The inimitable Jamie Rack dives deep into this summer's top dance numbers. "So, why write about it here? It could be argued that more than mere bars, taverns or saloons, dance clubs offer the most immersive analogue to church experience."
"Out of sight, out of mind" has at least one parallel in the sonic realm. Not getting to a bookstore to regularly read music trade publication Billboard for several years now and the unfortunately understandable demise of DiscoMusic.com (the owner/webmaster has other things in life to do) are but two of the factors that have kept me out of the current club music loop.
So, why write about it here? It could be argued that more than mere bars, taverns or saloons, dance clubs offer the most immersive analogue to church experience. Some of the most famous and influential discotheques of the past have names such as Paradise Garage, The Saint and Heaven. A website memorializing one '80s label specializing in hi-NRG--a glossy, rapid-tempo'ed electronic disco permutation favored by many clubs catering to male homosexual clientele--spoke of worshiping at a particular San Francisco club, and that kind of language isn't uncommon elsewhere. Sexually dysphoric and otherwise socially estranged African-American youths resistant to finding solace and nurture in their local Missionary Baptist, Church Of God In Christ, or African Methodist Episcopal congregation have often enough thrived in and contributed to dance club culture. The spirited, emphatically rhythmic sounds emanating from those churches' nurturing soul gospel music make for one of the earliest building blocks in the '70s emergence of disco and the subsequent genres stemming from it.
Some gospel and contempo' Christian acts with the proper focus of promotional muscle--and maybe a killer remix or three--behind them have been embraced by Billboard's reporting club jocks fondly enough to make the chart. Others have received acclaim from further underground, and likely still more could have were they better marketed or hindered by cheesy packaging.
But back to the present. The spoiler alert for this overview of a conflation of the July 29 and August 5 2017 Top Dance Club Songs charts as found at Billboard.com doesn't contain songs wherein an even remotely explicit gospel or biblical lyrical impulse may be be heard. Most artists also on the week's pop radio tally aren't coming coming under my critique, but the one exception will make sense to anyone who has followed my writing here in the past. And in the interest of time, I'm mostly listening to the original mixes of the songs covered here; those are the ones most likely to have music videos, too, and we're already clear on the importance of visuals, yes?
Let's get boogying already, shall we?...
49) Beautiful Terminator-Fantastiques
There's next to nothing to be known from the interweb about this expansive tech-house track; its video, featuring a few seconds of a lady who may or may not be seeming to be singing of a femme fatale who is personally advantageous to know, offers no real help either, what with its bountiful shots of V.U. meters, sound boards, sine waves, geometric bric-a-brac and a stylized Earth and its surrounding universe. Call it an extension of the glamorous anonymity of so many '70s disco productions, whereby the personality of the music is the most relatable element with which a dance floor denizen can identify. It's probably the kind of thing that may bug today's poptimists much as it did the "Disco Sucks" rockists of '79. Too bad. Whatever gal is all about, she's selling it.
If Radio Disney's top 30 is still available online I'll be dogged (moused?) if I can find it. That's a pertinent quest since this flaxen-haired, co-ed quintet of mostly siblings record for Disney-affiliated Hollywood Records, and this frothy nugget of poppy filtered disco, neither a Bread nor Janet Jackson remake per the title, sounds like it could have been a must-add to RD. But how friendly to the service's core tween demographic are lyrics that mention whiskey and Coke in the first couplet and the protagonist says he has no identity apart from being half of a couple? If all that makes for a dose of darkness, the poolside and nocturnal club frolicking looks to be G-rated. But not much Disney output has been middle schooler-appropriate for a while now anyway, right?
