iMusic: Does Disco Still Suck?
Disco doesn’t still suck if you don’t call it disco. If you call it EDM (aka electronic dance music) you make it safe for straight people and their gay friends (who have been dancing to it for years). But there are traces of disco everywhere, like the offerings from Giorgio Moroder, Avicii, Grouplove, Austra, Berlin and Fitz & The Tantrums.
Disco pioneer Giorgio Moroder, along with his muse the late Donna Summer, were the driving forces behind disco during its heyday. The Donna Summer remix disc Love To Love You Donna (Verve) is less an homage to the original disco diva than it is a chance for those cursed remixers to get their grubby paws on her classic material and leave what they think is their imprint on it. Because “remix” means something different than it did when it was applied to extended 12” single versions of tracks during the 1970s, only a few of the 13 revisited cuts are worth listening and dancing to. Not surprisingly, the Director’s Cut Signature Mix of “Hot Stuff” by Frankie Knuckles (a gay DJ who has been around since the birth of disco) and Eric Kupper is one, as is the Hot Chip Dub Edit of “Sunset People,” the Gigamesh Remix of “Bad Girls” and the Afrojack Remix of “I Feel Love.”
On his full-length debut True (Island), Avicii (aka Tim Bergling) is this year’s David Guetta, but so much betta (if you will). Like Guetta, Avicii employs guest vocalists, but what he does with them is far more compelling.Opener “Wake Me Up” finds modern soul singer Aloe Blacc in a country bar, complete with acoustic guitar and electronic beats; disco for the NASCAR set. The country/club theme continues on “Hey Brother,” featuring vocals by Dan Tyminski (of Alison Krauss and O, Brother Where Art Thou? fame) and the addictive “Addicted To You,” sung by southwestern songbird Audra Mae. Avicii breaks up the mountaintop momentum with hardcore dance-floor workouts such as “Dear Boy,” the ballroom blitz of “Shame On Me,” Adam Lambert’s stand-up performance on “Lay Me Down” and the twisted retro soul screamer “Liar Liar.”
Kaleidoscopic pop band Grouplove begins its second disc Spreading Rumours (Atlantic) with the exuberant “I’m With You,” a song that not only summons Philip Glass but also has a kick-ass dance beat, perfect for hippies and hipsters alike. “Borderlines & Aliens” arrives on a funk-rock flotation device and “Ways To Go” does go a long way in promoting the electro-funk cause. “Shark Attack” has teeth, “Sit Still” makes it impossible to sit, still or otherwise and “Raspberry” is tart and tangy.
When Lady Gaga’s influences are discussed, people invariably mention Madonna, as well as Grace Jones and Cyndi Lauper. But what about Terri Nunn of Berlin? Known for her interesting hair styles, not to mention distinctive fashion sense, Nunn also knew her way around a dance track. Nunn, and a new Berlin line-up, returns with Animal (Something-Music/Fontana), the first studio disc of new material in more than 10 years. Whether Nunn and her Berlin mates were listening to Lady Gaga or vice versa, Animal is a purebred EDM creature. Propulsive songs such as “With The Lights On,” “Nice To Meet You,” “Don’t Make Me Regret It,” “Secrets,” “Break The Chains,” “Somebody To Love” and the title tune would all fit comfortably alongside Gaga on any playlist.
On its second album, More Than Just A Dream (Elektra/Dangerbird), Fitz & The Tantrums expands and updates its repertoire to move in a dance-oriented direction. Opener “Out of My League,” from which the disc’s title is drawn, is a soul dance sensation. The dance mood is maintained on the thumping “The Walker” and the vintage disco of “Last Raindrop,” as well as the dizzying “MerryGoRound” and “Break The Walls.”