Dark cabaret is an alternative genre heavily inspired by cabaret, burlesque and vaudeville traditions. The genre is also often linked to Steampunk. Acts associated with dark cabaret generally adopt a punk, goth or glam sound that is likewise incorporated into their overall performance and image. While not entirely the same thing, many correlations can be made when comparing dark cabaret music with baroque pop – another subgenre of alternative music that blends modern alt rock with classical music elements – think Tori Amos.
While dark cabaret and baroque pop are musical innovations that may not appeal to everyone, the creativity and uniqueness of these genres are definitely worth checking out! Kate Bush has inspired many other artists to move towards a pop sound infused with classical elements. With a singing style that is often mirrored by artists who identify with dark cabaret and baroque pop; and a well-earned following amongst alternative musicians in general (look for Placebo’s cover of Running Up That Hill) – Kate is 100% vintage alternative.
Dark cabaret originated in Europe with theatrical origins rooted deeply in German history – the Weimar republic and the works of expressionist playwright Bertolt Brecht (if you don’t think you know Brecht’s work google The Threepenny Opera and listen to Mack The Knife – in a savage act of violence against a classic song McDonald’s once butchered it to develop a catchy jingle for a marketing campaign). On the extreme end of the dark cabaret spectrum you will find acts like Germany’s Nina Hagen and on the mild end of the spectrum a song like Secret by The Pierces or the eclectic music of Imogen Heap.
Always experimental and intriguing, if you have an open mind and are up for something a little different here are a few of the most popular dark cabaret tracks and musicians: