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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Catch Up Time: Spring 2008 Dance Singles

Playing Catch-Up…

****Just Dance - Lady GaGa Featuring Colby O'Donis
This song is a personal favorite this season. From the first lyric on, I just love it. Colby’s contribution doesn’t do much for me personally, but then, it also doesn’t get in the way of my good time. Yes, musically it is a little lightweight, but then, I also find that endearing. I’m not sure if I could testify to the vocal aptitude of Lady GaGa, but this song is such a sweet escape I don’t really care whether there is substance there or not. This is a breeze. This is what Olivia Newton John should be recording. And that’s who this reminds me of… or actually, what it reminds me of – the first time I heard “Sam” or “Have You Never Been Mellow”, or “Please, Mr. Please” – there is something of a breath of fresh air here for sure. Is it due to her delivery? The song itself? A reflection of the times (very similar to when ONJ had those hits)? In any case, Colby O’Donis aside – I like this, so do as the lady says – just dance.

***Dance Like There’s No Tomorrow - Paula Abdul / Randy Jackson
So, I kind of ignored this when it came out. I hate the whole AmIdol thing (for whom we have to thank for Gay Aitkin - did we really NEED another Barry Manilow?). But that aside, this is a sweet little pop song that fails to build or go anywhere. And that is just too bad. With Paula’s notoriously limited vocal range, there probably wasn’t any place it could go, but it seems the fault lies with the songwriters. On the bright side, the chorus is fetching and Paula comes across as seductive, edgy and focused – that is until the bridge where she mentions she’s still working up the nerve to talk to “that guy”. What? Is she twelve? Is she not Paula Abdul? The bridge is sort of a throwback to her “Forever Your Girl” hey day (days long past). Unfortunately for Paula, this just does not sound convincing coming out of the mouth of a middle-aged lady. I have seen the video, which is way fun – featuring some really sophomoric choreography and a lovely piece of red satin. So overall, it is a success, but it could have been much more. This peaked at #2 on the Billboard Dance Club Play chart and it is what it set out to be – a nice, professionally produced piece of well crafted pop. So, welcome back, Paula.

**The Right Life - Seal
I love Seal. There is part of me that thinks the man can do no wrong. His winning ways continue with "The Right Life", which peaked at #15 on the Club Play chart. This is the follow-up to his #1 Club Play hit “Amazing” from his under-performing “System” CD. The song percolates along nicely and the chorus is a tad catchy. His vocals are as fine as always, kind of like a silk/satin dream. But overall, it lacks punch and succumbs to its own lack of dramatic build. A pleasant, if inert addition to this man’s incredible body of work.

***Love’s Sweet Sound - Groove Armada ft. Candi Stanton
This one certainly lives up to its title. Candi Stanton’s power as a vocalist just cannot be denied. She keeps surfacing on my I-pod in the oddest of forms. There’s comfort and warmth in abundance in her voice which manages to ignite the most sterile of dance tracks. She does just that with Groove Armada’s rather perfunctory “Love’s Sweet Sound”. The track itself gurgles and twerps in all the right places, but it’s Stanton’s insistent vocals that keep the hook in your head and your body grooving in low motion. I appreciate all the space Groove Armada has left on this one. It allows the vocals to absolutely shine. This peaked at #21 on the Club Play Chart, but you can expect it to continue to get some additional floor time over the next few years (you know, the way “You Got The Love” keeps popping up). It’s just one of those slow chill grooves that keeps on keepin’ on.

****Same Old F*cking Story / Into The Nightlife - Cyndi Lauper
If you haven’t picked up a copy of Lauper’s latest CD, “Bring Ya To The Brink”, do so immediately. It’s a winner. As are these two tracks. “Same Old F*cking Story” raced to the number one spot on the Club Play Charts, and for good reason. If “Sex In The City”, the movie, had its act together, it would have been featured on that soundtrack as Carrie recovers from being stood-up at the alter by Mr. Big. The song is a great one for people picking themselves up after being smacked down a few too many times. Yes, it is a bit cynical, but then so are the times we live in. Musically, it is as old school disco as you can get and I just get a kick out of it every time it zooms out of my car’s cd speakers. Lauper is in great voice. And songwriting-wise, she also seems to have rediscovered her legs. This is a great song featuring impeccable craftsmanship.

Her follow-up single, currently in the top ten on the Club Play Chart, is a surging piece of metropolitan synth-pop that perfectly captures the hum and buzz of the anticipation of an evening out. Look for it to capture the pole position as well. Its ascent has been a quick one, and currently it is one of the few bright spots on the Dance charts. And the woman has never looked finer – just check out her new video!

**Control Yourself - Erin Hamilton
You have to hand it to Erin Hamilton – the lady has chops. She is poised for great things, as she is a versatile vocalist who possesses a knowing way with a lyric. She’s definitely in the same class as Suzanne Palmer, Ultra Nate’ and the supreme Kristen W. The earthiness and grit she brings to this track is a revelation. But for all the growl and heat she manages to bring to the fore, the song lacks the originality which was evident in the mixes of her re-release of “The Flame”, a song that scaled the Club Play charts earlier this year (and in its original form it peaked at #12 back in 1999!). The fault here is with the song itself and not the singer. In this case, the vocals save the day. So look for this one to peak high. I hope there’s an album in the works. (Aside: Did you know she’s the daughter of Carol Burnett?)

