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Subgenre(s) of the Week: Nintendocore (feat. Holiday Pop)

As the holidays are fast approaching and light radio stations spin seasonal tunes 24/7, it was tempting to go easy with this week’s subgenre installment and discuss my mother’s favorite artist: Josh Groban, that pop-era star so fiendishly notorious for his overwhelmingly sentimental rendition of Christmas songs (especially among the middle-age mom set). But I would rather not talk about Mr. Groban any more than necessary right now, since I know that in a week’s time I’ll be back home and most probably be forced to listen to his latest album, Illuminations, all day, every day.

I do, however, love holiday music. A few weeks back, I wrote about crunkcore in this column and am pleased to tell you that Family Force 5 does, indeed, have a holiday album out, entitled The Family Force 5 Christmas Pageant. (Which you should check out. Their rendition of “Carol of the Bells” is not to be missed.)

What else has happened in the past few weeks? Lady Gaga destroyed my previous understanding of a “Christmas Tree” (I thought it was a decorated pine tree, but according to Gaga, it’s her vajayjay), and seriously diminished my faith in humanity. Coldplay released a song entitled “Christmas Lights” that’s really great, but sounds just like all their other stuff. The Killers came out with the single “Boots” (accompanied by a really sweet video, which upon viewing I got a little misty-eyed; also, Brandon Flowers is a q-t) and the gift of promising a new album soon. Jessica Simpson has a new holiday album (who cares?). Glee pwn’d iTunes with their holiday tunes—not that anyone saw that coming or anything.

Kylie Minogue (!!!) came out with some covers; she may be wearing some white leather harness thingy in the album art but it’s straight classics inside, and you can hear her voice really shine. Owl City premiered “Peppermint Winter” and like the rest of his stuff, you love it, but won’t tell any of your friends lest they jeer and call you a pubescent girl. If you care, Big Time Rush, that popular Disney boyband, did a cover of “All I Want for Christmas” that’s actually kind of legit (though totally weaksauce next to Mariah’s version, obviously). And every other commercial and radio advertisement used Vampire Weekend’s “Holiday”, which I guess makes them mainstream now so all you cool cats can officially start calling them sellouts. Oh, and Daft Punk’s Tron: Legacy soundtrack legally became available for purchase on the 7th. Not that you need reminding. It’s not holiday music, but as with all things Daft Punk, it needs to be mentioned somewhere.

Despite the bombardment of holiday cheer—and some sick beats courtesy of DP—I still managed to dig deep into the terrifying and amazing world of subgenres in search of something truly unusual. And that is what I bring to you today: Nintendocore.

Some of you are already familiar with this subgenre, so don’t hate if I don’t do it enough justice. Nintendocore is exactly what the name implies: 8-bit layered over hardcore music. Many lay claims to the roots of this movement, though it is mostly credited to Horse the Band, a five-piece outfit from Lake Forest, CA. According to frontman Nathan Winneke, “it amused us to say that the keyboards in our songs sounded like a Nintendo game. So we said we were Nintendocore. And now it’s stupid.” Regardless of how irritating the name may be to its originators (Winneke once said in an interview, “I swear to God, if you mention ‘Nintendocore’ once…I’m going to cover you in boiling acid”), the name has stuck. Sometimes referred to as “Nerdcore,” Nintendocore utilizes electric guitars, drum kits and other typical instruments you would find in a rock band, only with the addition of electro-beats and 8-bit. Throw in some screamo and presto! You’ve got a musical concoction that sounds like SuperMario making his way through the gates of hell. Pretty epic stuff.

There isn’t much to say about Nintendocore, aside from the fact that it’s an absurd combination of sounds. Lyrically, it’s pretty much your standard fare for hardcore. If you could understand what the singers were shouting about, you’d hear ranting about war, depression, neglect, and other similarly happy topics (with the exception of The Advantage, who are a strictly instrumental band from Sacramento). But when you plug in your headphones for a listen, you’re unsure whether to be horrified or mystified.

Like Gaga’s holiday jam, you want to like what you’re hearing, but you feel like it might cost you the sanctity of your childhood. If you liked remembering Nintendo as more wholesome than “abduction, drug addiction, and chronic masturbation” (as Winneke describes his lyrics), I recommend you pick up that Groban album instead.

En-Szu’s Nintendocore Novelties and Holiday Hits

Giants in the Ocean – Sky Eats Airplane

Metroid – Kraid’s Lair – The Advantage

Bunnies – Horse the Band

Christmas Tree – Lady Gaga

Peppermint Winter – Owl City

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