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What Does 'Hardcore' Mean in Different Music Genres?

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Tue, Oct 15, 2013 at 6:37 AM
click to enlarge Hardcore - FLICKR/SUZYSPHOTOGRAPHY

What do you think of when you hear the term "hardcore"?

Porn? If so, you're likely envisioning adult films that go beyond the mainstream, boob-job, grunting, one-man-on-one-woman variety.

Rather: more intensity, more abandon, more danger. (Hardcore auteurs certainly aren't fans of L.A. county's condom ordinance.)

Similarly "hardcore" music implies a strain that's for serious fans of the genre only, that separates itself from pop.

Beyond that, however, hardcore definitions in various music genres vary widely. It's sometimes performed faster or at louder volumes, and sometimes contains more caustic messages, but not always.

And so below, Weekly critics talk about what constitutes hardcore in the genres of punk, country, EDM, hip-hop, jazz, and even Christian.

click to enlarge Black Flag shortly after the arrival of Henry Rollins, left - EDWARD COLVER
  • Edward Colver
  • Black Flag shortly after the arrival of Henry Rollins, left

Hardcore Punk

Examples: Black Flag, Minor Threat and Bad Brains

By 1980, the writing was on the wall: Punk was moribund, zombified into a radio friendly sound called new wave. Thus hardcore was born, a fury of white noise fusing Ramones energy, Sham 69 fury and the dull, thudding stupidity of Aerosmith and Ted Nugent. Artistic statements, skinny ties and nods to '60s pop were shown the door. In their place stood shorn-headed suburban teenagers, hopped up on stepped-on coke, ready to deck a cop in the face. That, in essence, is hardcore, and the unholy brew that breathed new life into punk rock. More importantly, the network of independent and DIY venues throughout the nation exists almost entirely because of said punks with nowhere to play. Creating your own venues? That's hardcore. -Nicholas Pell

See also: Top 20 Hardcore Albums in History

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