directly influenced by “Blue Monday” in my music, the catalyst effect it had into launching EDM as a hugely popular genre in modern times has undoubtedly had an impact on my songs. Although most are not dance songs, I enjoy lacing their dominantly rock style with electronic elements that have been influenced by EDM. One song in particular is being crafted to blend rap, post-hardcore, and EDM together, which echoes what New Order bassist Peter Hook had to say about inspiration in writing music and their borrowing from Kraftwerk and other artists such as Donna Summer: “The whole point of inspiration is that you take something as a starting point, and then make it your own” (Nicolson 2015).
In stark contrast to the instrument-free, electronic style of New Order, just for the sake of musical comparison, is the 1990s live and unplugged version of Tony Bennett’s “Fly Me to the Moon”. Obviously geared toward a very different audience, this song is stripped of all electronic components and performed without so much as a microphone. The simple, jazz song is quite the opposite of “Blue Monday”, leaning utterly on vocal emotion and never to be found in a dance club. Although, with the popularity of remixes and cover songs—as well as the phenomena of songs such as “Tom’s Diner” by Suzanne Vega going from an a cappella track to a dance hit—I would find it quite entertaining and peculiarly satisfying to hear this song in a dance club someday.
The most fascinating aspect of “Blue Monday” is that no matter the club or house songs being played, in modern times now 33 years later, the song can still emerge from the speakers and fit beautifully, regardless of the changes in production between now and then.
Colman, D. (2016, March 09). New Order’s “Blue Monday” Played with Obsolete 1930s Instruments. Retrieved September 25, 2016, from http://www.openculture.com/2016/03/new-orders-blue-monday-played-with…
Nicolson, B. (2015, January 22). New Order – How We Wrote ‘Blue Monday’ Retrieved September 25, 2016, from http://www.nme.com/blogs/nme-blogs/new…