A lot of Happy Hardcore fans are conflicted about the success (or even existence) of the Happy 2b Hardcore series. To begin with, it's essentially the only
happycore compilation in North America. In the UK
, where happycore
was more popular (to the point where you could hear it on the radio, albeit on pirate
stations) you had Bonkers
, Absolute Hardcore, and a few Dreamscape
collections, among others, but in the United States
, this was about it.
This created a few problems.
First, for some reason, this series was like a perpetual motion insta-raver creation machine. Perhaps it's the insanely catchy hooks, maybe it's that happy hardcore is about the closest "electronica" gets to pop music. (I've never considered big beat or certain kinds of progressive trance to be outside the realm of pop in the first place.) In any case, as this was about the only happy hardcore out there for public consumption, this would be their first and only contact with it. Imagine a kid who just bought "The Best of The Ramones" or something, and on that basis decides they're just as punk as anyone, if not more. Aggravating this is the fact that due to the nature of the music and the "scene", a great deal of these kids would go the candyraver route. Now I have nothing against candykids - I admire their enthusiasm, I like funfur, I've even got a pair of huge-ass leopard-print pants in my closet somewhere (which I sewed myself, thank you very much). But if it can get irritating to hear "PLUR!", "...blah blah blah the scene blah blah...", and "are you rolling?" all through a party, it gets especially irritating when it's coming from some 14 year old for whom "the scene" has lasted six weeks, and who cannot, when quizzed, tell me what PLUR (or MDMA, or 808) actually stands for. A good many of these kids would also attribute various songs on the collection to Frolic himself. MTV "Wanna Be a VJ" winner Raymond Munns did this on national television once, irritating a good number of happycore otaku. It wasn't like they were confusing Frolic's own songs with those of other artists on the compilation - until some point after volume 3 or 4, Frolic was a DJ and promoter only, and had never released a single track himself. If I remember correctly, the ones he did end up releasing were pretty forgettable. At least I've forgotten them.
Beyond this, which was annoying enough, another issue had to do with the track selection, which apparently went like this: a bunch of tunes would become anthems in the UK, they'd get positive response at Hullabaloo and Frolic's other gigs, and then they'd go on the CD. This would draw the attention and appreciation of happy hardcore listeners around the continent (a good deal of which were the poorly-informed yet hyperactive masses described above), and would then heavily influence the set lists of DJs throughout North America. Figuring in the low profile of the genre, and thus the relatively small amount of such DJs (and the fact that early on in the series' life, many of them were connected to Frolic in some way) and paucity of releases, this had a major impact on the scene, and encouraged a focus on these and other anthems. In addition to getting kind of boring (good as they are, there's a limit to the number of times you can really dance to Eyeopener, Shooting Star or Heart of Gold, and if you were around in the late '90s, you passed it by a couple score), this threw any concept of pacing and flow of the set out the window. Of course, some of the people complaining loudest about this were total wankers, but they still had a point. It's worth noting that Volume 6, released in 2001, even contained a version of Toytown, which is one of the greatest happycore tracks of all time. The upside of this is that it's a wonderful choon. The downside is that it's been around for approximately forever, or at least since '95, whichever's earlier.
The series has also been accused of promoting "girlcore", or happy hardcore that was built less around breakbeats and more around a 4/4 kickdrum, and employed heavy use of vocals, often recorded specifically for the track and made the focus of the song. These vocals more often followed a "traditional" verse/chorus/verse nature than previous songs, which had more often relied on isolated and looped samples, vocals "ripped" from other songs (often from dub, dancehall, rap, "vocal", gospel, or reggae tracks, though '80s pop had a significant following), or no vocals at all. In addition to "pussifying" the music, this was also thought to "de-ethnicise" it - note the racial associations of the abovementioned frequently sampled and "ripped" styles, and keep in mind that early breakbeat hardcore, the descendants of which this style was replacing, was also the origin of jungle. There is some logic to this accusation - apart from a few tunes like Scott Brown's wonderful Elysium, most of the tracks do indeed follow this pattern. This is somewhat understandable, however. CDs are likely to be listened to in non-dancing contexts, which makes breakbeats less attractive and vocals more so. When's the last time you've gathered a crowd to dance to a CD? Okay, when's the last time you've gathered a crowd that would appreciate something like happy hardcore? (Put a happycore track on at a frat party sometime and watch what happens. I have.) Plus, like it or not, this new style was what the kids were going for. The labels proclaim this series to feature "Happy Hardcore Breakbeat Techno Anthems", and while the middle part might be questionable, there's no question that these were the biggest anthems of their day. In any case happy hardcore is almost exclusively a UK-driven genre, and it's debatable that a single North American compilation series could have any influence, or even do anything but simply follow the British lead, as far as style goes.
A final issue, and the most pedantic, was that Frolic did not actually mix the songs on the CD. That's not to say that they weren't "continuously mixed", as advertised on the cover, but that rather than a recording of Frolic working on two decks, the CDs were assembled, beatmatched, and mixed using a copy of Pro Tools. While this might with a more accomplished and talented DJ be excused as an attempt to more perfectly tune and tweak the work, Frolic is, to be honest, a middling DJ who can, live, mix somewhere around "acceptable", and cannot scratch to save his life. (He tends to have good MCs, though) He mostly gets bookings on the value of his name recognition as the creator of the Happy2bHardcore series (theNorth American happycore collection) and promoter of the Toronto-based Hullabaloo parties (theNorth American happycore raves). It is questionable whether the series would be as successful if it sounded like his live mixes. Of course, this is more of a personal attack on Frolic than the previous issues, but that's not really uncommon among the internet-based happy hardcore crowd (reference Shapes's w/u here). Of course, when you mix rave drama with net drama and, given the fanbase, a few dashes of random middle-school drama, you will get things like these.
All that said, I'm on my fourth copy of Happy2bHardcore volume 1, having lost the first three "lending" them to friends.