Shaping Disco

If the Bee Gees’ folk rock phase didn’t make you smile, then I have an early Christmas present for you. It’s time for disco.

By this point, the Bee Gees have demonstrated success in folk, pop, and rock – but that’s not enough. With the emerging of disco, the Bee Gees hop on board and are at the front of the movement. As you’ll hear, and as we’ll discuss, their music changes dramatically, but they still manage to maintain their core sound. Let’s listen to our last two samples of the year: “You Should be Dancing” (1976) and “Stayin’ Alive” (1977).

In this number, you can hear a funkier groove emerging than we’ve heard in the past. There’s a more nasal quality to the vocals, and the heavy vibrato is gone, replaced with falsetto. Similarly to their rock period, the Bee Gees are selective about where to place harmonies in their songs – sticking mainly to using them for embellishments and emphasis. I especially like the horn feature in the middle.

Probably their most famous song, “Stayin’ Alive” is a little slower… its 103 bpm, a brisk walking speed (also perfect for administering CPR, apparently). Like “You Should be Dancing,” this song has a bit of funk, similar use of harmonies, and an even stronger falsetto sound.

I find both these songs interesting, because they incorporate an orchestral backing, even though electric instruments are becoming more prevalent in their sound (contrasted against early works, and even the sound they had in our rock examples). The two sounds are expertly paired, enhancing each other.

In summation, the Bee Gees:

  • Kept their harmonies, but tempered them over the years
  • Exchanged Robin’s vibrato for Barry’s falsetto
  • Embraced new instruments and genres while maintaining their signature sound and balancing the old/know sounds (acoustics and orchestrations) with the new (electronic instruments and sounds)

Merry Christmas, and goodnight.

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