*All I See - Kylie ft. Mims
Not feeling this one at all. It peaked at #2 on the Club Play charts, but did little for my feet or head. It’s thin and cold. The rap feels pasted on and as out of place as a smiley button on a corpse. The song itself glides along on a single level for so long I find myself reaching for the forward button on my cd player. It’s a snore bore. Poor Kylie! Nothing on her latest disc has seemed to capture the attention of the dance floor or the American public. And this mash-up smacks of desperation, not inspiration. The lady has style to spare… and in the future she needs to lend some it to the dance floor and her musical offerings.

***The Dance - Evelyn “Champagne” King
This one continues to grow on me. Nice and chunky. Pop, yet funky. This song rates two and a half stars on its own, but earns an extra half star for the inclusion of a sample of the classic jam “Love Come Down”. 2008 has proven to be a banner year for comebacks for historic Divas of Dance. “The Dance” will probably not wind its way to number one, but it’s nice to have Ms. King back in the clubs just the same.

*Turn It Up - Mark Picchiotti Presents Basstoy
No, please. You can turn it down because it is turning me off. Nothing new here, kind of by-the-numbers and it does nothing for my feet. Effects piled on to no affect - like accessories on a dead hooker.

**Handle Me - Robyn
This is a clever little piece of hip-hop pop. Leaving the robotic/mystical leanings of her last hit, “Every Heartbeat” behind, Robyn has her eye on the clubs and the street. It works for the most part. A touch stilted and wordplay heavy, but Robyn carries it off. There’s a mean streak in this track that cuts a wide swath with hooks galore and sassy one-liners to explore. Another feather in Robyn’s cap.

**Fall - Kimberly Locke
This went to number one – not sure why. It’s nice. You know, nice – like when you say the word nice and your mouth curls downward? The song is rather average, no – make that – the song epitomizes average. It’s a sweet little pop song with a country bent that makes my stomach curdle just the tiniest bit. Kimberly Locke can bring just about anything to life (the number one “Band of Gold” in all its kitschy glory, case in point) – so why can’t she find songwriters who have something original to bring to the table? This warmed-over adult contemporary crap belongs to the likes of Faith Hill and placing a pulsating beat underneath it does not a dance track make! Her previous #1, “Change” was a bit better, but basically shared the identical formula used here. Seriously, dance fans, we need to be asking more of this talented young lady. Somebody give her a decent song.

**Where the Music Takes You - Ari Gold Featuring Sasha Allen
This belongs in the same category as Bellatrax Featuring Sophia May”s “I Can't Help Myself”, anything by Plumb and a host of others: Nice, serviceable dance/pop. Faceless, but with just enough of a hook that you find yourself not regretting listening to it multiple times. This is my idea of the perfect fill on a mix cd. It takes up room without calling attention to itself or disappointing.

*Shake It - Anane Featuring Tony Touch & Mr. Vegas
Please see my review of “Turn It Up” by Mark Picchiotti Presents Basstoy. Same applies here. For all its sass and strident drive to create a sense of urgency and energy – this one manages to bore the hell out of me. So tired. Absolute filler with nothing original to offer. It was like they looked it up in a dictionary and read it verbatim into somebody’s phone answering machine from 1993.

** We Break the Dawn - Michelle Williams Featuring Flo Rida
Well, this one was rescued from obscurity thanks to the inclusion of a rap by Flo Rida. I actually liked the original (minus Flo), although it lacked a strong personality. Even with the presence of Flo (or perhaps because of it) this one still strikes me as pretty borderline. I very much doubt I will remember it a year from now… or for that matter fifteen minutes from now. And undistinguishable effort by two talents in search of an identity.

* Great DJ - The Ting Tings
Hmmm. A tad annoying. A tad cloying. I kind of want to walk up to this pair and just give then good smack on the back of their heads. Even the name of their group makes my face scrunch up in a way that suggests that somebody just pooped in the room. This stuff is too cute for its own sake. I know they are currently the darlings of New York (they gave a free concert and it was massively attended) – but I generally find this type of highly-crafted B.S. abhorrent and a waste of time. If ever there was a case of style obliterating the fact that there is no substance – this is it. I am going to file this one right along Sia and Pink Lady.

***Let Me Think About It - Ida Corr Vs Fedde Le Grand
The song that refuses to go away. This is the dance song of 2008 so long (whether I like it or not). As it happens, I do like it. It is a bit faceless, but that makes it endearing, the way Chic songs of yore were/are endearing. A great hook, a nice sassy chorus and plenty happening to keep you guessing. While I never tire of it, I have also never really embraced it. It has this vibe and energy all of its own – and that has sustained its place on the charts and dance floors these many months.