Never mind the ballads! How bardcore took over pop music

Medievalised remakes of hit songs – complete with lutes, flutes and ye olde-style lyrics – are booming online. What giveth?

Name: Bardcore.

Age: A couple of months (if we ignore Sting). Musicologists may come to see 20 April as the starting point.

Appearance: Modern hit songs played on medieval instruments, often with medievalised lyrics.

Is that a big thing? Where on earth have you been for the past two months? Bardcore is booming online, swarming all over YouTube and Reddit, and appealing to what i-D Magazine calls Generation Z’s “existential humour”.

What’s so important about 20 April? It’s the day Cornelius Link uploaded his version of Tony Igy’s electronic dance hit Astronomia to YouTube. He called it Astronomia (Medieval Style) and the rest, my liege, is history.

Surely you’re exaggerating. Nay, ’tis a veritable phenomenon on t’internet.

Are you now going to say everything in this mock medieval voice? Verily. ’Tis in the spirit of the thing.

It could get quite tiresome. Tell me more about Cornelius. He’s a 27-year-old German web developer with a passion for medieval music. In the spring, when the Coffin Dance meme was doing the rounds, he decided to medievalise the music used – Tony Igy’s Astronomia. This in turn itself became a meme, and Cornelius’s “Tavern version” of the song has so far clocked up 2.7m views.

Pretty good, I suppose. His take on Foster the People’s Pumped Up Kicks has done even better, with almost 4m views. But, more importantly, he had created a genre (if we carry on ignoring Sting). Hildegard von Blingin’ picketh up the balle and runneth with it, adding lyrics: “All ye bully-rooks with your buskin boots / Best ye go, best ye go / Outrun my bow.” Hildegard’s version of Pumped Up Kicks is even more popular than Cornelius’s.

Why Hildegard von Blingin’? Don’t play the naif. I know you’re a fan of the 12th-century German composer and mystic Hildegard von Bingen.

Just testing you. Where do we go from here? The sky’s the limit. Hildegard has medievalised Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance and Radiohead’s Creep; Cornelius has backdated Haddaway’s What Is Love; a YouTuber called Constantine has produced Get Lucky (Medieval Style), adding the subtitle “Not to Get the Plague”; Samus Ordicus offers Paint It Black. There is apparently no pop anthem that can’t be rendered with flutes, drums and primitive stringed instruments.

Why now? The pandemic is thought to be significant, with a new Black Death hovering over us all. Hildegard also points out that the young YouTubers producing these cover versions have had “a lot of time on our hands” over the past few months.

Why are we not mentioning Sting? Because he complicates the chronology. In a way, he could be said to have anticipated all this with his 2006 album Songs from the Labyrinth, on which he sang songs by the English Renaissance composer John Dowland accompanied by lutenist Edin Karamazov. It was, though, rather too respectful and did not exactly set ye olde pop charts alight.

Don’t say: “It’s all about the loot.”

Do say: “It’s all about the lute.”

The GuardianTramp

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