Discover Bardcore: The viral trend transforming modern hits into medieval bangers

You’ve heard Shakira’s Hips Don’t Lie, but have you ever sat down with a cup of mead and put on ‘Mine Hips Do Not Bear False Witness’ for a jig around the chamber?

We’ve all been a little more bored than usual in the last year, haven’t we? Many of us have been stuck at home and that has helped bring out the best of madcap inspiration in some. In a trend that transcends a throwback to the music of old that the Wellerman trend did for sea shanties, Bardcore blends the music of today with the vibes of a millennia ago.

One of 2020’s most iconic songs, like never before. I wonder what Middle Age audiences would have thought of the original…

The concept is simple really. Take a modern track that we all know and (not necessarily) love and re-imagine with the instruments of old. Lyres, flutes, harps, and the odd violin set to a simple pulsing drumbeat and you have medieval magic.

It all started when YouTube user Stantough came up with the original idea – probably just for a laugh – of turning Shakira’s Hips Don’t Lie into an 11th century work of art. The fruition of their lockdown boredom quickly gained traction eventually amassing millions of views and spiralling into a viral trend that saw hundreds of videos from different users being spawned – medieval-ifying everything from hip-hop, pop, and rock.

The video which started it all

The viral trend, although having extended beyond the grasp of the original creator, has even gained its own aesthetic. It would be poor manners to upload your brand new Bardcore remix of a track and not feature some medieval imagery, specifically images that can be related to the track itself.

For example, this re-imagining of the famous Coffin Dance song – Astronomia – features ‘artwork’ taken directly from the authentic Bayeux Tapestry. And of course, it’s absolutely perfect… Almost as though one of the embroiders commissioned by Bishop Odo knew that their depiction of men carrying a coffin with a megaphone (indicating music, not orders… surely!) would be relevant beyond their time.

Whilst working out the science behind a viral trend is a fool’s game, there are certainly some key features to Bardcore which make it so enticing to audiences all over the world.

First of all, it appeals to our love of recognition. We recognise the music it is emulating so we can empathise with it and – even more importantly in this case – we have a reference frame that makes it so funny when we hear it transformed.

Secondly, it’s surreal. If there’s one thing we know about where internet humour has been heading, the weirder the better. Whilst this is certainly on the light-hearted, subtle side of surreality in comparison to some of the memes out there, it’s an undeniably strange concept that is executed to such a quality degree that even the fact it sounds great and legitimate is surreal.

But perhaps more importantly than anything, the internet has been a haven for entertainment more than ever in the last year. Viral trends are nothing new but 2020 has been a breeding ground for getting people behind a joke.

Speaking to The Straits Times, one of Bardcore’s many proponents and creators Hildegard von Blingin’ said: “We’re seeing an unprecedented number of creative trends on the internet, and I think it absolutely has something to do with the lockdown. That, and a global sense of ennui and loneliness.”

Hildegard, whose name is a play on the 12th Century saint Hildegard von Bingen, even says there is perhaps a deeper link to the trend. “There is of course the unavoidable comparison between our situation and the Black Death,” she says.

She also explains how she would have never had the time to create these were it not for the lockdown. Her creations take it to the next level, with classic folk-style singing transforming the original lyrics into a piece of majesty. Just hear her rendition of Dolly Parton’s Jolene.

Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, I beg of thee, pray take not my lord

Of course, as with all good things today the trend escaped YouTube and took to TikTok. What do they do with them on TikTok? They do what everyone does with anything on TikTok of course… they dance along! Some even put the effort in to dress in their best peasant garb, though sadly with the lack of archaic royal attire it seems no-one got the memo about the class who would really be listening to these full, lush arrangements.

What will be next? What comes after Bardcore? How do we enliven the senses as we move out of lockdowns and look for the next viral trend whilst also actually spending time with friends and family. Only time – and the force of the internet – will tell.

Writing about music, listening to music, and occasionally playing music.

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