A form of dance music known for its very quick tempo (usually around 165-180 bpm), often coupled with male or female vocals and sentimental lyrics. Popular in the UK, Australia and Spain, amongst other countries. Generally has a large cult following known as "Candy ravers".
Happy Hardcore grew out of the early 1990s rave scene as the music became faster and adapted more cheesey 'fairground' style and breaking away from Jungle which was built around heavy breakbeats & basslines. Some artists started to take the Jungle sound further and turned their back on the happier sounds which had been blamed for the 'commercialism' of the scene which would see the scene split into two different styles.
It is often argued which was the first 'Happy Hardcore' track but it is often stated that DJ Slipmatt's SMD#1 being thought of as one of the first attempts at a Happy tune which although being breakbeat had a mixture of piano and techno stabs. A number of artists such as Slipmatt, DJ Vibes and Wishdokta, Force & Evolution & Billy 'Daniel' Bunter started to follow this formula and thus by 1994 the scene broke in two, Happy Hardcore & Jungle (later becoming Drum and bass).
In the UK, happy hardcore was at its peak between 1994 and 1997. The London pirate radio station Dream FM was instrumental during this period in both the development and support of the scene. For a while, the station also produced a monthly high-street music magazine dedicated to the music. By this time there was little breakbeat left although there were a number of verities in style. In 1995, a number of German and Dutch artists started to put out a more vocal centred commercial sounding type of Hardcore which became a big hit in the UK & not too dissimilar to the early 90s Eurodance.
In The Netherlands, Gabber had grown out of Rotterdam around 1992 and was becoming harder by the mid 90s although a happier sound had also been put out also known as 'Happy Gabber'. Scottish Hardcore, usually known as Bouncy Techno, had a big impact on both the English Breakbeat & Dutch Gabber scenes which led to Dutch artists producing a number of happier tracks & English artists moving away from breakbeat towards a more kickdrum centred, harder yet still bouncy sound.
In 1996, it was suggested these two styles had merged although Bouncy Techno had different origins, by the late '90s the style had given way to Happy Hardcore or Gabber which would take a darker route by the end of the decade. By the late '90s, Happy Hardcore was being produced in a number of countries, mostly the United Kingdom and the Netherlands (where although there was a more commercial aspect, there were often many harder releases), Australia, United States, Canada and Germany. A number of compilations also started to come out including the German Happy Rave series & the highly acclaimed Bonkers Series which started in July 1996 & continued through the late '90s and revived in the 2000s.
Although a number of Happy Hardcore artists, producers, and record labels left Happy Hardcore for other genres of music, Happy Hardcore had a moderate period of growth and popularity from 1998-2001.
Popularity started to drop later in the 90s, and by 2000 the rave scene was considered 'dead' by many people. In the more recent past happy hardcore has made a large re-emergence into the mainstream, more specifically it has received coverage in Mixmag. It has spawned various new record labels in the United States, Canada, the UK, and Japan and continues to grow in popularity.
In 2002, the compilation series Bonkers was relaunched after a three-year hiatus and have proved to be successful, releasing eight compilations between 2002 and 2005.
The 21st century sound of the genre is notable by the lack of the bouncy synths and piano lines that were trademarks of the genre in the 90s. The genre now has a more euphoric trance feel to it not too dissimilar to the sound of the late 90s trance that was popular in Ibiza at the time, albeit at a higher tempo.
The music now has more ties between mainstream dance music and genres such as 'Bouncy House' than the original rave music that it grew out of. In recent years some artists have taken an Electro House/ Bassline feel toward Hardcore which is seeing it steadily move away from the Trance sound which is fast becoming dated.
2001-2003 saw a revival of a more Trance oriented sound.
New clubs (In the UK) and DJs including the famous HTID, and later the BBC featured, the new sound. Most was really made within the bedrooms and studios of 2000-2001's DJs and producers.
During the revival, the original sounds of Happy Hardcore were somewhat lessened, as some of the music had transformed to be strongly Trance-influenced music under the name of Hard Trance. By mid 2003 however there were elements of Happy Hardcore returning into the genre & remixes of older tunes in the new style & even some 'Old Skool' Style tunes. New genres such as Freeform & Hardcore Breaks broke off the mainstream leading to even more new styles of Hardcore. A large number of compilations have emerged such as the return of Bonkers (as of 2009, reached its 17th installment), Clubland X-Treme Hardcore (which was an off shoot to the already established Clubland series which was originally based on commercial dance & club music), Hardcore Heaven (another return series), Hardcore Nation, Hardcore Adrenaline, True Hardcore & Hardcore Underground to name a few. A number of Old Skool style compilations have also come out in recent years featuring mixes of classics from the 1990s which has also brought a number of younger people into older style of Hardcore & in some ways, old tunes are as popular now as they were during their heyday. The Helter Skelter CD series has seen a number of Old Skool mixes as well as Hardcore Breaks mixes of new versions of old tunes and old style mixes of other well-known tunes. Best of Bonkers from 2007 wasn't actually just the best tracks on Bonkers but had a number of classic tracks that even predated the first Bonkers!
Happy Hardcore has not only been influenced by Trance however. More recentl, around 2002, some Happy Hardcore has grown more similar to Hardstyle with its harder stompy sound. In other countries besides the US and UK there have been many new Happy Hardcore anthems and artists coming out after 2002.
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