New Romantic

Much more than mascara... Well as any musical style New Romantic means different things for different people. This is my personal view, and it will change as my opinions change... Here's how you can be a new romantic musician:

The New Romantic Manifesto

  • Elegance: Strikingly elegant arrangements - matched by a similarly striking appearance is important. 17th century clothing and tons of makeup are not essential. But fun.
  • Energy: Energy and a kind of "restricted rage" is also vital. Which doesn't mean songs have to have high tempo. Much of the best new romantic music came from former punk rockers taking their music several steps further. Buzzcocks became Pete Shelley, Josef K transformed to Paul Haig, and early Ultravox evolved to Visage, Ultravox and John Foxx.
  • Melody: Your songs will contain beautiful and dramatic melodies and arrangements! (Most contemporary artist today hardly use any melodies at all... which explains why they are so incredibly boring to listen to...) You have to be quite obsessed actually: You are going to make music the likes of Bach, Beethoven and Mozart would be proud of. Which probably means you'll have to work damned hard.
  • Recording: A new romantic does not record 24 tracks of vocals and computer mix the lot to get the best parts. This results in vocals that is completely, utterly, terribly dead. Pitch correction systems like Antares should be shunned like plague. Generally, It's best to sing or play the whole song in one take. If something goes wrong, redo the entire part where the mistake was made. Quantize or step edit the parts that is supposed to have a mechanical feel and not the others.
  • Surprise: You can and will seamlessly blend in any sound, a carcrash, an airport "last call" or whatever that enchances the song.
  • Variety: Songs can be in very different styles as long as they have that New Romantic feel. Actually this is probably the least restricted musical style there is when it comes to what you can and can't do. Use all your fantasy and imagination.
  • Instruments: Well, use anything you can lay your hands on, but you will need at least one analogue synth. Analogue simulating gear will work, but not in all situations. You'll probably need a sampler too. An old 12 bit model will do. And remember, a perfect sample is likely to be boring.
  • Rythm: A kind of a mecanical feel is required for drums, possibly bass and some arpeggio. But certainly not for the rest. Nowdays people build songs from loops found on sampling CD:s or in "groove boxes". Well, you can do it too, but it's much more fun to create your own patterns, isn't it?
  • Live: Well, if you don't have an army of backing musicians you'll need a backing tape or sequencer. Play as much live as practical/possible. And don't pretend to play or sing something that is on the backing tape. That's very, very ridiculous. Important: Remeber to perform for the people at the back of the audience!
  • Lyrics: Can be about absolutely anything. But it should be clever and stylish.
  • Wailing: I use to say there aren't many "Can't do's" for New Romantic, but here is a big fat one. Current soul singers uses wailing to hide the fact that their music is entierly lacking content and imagination. Avoid doing anything remotely similar to modern mainstream soul. The producers/artists responsible for this crap will soon be replaced by computers anyway. And yes, you can wail if it's part of a good melody. Well, about the same things can be said about mainstream rap.
  • Studies: Not good enough? Take lessons and learn to play classical music. But be sure not to learn too much music theory though. People that have studied loads of it seems to only make amazingly predictable and dull stuff.
  • Manifesto: No rules are without exception. Well... there are no rules, only you.
A history of New Romantic (in swedish) can be found at Romo Nights. Lots of info about New Romantic and all kinds of related acts can be found at New Wave Complex.

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