It’s no longer rare for artists who get big on TikTok to channel that virality into the mainstream music industry — Flyana Boss’s infectious “You Wish” is a contender for song of the summer after the duo’s mesmerizing running videos, and it was all the way back in the spring of 2019 when Lil Nas X shook the country scene with “Old Town Road.” What’s still rare, though, are non-artists who make parodies of a niche genre of music that then, against all odds, become surprise hits before they’re even released.
This is what happened when, on July 28, comedian Kyle Gordon and singer-influencer Audrey Trullinger released a video clip called “Every European Dance Song in the 1990s.” It’s gone so viral on TikTok, Twitter, and Instagram that the original Spotify release date for the full song, dubbed “Planet of the Bass,” was moved up a week from August 22 to August 15, and had a live premiere last night at a club in Brooklyn. As of press time, the video had 5 million views on TikTok and nearly 90 million views on Twitter, striking a chord with millennials with a fondness for a highly specific period in pop culture.
Gordon first went viral on TikTok in 2020 with his character impressions of “the kid who’s no fun,” white hip-hop critics, and foreign depictions of Americans. It’s “DJ Crazy Times,” a European DJ from the turn of the millennium who is the creative impetus behind “Planet of the Bass,” a delightfully nonsensical parody of ’90s Eurodance songs in which a beautiful woman sings about love and unity while a deep-voiced rapper hypes up the crowd in bungled English.
The video was shot at the Oculus, a creepily all-white mall in Manhattan’s Financial District that also sort of looks like a spaceship and therefore makes for a pretty good dupe of the techy, sleek set of every music video from the era. The costumes, too, are pitch-perfect: Trullinger’s bottle-blonde hair is crimped into beach waves and her bronzer remains aggressively unblended, while Gordon plays the token ultra-masc hypeman in a burgundy wig, baggy cargo pants, and sunglasses that look like a child’s swim goggles. On the creation of the song, Gordon told Vox via a representative that he’d been doing the DJ Crazy Times character since college with his a capella group, and that he always loved Eurodance because “it always stood out as being so fun and strange against a lot of American rock and pop that took itself so seriously.”
It’s the lyrics of “Planet of the Bass” that truly capture the essence of post-communist Eurodance. Mirroring songs written in English by non-English speakers, replete with vague platitudes and charmingly incorrect grammar, the track begins with this chorus: “All of the dream / How does it mean?” and proceeds with the following rap verse:
Life, it never die
Women are my favorite guy
Sex, I’m wanting more
Tell the world, “Stop the war”
Boom, hear the bass go zoom
Have a body, feel thе groove
Cyber system ovеrload
On top of being a genuine banger, the song is pure nostalgia for an extremely niche period in music history, one that comes from an equally specific political moment. Eurodance music, with its trancelike, danceable beats and vague, uplifting messages, was the soundtrack to a decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall. As German club culture scholar Beate Peter noted in the Conversation, this new kind of music connected young East and West Berliners because it was “not as culturally or politically loaded as punk, which meant different things in the two parts of the city,” she writes. “Dancing became a way for young people to connect through bodies rather than words — and techno in Berlin provided a clean canvas for young people to feel part of society in a way that perhaps politics did not.”
Ironically, the music that inspired Eurodance originated in the US, even though Americans don’t typically claim it as their own. In an interview last summer with Vox, dance music journalist Shawn Reynaldo noted how it was Black and brown queer communities who first created the beats and sounds we associate with Eurodance. The reason we don’t always give credit to that legacy is in large part due to the backlash against disco music in the late ’70s, which was really a backlash against the queer and POC people who popularized it in the first place. Luckily, it caught on and continued to evolve in Europe, but, as Reynaldo told Vox, “In America, dance music is still basically a foreign language for the vast majority of people.”
Though certified Eurodance bops like 2 Unlimited’s “No Limit” or Ice MC’s “Think About the Way” never made the US charts, Top 40 radio listeners got a taste of other hits from the genre in the late ’90s and early 2000s, most famously in the form of “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” from Italian outfit Eiffel 65’s, Finnish Eurovision-approved DJ Darude’s “Sandstorm,” and noted scatman Scatman John’s “Scatman.” Over the past two days, I’ve personally had a blast listening to Eurodance playlists (here are two good ones) full of Aqua, Corona, La Bouche, SNAP!, Real McCoy (which, upon hearing a few of their deeper cuts, is clearly a significant influence on “Planet of the Bass”), Vengaboys, and A Touch of Class. I also discovered songs and artists I’ve never heard of before but that fascinate me deeply. Did you know, for instance, that there was a German duo called E-Rotic that has one song called “Max Don’t Have Sex With Your Ex” and another song called “Fred Come to Bed” that’s a continuation of the plot from the aforementioned “Max Don’t Have Sex With Your Ex”? Incredible!
For anyone who grew up in the US in the ’90s, Eurodance felt almost quaint, as though it was a parody of a reference we couldn’t quite place. When my sister came back from a trip to Russia in 2003, she brought with her Eurodance classics that, for reasons that are probably both xenophobic and anti-gay, never got their due in America (Sonique’s “It Feels So Good” and “Sky” being standouts; also, Tom Jones’s “Sex Bomb” was a big hit over in Europe at the time, which my 10-year-old self thought was hysterical). It’s unfair that most casual listeners never knew the full history of Eurodance music, not least how American its origins really were. But the great thing about Eurodance is that it’s endlessly remixable: Over the past few years, artists such as Nicki Minaj and Bebe Rexha have had huge hits sampling Eurodance songs (Aqua’s “Barbie Girl,” and Eiffel 65’s “Blue,” respectively), and house and disco hits from Robin S and Crystal Waters are undergoing a major renaissance, thanks to Beyoncé, Drake, and Kylie Minogue, who just announced her first-ever Vegas residency and, to be fair, never stopped making iconic Eurodance-influenced hits for gay people.
Young people in Europe today are also embracing the dance classics from their youth. Miriam Malek, a writer and DJ in Berlin, explained in 2020 how, despite how easy it is to shrug off Eurodance as “a cheesy collection of one-hit wonders confined to our school disco memories and grainy images on MTV,” a new generation of ravers are increasingly drawn to it.
“Messages of peace, love, unity, respect and power are transmittable across generations and still define modern rave culture to this day,” she wrote. Isn’t this — a world of no war, of lots of sex, of women, of grooving and of “everybody movement” — the promise of the “Planet of the Bass”?