Nightcore, as a genre, feels new, despite it having been around for over a decade. At four million uploads, there are almost as many nightcore songs on Youtube as “deep house” (3.8M) and “moombahton” (261K) combined. You can search pretty much any track title, plus the word “nightcore” and find its hyper, pitched up, anime artwork featuring counterpart. Despite all of this, there’s still no official wikipedia article for it. The only major frames of reference for its origins are entries on KnowYourMeme.com and a thread on the Nightcore Universe forum.
How has it gone under the radar for this long? Who’s making all of it? And why is it only really surfacing just now?
The Original Nightcore Duo
The origins of the genre trace back to the year 2002, when two kids from Finnmark, Norway, Thomas S. Nilse (aka DJ TNT) and Steffen Ojala Søderholm (aka DJ SOS), made a CD under the alias Nightcore as part of a class project. The album was called Energized, and it featured 13 dance tracks, warped with a speed and pitch bending technique.
“We liked Scooter and his high-pitched vocals,” say the duo in their one existing interview, “There were so few of these kinds of artists, we thought that mixing music in our style would be a pleasure for us to listen to.”
After Energized, the duo made four other Nightcore albums which were given out to friends and local DJs. A few years later, their tracks started surfacing on Limewire, followed by Youtube with “Dam Dadi Doo” in 2006.
The Youtube Scene
Very little was known about Nightcore at the time the Youtube scene started, and to this day they’re still one of the most elusive acts to have a major following. The nightcore scene wouldn’t have existed if it weren’t for a few uploaders who were dedicated to finding and sharing tracks off the duo’s CDs — only two of which are available to hear in full. The rest are hiding somewhere in Norway.
A Youtube user named maikel6311, the founder of the nightcoreuniverse.net forum, was one of the first to start releasing Nightcore tracks and fan edits. “When I started in 2008, my goal was to put all the original Nightcore songs (around 30-ish songs) on Youtube for everyone to see,” says Maikel. “At that time, there were no other real examples of big Nightcore channels. Around 2009, when I ran out of original Nightcore songs, I saw this ‘new’ Nightcore song. After figuring out where that song came from, I found out about Nightcore being ‘sped up’ and ‘pitched up’. I came to the realization that Nightcore songs could be made by everyone, using reasonably simple audio software. I was at least one of the first people to really use that knowledge to make Nightcore edits. oShyGuyzo did this before me with Nightcore II. Another channel which I followed and started exploring fan-made Nightcore around the same time was Nasinocinesino.”
Nightcore had a formula, and based off the original duo’s releases, this included vocal euro dance and trance tracks warped with +25% speed, resulting in a BPM ranging from 160 to 180. The effect ends up sounding similar to happy hardcore, which is why the two are often associated.
The rules were set, and then inevitably broken a few years later when nightcore gained popularity and new channels started applying the same method to other styles outside of dance music. The first example of what Maikel and other veteran uploaders consider ‘fake’ nightcore is an edit of Evanescence from 2011.
“I follow their [Nightcore’s] tracks and thus only use genres that were meant to be used,” says Maikel. “Maybe it’s because I have known it for so long, and other people don’t have all the knowledge of this history, but to me pop, hip-hop etc. Nightcore is just not how it’s supposed to be.” The introduction of other genres brought a massive spike in fans to the nightcore scene while also blurring its definition. Accounts like Nightcore Reality, which offer a range of different nightcore styles, began to further reshape the general perception of the genre.
lilangelboi and Manicure Records
I personally like the idea of different nightcore styles living under the same umbrella. A genre this fun should be able to grow and adapt with different influences, right? Having said that, not every song sounds better nightcored. The best and most successful ones often come out sounding like they should have been made that way in the first place.
An artist named lilangelboi, who helped bring the Youtube scene to SoundCloud with releases through Manicure Records, was especially good at this. “The summer before Manicure Records, lilangelboi’s SoundCloud had 10 or 15 songs on it,” says Tom “Ghibli” Mike, head of Manicure. “I just got totally obsessed with it. I put up that one he did, “Light”, we had him up here to DJ a few parties, and then he moved here. That was totally how nightcore became a thing for us.”
