Dear Mad Mike,
The term "lounge music" and the music you've been referring to have
not always been the same.
But first things first, the term lounge dates back to the 16th century
(in the sense of relaxation), and as a place of relaxation it has been
in use at least since the 19th century, first regrading "tea lounges"
and later regrading cocktail lounges.
Online Etymology Dictionary, Lounge,
The type of music played in this type of cocktail bars and waiting
rooms was, by definition, lounge music (of that time). And yes, we're
talking about "easy listening" oldies-but-goldies music, usually with
a touch of Swing, usually played on the piano. If you've seen "The
Fabulous Baker Boys", you'd know what I'm talking about.
I can think of two songs that capture the "feel" of these lounges,
although both are actually not lounge music themselves:
- Piano Man, by Billy Joel, lays a beautiful portray of the man behind
the piano, the one who plays those songs:
"He say, Son can you play me a memory
I'm not really sure how it goes
But it's sad and it's sweet and I knew it complete
When I wore a younger man's clothes
Da da da de de da
da da de de da da da
Sing us a song, you're the piano man
sing us a song tonight
Well, we're all in the mood for a melody
And you've got us feelin' alright"
- The other one is a bit more elusive, but the atmosphere portrayed in
the last part is certainly the one of a hotel or cocktail bar lounge.
I am talking about Paul Simon's "The Late Great Johnny Ace":
"On a cold December evening
I was walking through the Christmas tide
When a stranger came up and asked me
If I'd heard John Lennon had died
And the two of us went to this bar
And we stayed to close the place
And every song we played
Was for The Late Great Johnny Ace, yeah, yeah, yeah"
So, the original meaning of lounge music is certainly not what you've
been aiming for. Examples of lounge musicians (with references to
places where you can hear their music):
Combustible Edison - Short Double Latte
This is a postmodern interpretation, post "real" lounge music; already
with tongue in the cheek and electronic additions.
However, some more "classical" lounge composers are not that far from
this style, for example :
Juan García Esquivel
(See Information from Bar-None, which is a postmodern-lounge label):
Esquivel -- Space Age Bachelor Pad Music!
The WAITIKI ?Orchestrotica? Plays Esquivel
<http://www.waitiki.com/esquivel.cfm> - includes mp3, covering Esquivel's music.
Henry Mancini (you are familiar with the Pink Panther tune, I rekon?)
Some performers, again, are closer to a combination of swing, Bossa
Nova and pop (think about Dean Martin or Tony Bennett).
But here's a twist!
According to the Wikipedia's article about Lounge Music (which is OK,
but I wouldn't use it as a sole source, it is a bit sketchy): "When
much of this music was originally made, particularly the instrumental
music of Les Baxter or Arthur Lyman, the word lounge was not used.
[...] "Lounge" emerged in the late 1980s as a label of endearment by
young adults whose parents had played such music in the 1960s. A label
used for the instrumental music this genre in the 1950s or 1960s was
exotica. Vocal music was simply labeled pop, which of course included
artists ranging from Pat Boone to the Everly Brothers." (SOURCE:
Wikipedia, "Lounge Music",
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lounge_music>). I have found no evidence
to contradict this, although this was, basically, the music played in
However, as you've already said, you don't think about Bennett or
Martin when you talk about Lounge Music, you might mean something
similar to Combustible Edison, or other types of music; the type of
music heard on Nordic Lounge (I must admit I don't know all the sets
there, but the ones I do) is NOT lounge.
The term you've been looking for is - not solely - indeed, Chillout.
However, it could be also defined as ambient-influenced downtempo
It is not that the term "lounge" is incorrect. In fact, it has been in
use to refer to electronic music, which is a bit influenced by Jazz
and retro sound of the "old" lounge music (Mancini, etc.). What's more
- it also describes the music heard in certain lounges: those lounges
which are part of the club scene. Naturally, these lounges also play a
lot (if not mostly) chillout and downtempo in general.
So is there a difference between lounge and chillout? Are they both
sub-genres of downtempo?
This is a big controversy. Some claim that there is no big difference,
that the whole genre is (or should be) called chillout. However,
others swear by the perceived difference of the styles.
Shane Keller defines Chillout as :
"Chillout Music is based around a Generation X sub-lifestyle and
represents a way of being. It is about flowing through life just like
the music flows and floats into our feelings and emotions. It is about
being with your friends and sharing moments of pleasure.
Some people say chillout music has its roots in early ambient music.
To some degree, we agree. The music is built for relaxation and
formulated for calmer, lazy moods - hence the name 'CHILL OUT'. It
takes its distinctive melody and harmony influences from classical
orchestras, vocal soloists, early ambient, jazz, new age, laid-back
hybrid techno, the best of the 80's, electro-acoustic, spanish guitar,
Chillout has a reputation for slow, soft, warm, emotional beats that
you would associate with images of sunsets, martini lounges, Café del
Mar, the beach bars of Ibiza and modern art. You could say it is even
fashionable. When it caught on, the world and the major record labels
jumped on a chillout bandwagon. It was widely used in commercials by
car manufacturers to market to Generation X in North America, Europe
(SOURCE: Shane Keller, "Chillout Music", Deep Intense,
"Great" definition!? Hmmmm...
But it is really very difficult to define the difference between
chillout and other downtempo subgenres or styles. Keller, for example,
list St. Germain as an example of a chillout group, while others would
consider it an example par-excellance for Nu-Jazz.
Hear samples of Moloko on Amazon:
His definition of Lounge is a bit less confusing, and gives you the
atmosphere of lounge music:
"Another take off of downtempo music that has a close sound
relationship with chillout music. However, lounge has a more
retro-esque sound that is heavily influenced by jazz music.
Lounge music eminates images of exotic sounds and sophisticated
cocktail culture. The music mixes in a sense of easy living, romantic
moods and excited atmospheric tones.
Lounge is often played in lounges, tapas bars, hotel bars and
sometimes casinos. Typicaly, a lounge music act will include at least
one singer with an accompanying band." (SOURCE: Shane Keller, "Lounge
Music", Deep Intense,
Keller, by the way, defines Dowtempo much better:
"50 to 90 BPM. Downtempo (a.k.a. downbeat) music really comprises of
many genres of electronic and acoustic-electro based music. It is an
umbrella for low-fi music with moody tones, chilling to passionate
vocals, and mellow beats. And in some cases, it has no beat.
Downtempo is also a term used to specifically describe chillout music
that has a slow, rolling groove. Some would say it is based on hip hop
beats but this definition has grown to include instrumental-based
music from jazz, experimental, film scores, dub and reggae, african
drummers, tibetan monks, and various world music."
(SOURCE: Shane Keller, "Downtempo", Deep Intense,
You can see Keller's rather liberal take on related genres on the same page.
There are several sub-generes or cross-over genres that could be
considered when placing "sub categories" to chillout/downtempo.
However, these might be considered by others as stand-alone genres or
as cross overs:
* "Soft" Trip Hop (slow and dreamy style influenced by hip-hop) (see:
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trip-hop>). See for example Massive
* Jazz house/Nu Jazz/phusion (draws from Jazz), with works such as by
St. Germain and Jazzanova. See for example:
Jazzanova - Bohemian Sunset
* "psychill", "is a genre of electronic music that combines elements
of psychedelic trance, ambient, world music, new age and even ethereal
wave." (SOURCE: Psybient, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psybient>).
CalmSpace - the Chillout Lounge
Eighteen Street Lounge Music
<http://www.eslmusic.com/> - electro-lounge label.
I hope this answers your question. Please contact me if you need any
clarification on this answer before you rate it.