43) I Am Peaceman-Sir Ivan featuring Debbie Gibson
It's easy to admire Ivan "Sir Ivan" Wilzig's foolhardy move to leave his Auschwitz survivor father's multi-billion dollar business banking firm and reinvent himself by donning a superhero cape and recording Eurodance tracks that reflect the peacenik philosophy that could reasonably derive from a heritage wherein one of your parents withstood one of the greatest atrocities of the 20th century. That he inaugurated his singing career with a rendition of John Lennon's infamously secular "Imagine" signals how his mindset doesn't necessarily welcome Christian listeners. The video for a later single, "Kiss All The Bullies Goodbye," revolves around teens harassing transgendered peers being zonked by beams shooting from Ivan's eyes, rendering them more accommodating to their sexually confused classmates. "I Am Peaceman" isn't quite as contentious, but at least equally ridiculous. Wilzig's at best adequate singing could charitably be deemed part of his charm;he would have done well to have let Debbie Gibson, the '80s popster renowned for having written and produced a bunch of her hits before she was old enough to vote, do more of the heavy lifting vocally. And the encouragement for listeners to turn their guns into peace signs? Here's guessing the good Sir doesn't let the castle he calls home go without armed guards. But whatever royalties this garble of good intentions earns from streaming and and downloads are going to a Chicago hospital's psychiatry department to benefit the treatment of gun violence victims' post-traumatic stress disorder. So, yay for that, I guess.
35) Flawless-Dr. Miami & Adam Barta Featuring Talia & Roro
Showing off by looking good at a discotheque predates John Travolta's snazzy white Saturday Night Fever suit by a fair while. Adam Bartha's cheeky advocacy for plastic surgery to make club-goers' good looks more than sartorial seems to me aboutas irresponsible as the coke spoon-wielding cartoon moon that hung at Studio 54. His snide, artless rapping only makes this ode to the utmost in narcissism more insufferable.
30) Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now Dirty Pop Featuring Taylor Olson & Jackie Orlando
It may still be going on but there was a time in the '90s when the cheapo racks at the dance-oriented records shops near me were littered with generic pop house cover versions of recent top 40 radio hits. I bought one of Bob Carlisle's "Butterfly Kisses," possibly the least apt combination of schmaltzily lyrics and music signifying hedonism of some level or another ever. This run through one of (Jefferson) Starship's '80s simultaneous commercial high marks and aesthetic nadirs may technically be three decades too late, but it would be wholly unsurprising were this burst of faceless can-do optimism to soundtrack a brace of "pride" events earlier this summer.
26-24) Peace, Love & Music-Tracy Young &Ceevox; Turn It Up-Kim Syms; Too Sophisticated- JoAnna Michelle
Divas, divas everywhere! Or at least three in a row. Tracy Young is the DJ/producer to Clara "Ceevox" Marens' singing of the most important things of in her life, however undefined the last two of those are. Still, the gal extols to high heavens the palliative power of the titular non-corporeal entities when the world's troubles threaten to overwhelm her. And is that a a guitar twanging a single note throughout Young's classic house'ness?!
Kym Sims is a classic herself, having had her pop moment with "Too Blind To See It" in '92 amid that era's rush of top 40 dance pop. On "Turn It Up," she rides the kind of sassy jazz-funk sax riff that drove Neneh Cherry's "Buffalo Stance" and other R&B/hip-hop crossovers during the years of G.H.W., Bush's administration. Nothing likely transcendent here, but if the longer mixes work well as the radio edit, you're reading this while someone else is getting their sweat on to it.
The newbie cinches this triptych for me, though. For the chutzpah JoAnna Michelle evinces to rhyme "tool" with "Golden Rule" in the rap comprising the bridge of "Too Sophisticated" and her just aggressive enough moxie-as-self-respect, I can forgive her the first line's sure-to-date-it mention of "Internet trolls" and the underwater-sounding effects that mar the tune's momentum near its cold ending. That she reminds me of a smidgen of a tough, Midwestern iteration of Canadian '70s-'80s disco chanteuse France Joli doesn't hurt, either. A tad cussy, this, but she does reference Scripture, so...?