Tracks like “Cry” and “Light” featured in Manicure’s #MANICURED playlist (artwork above) became reference points for what a “good” nightcore could be; at least in a more recent interpretation of the genre. If you listen to Juventa’s “Move Into Light”, it sounds strangely sluggish for a big room original. It also has beautiful vocals, it’s not a super recognizable track, and its structure isn’t too busy. Perfect for nightcore.
The London-based Radio JACK댄 show hosted by Simon Whybray has been another major proponent of the genre’s sound and growth over the last year. Nightcore ended up being the perfect opener or closer for his hyperactive broadcasts. Sometimes he would play one, let it finish, then start it over again. The live chat would go crazy. He’d be adjusting the tempo in real time. Screaming. Laughing. Giving shout outs. His support of the early Manicure Records edits helped point a lot of people in the direction of that sound.
“Nightcore was completely inevitable,” says Whybray, “All human beings have ever wanted to do is go faster. No one will ever be as good as lilangelboi and nothing will ever be as good as LIGHT. I flew halfway around the world to watch him play it live.”
Coaster Crew and NXC
Toward the end of 2014 I was basically just listening to selects from the #MANICURED playlist on repeat, and I found friends through Twitter who were doing the same. “Coaster Crew formed from a group of Twitter adjacent friends who enjoyed both nightcore and PC Music,” says Ike Chapman, aka Ikecrosoft, aka tacoemoji. “We started using the website rabb.it to hold “Coasts” where we would watch roller coaster point-of-view videos and sync them with our favorite songs, especially nightcore tracks. Once we all uncovered how to make it ourselves we all began to experiment with curating our own nightcore brands and aesthetics (with fan fic coining the abbreviation “nxc”). We mostly set out to entertain each other and have content for our Coasts, but over time our nxc brands all found audiences that appreciated our nightcore selections and curations.”
Everyone in Coaster was making nxc based off their own tastes and backgrounds. Ike was making hip hop edits with sneaker pics, I was making blog haus edits with anime visuals, Corey (nightcorey) had somehow just discovered EDM and at some point we squadopted sign offline, who had pink hair.
“I started making nightcore because I heard EDM for the first time, and I was super inspired,” says nightcorey. “Like, I thought it was ridiculous, and I had no idea how anyone took it seriously, but when I started speeding up songs, that was exactly the charm. Loud, fast, catchy songs that didn’t get too complex, or try to explain a whole lot. Just something fun that was perfect to close your eyes and dance to.”
After Coaster Crew had been curating nightcore for a few months in 2015, we started to see a new wave of nxc aliases pop up. People started collecting nxc in playlists and putting it in their mixes. A few producers in Tokyo launched Japanet, which releases edits labeled under “JPNXC”, and Ike teamed up with an artist named Cool Teens to start the nxc release outlet, NITE CORP.
Over the last few years, Nightcore has received some fun nods from the producer and DJ community. Djemba Djemba labeled his remix of AWE as a “Nightcore” remix. Maxo and Harrison pitched up Mark Johns’ vocals for their “Venus” collab. Nina Las Vegas has played out a nightcore edit of “Blank Space” and has also listed an nxc from babeisland in her July 15 playlist. lilangeboi has opened for Ryan Hemsworth and received a remix from Lido. NYC-based artist Moist Breezy cites nightcore as an influence of her original tracks. PC Music’s Danny L. Harle and A. G. Cook have mentioned nightcore as influences in interviews, Whybray and Henrik the Artist have played nightcore in their sets. Sign Offline and Nightcorey have played SPF420 sets and Nightcorey is currently working on original production.
Nightcore is fast, loud, energetic and most importantly FUN. For those of us who grew up on trance and happy hardore, it feels like a return to our roots. For those who are just hearing the sounds for the first time, welcome to 160+ :)