2020 was a weird-ass year. American democracy went kablooey. The internet collapsed in on itself. Tom Cruise screamed a bunch. And everyone started listening to Bardcore, medieval-style remakes of sensational pop and rock songs.
While there were a few medieval interpretations of pop songs before 2020, the genesis of Bardcore as a genre was formally dated to April 2020, when, inspired by a joke in his group chat, YouTuber Cornelius Link uploaded a medieval-style adaptation of the song “Astronomia,” originally viralized by the “Coffin Dance” meme.
The reshaped tune migrated from YouTube and his group chat to Discord, then 9GAG, and from there, all around the internet, where it heaved the genre into prominence and encouraged a cannonade of similar Bardcore covers. The genre was even endorsed by Wu-Tang Clan, who uploaded a Beedle the Bardcore version of their banger song “C.R.E.A.M.” to YouTube.
“I record all the music on my own,” Link says, employing a combination of virtual instruments and traditional instruments “to give everything a personal touch.”
For some Bardcore creators, this process can take days, and for others, weeks. “The first step is to select the appropriate song, which must have enough potential to perfectly suit the style,” says Bardcore sensation Algal the Bard. “The second step is to play it over and over again until I’ve internalized it, carefully choosing the instruments that I’m going to use — that way, I shape it until it sounds more ancient. Then comes the production process.”
The outcome is what our favorite bands would sound like if they were made up of medieval knights — or maybe not, since our understanding of genuine medieval music is considerably limited. But authentic or otherwise, medieval-style Backstreet Boys, a soundtrack that can connect us to our past, was exactly what the people needed to help endure 2020. “Many people find a lot in common between the medieval bubonic plague and the current situation with the coronavirus,” says Bardcore creator Constantine Bard. “They want to complement this atmosphere with suitable music. I hope our pandemic won’t last as long as the medieval one.” (Me too, Constantine, me too.)
For other survivors of 2020, Bardcore provided a fantastical escape that, as Algal says, “transports you to the universe of your favorite stories, helping to cushion the anxiety and the longing for better times.” Though he’s quick to remind me that, historically speaking, medieval times, infested with “hunger, poverty, disease and great social differences,” were likely worse than 2020: “I don’t think someone with a modicum of historical knowledge yearns for those times.”
Nonetheless, Bardcore certainly supplied an intriguing diversion from the nonstop sadness of 2020, and seeing as 2021 began with its own big bang, you can expect the Bardcore covers to keep coming. (If any Bardcore creators are reading this, dare you to make some medieval-style Dragonforce.)