19) Heart Away From You-DJ Pebbles
As with DJ Rap before her, she who happens be no relation to '80s-'90s R&B singer-turned-preacher Pebbles is a club jock (jockette?) who also sings, models and acts. Her mother is a big name in fashion in their native Australia. And after this 20 year-old, given the name Cartier Lee at birth, moved to New York City to attend acting school, she's snagged American Idol "dawg" man Randy Jackson for her manager. All that money and attention is pushing a singer of coquette-ish vocal charm fronting a burbling groove on her second single. Lyrics sit at the juncture of emotional and sexual vulnerability. The radio edit's video blurs the carnal angle with a plot involving our heroine getting kidnapped, but, like many a female disc spinner, she's not above flaunting some flesh in order to advance her career. I can't speak to her mixing skills, but she's a strong enough singer within her range that she need not post all the bikini shots on her Facebook in order to advance her cause. If that gets her on pop radio in the U.S., though, I won't say it's not for an aesthetically pleasant cause.
13) You, I & The Music-Junior Sanchez
If you didn't get your fill of dancing robots from the Sir Ivan clip, here you go.The visuals serve a possibly lyrically too simple, filtered disco-house workout in the mode of early Daft Punk or Stardust. Nothing out of the ordinary, it could have ended more satisfyingly with a reiteration of what there exists of a chorus, but it's easy to hear this hitting hard from huge, blaring speakers beckoning dancers to a strobe-lit floor.
10) We Get High-Karel Ullner
Finninsh male vocalist/producer/songwriter Karel Ullner trades off singing the same relationally oblique verse with fetching blonde--and fellow Scandinavian?--XoJanni and unite in the chorus that, though speaking of going high into the heavens, seems neither to be about being in the Lord's manifest presence for eternity nor drugs. All that that textual mystery comes packaged in a yearning banger wherein Ullner takes clues from dubstep, trance and glitch house to concoct the sort of dance music that ought to be played on alt rock radio in the better world we don't...yet...inhabit.
9) Only Want You-Skylar Stecker
Once again, my current ignorance of the Radio Disney-scape rears its largely indifferent head, as one of the two official videos for lanky 15 year-old brunette Skylar Stecker's "Only Want You" was shot at this year's Radio Disney Music Awards, which is apparently still, as the kids may yet say, a thing. This isn't her first trip up the chart in question either, though it's likely the first-and hopefully only-one wherein she's wears tops (a black tank in the awards show shoot', a red one-piece bathing suit in the first one) idiotically emblazoned with the title of her current single in plain white block letters. The song itself is some less embarrassing, being about she doesn't want her guy acting like a jerk because he's the only one she wants anyway. She sings it, with the occasional high note that could stand to be less sharp, over the sort of mid-tempo dance pop that I recall populating much of Radio Disney's playlist when I tuned out on RD around the turn of the decade. With some up-ticking in the songwriting and melodic hooks, maybe a bit of vocal coaching and certainly better wardrobe choices, Stecker could fly higher, but this is promising enough. Here's hoping, of course, she doesn't start working blue; we'll soon enough be getting to a former Disneyite comrade of hers who has worked that angle.
6) My Fire-Nile Rodgers & Tony Moran Present Kimberly Davis
Kimberly Davis is singing with the current touring line-up of Chic, so it's natural enough for Nile Rogers, that classic disco band's co-founder, to co-present present "My Fire." His smoothly funky electric rhythm guitar courses through "My Fire." So here's supposing that Tony Moran, best known for his involvement in the '80s Latin freestyle movement that wed tropical Hispanic rhythms to analog and programmed synthesizers fronted by attitude-heavy young adults singing of romantic turmoil in its manifold manifestations, is responsible for more of the electronics here. However the instrumental chores were divvied up, Davis stars brightly in this minor key mover that attests to the singer's own fabulousness and finesse. It's arguably the fiercest track covered in this rundown, but the wide grin Davis flashes in the video takes the edge on how ego-driven "Fire" may otherwise be heard.
