Good morrow, readers! Mayhap we could borrow thine time for a moment of merriment. Verily, we implore thine attention as we relay the wonders of Bardcore!
*coughs* Ahem. Excuse me.
With Coronavirus-induced lockdowns taking up the better part of this year, many creatives have had the opportunity to experiment and indulge in hobbies that wouldn’t otherwise be given the time of day. The resurgence of Bardcore bears testament to this.
A music genre known for reinventing popular songs with medieval-inspired instrumentals and lyrics, ‘Bardcore’ has made waves this year on YouTube and SoundCloud. Bardcore sees musicians take up lutes, fiddles, and harps (or at least good digital samples of the aforementioned) and inject medieval lyricism into well-known pop classics.
As indicated, the number of Bardcore covers and YouTube channels grew during the Coronavirus pandemic, with many pinpointing the start of the trend to the 20th April 2020– which was the day Cornelius Link uploaded his version of Tony Igy’s electronic dance hit ‘Astronomia’ to YouTube.
Hildegard von Blingin’
A leader in the Bardcore cover trend is Hildegard von Blingin’, who has covered several music hits in her signature Bardcore style; including ‘Pumped Up Kicks’, ‘Bad Romance’, and ‘Jolene’.
Blingin’ is known for pushing the boat out with the Medieval theme. Taking her name from the Medieval saint and composer, Hildegard von Bingen, the Canada-based YouTube musician adopts a songstress persona that plays up to many aesthetics from the Middle Ages. This is something that can be seen from the music itself to the background art she incorporates into her videos, which are comprised of various illustrations from Medieval manuscripts and illuminations.
Not only does Blingin’ utilise Medieval instruments in her covers, but she also rewrites the lyrics to incorporate Early Modern English phrasing and terminology. The description and comment section of her videos on YouTube also similarly foster this brand of Medieval speech.
Another main account in the Bardcore trend is that of Cornelius Link, who as of this November has amassed over 184k subscribers on YouTube.
Link found his success with Bardcore through slightly unconventional means (although this is 2020 we are talking about). When the Coffin Dance meme was making the rounds online earlier this year, a friend of Link’s sent over a medieval-inspired drawing which in turn inspired Link to make a short cover of the meme’s soundtrack, Tony Igy’s ‘Astronomia’.
Link’s first cover led to the creation of his YouTube channel, which has only gone up in popularity during the last few months.
Looking Back to the Past
As indicated by Elina Hamilton in an article with The World:
There have been instances of people looking to an idealised past throughout history- it’s not a new or novel concept by any means. As a form of escapism from the present, the past offers an (unrealistic) alternative which conveys simple and romanticised narratives.
Cases of this can be found in several art movements from around the world. A prime example is the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of English creatives founded in the mid-nineteenth century, who focused specifically on bringing back details of art, music, and poetry from before and during the fifteenth century. In painting specifically, the PRB sought to revive classical posing, Christian themes, intense detail and colour, as well as large-scale narrative paintings known as History Paintings.
You could probably consider these guys the OG Medieval enthusiasts, if their affinity for the costumes, philosophy, slang, and terminology are anything to go by.
But Why Bardcore?
Bardcore is appealing because it intertwines popular music, history, and meme culture into something that is genuinely fun to watch and listen to.
Medieval aesthetics have been a prominent staple in entertainment and consumer culture for decades now- from popular franchises and TV shows like ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Game of Thrones’, to internet memes like the ugly baby paintings. Social media outlets like YouTube just provide another means for niche content to make its way into mainstream media, but with Bardcore it brings together elements of history, comedy, and modern nostalgia.
The transformation of recognisable songs only adds to the intrigue, and later the humorous effect that Medieval instrumentals and lyrics bring to the table.
As indicated, there is also an element of escapism that fuels the popularity of a phenomenon like Bardcore. The Middle Ages were a time of hardship, plague, war, and violence. Sound familiar? Many would argue that we’re going through the same things right now. In drawing parallels to the past, Bardcore resonates with a generation whose first response is to make a meme out of the worst-case scenario. As such, Bardcore becomes a means of identifying with another time that is similar to ours, while also providing comfort in the fact that the aptly titled Dark Ages did eventually give way to better times.
In an interview with i-D, Hildegard von Blingin’ indicated that a large part of Bardcore’s success likely lay in the fact that many people were looking for a means of escape from today’s predicaments. Whether from the side of maker or consumer, the pandemic and its subsequent lockdowns encourage people to turn to artistic pursuits “for connection and distraction.”
With this being said, the creators behind the Bardcore trend are a big factor in the genre’s popularity. In a chat with i-D, musicologist Dr. Lisa Colton suggested that the charm of Bardcore was how its creators don’t take themselves too seriously. Making covers of popular songs doesn’t always have to carry a deep meaning, and many creators like Blingin’ are simply aiming to make content that is entertaining for viewers. There isn’t a huge pressure to make something commercial or even authentically Medieval- the purpose of Bardcore is to take inspiration from a point in time (in this case the Middle Ages) and create something fun. Simple.
With chants and sonnets abundant, thou hast a variety of selection. Enjoy and make merry, for Lockdown the Second is in full force!
Fare thee well, dear friends!
Pray thee tell, what is thine opinion on Bardcore and her many facets? Mayhap thou will leave a comment below.
If dulcet tones are what thou seek, look no further than Mouthing Off’s Music Section.