3) Malibu-Mylie Cyrus
Leave it to Miley Cyrus to complicate things. Yours truly was one of the first writers in Christian music journalism to fall for the erstwhile Hannah Montanna star being sold as a sister in Him. And, yeah, color me snookered on that account. I jumped ship 2010's iredeemably insubordinate Can't Be Tamed (though there were warning signs aplenty prior to that signaling that gal wasn't likely among the sainted). The surfeits of outright wrongness contained in her real breakthrough as a non-kiddie pop singer, Bangerz and its purposefully oblique successor, Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz more than confirmed my suspicions. But it looks like her forthcoming long-player could be a reinvention for her, as evidenced by the wistful and forlorn "Malibu." In its original form, it's a down tempo turn being compared by some writers to a ruminative Stevie Nicks. It's the first single of hers I've liked for a few years, but with her recent talk of how she's alienated from her femininity and doesn't feel, as Shania Twain might say, like a woman, there's no telling what sort of askew expounding her next album will contain. But her own distorted self-image coalesces well with her longtime support for LGBTQ causes, so dance remixes of "Malibu" serve the pleasure-driven atmosphere of club culture, regardless--though also, oddly, because of--its lyrical content. The first page of YouTube's listing for "Miley Cyrus Malibu Remix" lists 11 different spins on the ditty, so here's Saxena's Deep House retweek of it, sans any saucy shots of the actually quite womanly-looking La Miley, but featuring the lyrics which, here's hoping, signal a maturation the '00s' most-hyped tween idolette.
2) Gltchlife-Taryn Manning
Back in 2003, actress/singer/songwriter/DJ/label owner Taryn Manning and her brother, Kellin released one of my favorite pop radio singles of the year in "The Wreckoning," and the sibling duo's debut album produced other club hits even if the attention given them by Rick Dees, Ryan Seacrest, et al ended after one song. The familial musical partnership lasted for only one more project, but its distaff half has kept intermittently busy on this Billboard chart since them between her movie and TV work. One of her hits there features a video advocating for same-sex unions (amid cinematic scenes of war, ceremonies in Judaism, and other jarring non sequiturs), and in another she sports a tiny inverted cross below one eye, like a gang sign Deicide vocalist Glen Benton might have painted below his peeper. Regardless some of her unfortunate associations by sight, she has kept sounding swell, versatile as her look and ability to keep from being typecast on screen. "Gltchlife," sharing its name with the record company she recently founded switches around the anthemic house and post-disco snappiness of previous solo outings, at least on the video version, for a streamlined implementation of dubstep drops to accompany the kind of harrowing romantic narrative that could be sung by Aimee Mann in a wholly different musical context. And lest nitpickers want to criticize her use of black lipstick, she's dumped the Satanic, or at least explicitly anti-Christian, signifiers.
1) Love Is Love Is Love-LeAnn Rimes
If cable TV channel Logo still runs music videos, the one for this retro-disco thumper by sometimes country/sometimes pop singer LeAnn Rimes must be in its highest rotation. The clip for it starts out with Rimes standing in front of a backdrop emblzoned with the emblem of homophilic advocacy group The Human Rights Fund, talking about how people have to stand, fight, etc. for "love," that being code for couplings regardless couplers' biological sex. From there, the only folks seen' are duos, and the occasional trio, of various skin color and gender combinations jumping around chastely and clothed on a bed while Rimes sings cheery propaganda for, y'know, love. To her credit, she hasn't lost her prowess singing to high beats-per-minute 4/4 rhythms as heard earlier in her career when the dance mix of "How Can I Live" and Coyote Ugly's "Can't Fight The Moonlight" showcased, though she has continued on that path intermittently since then. "Love..."'s rubbery bass line and string charts could almost pass for a club-to-pop crossover from the summer of '79 in the best sense of that sort of nostalgia jonesing. But anyone else remember when Rimes topped this same trade mag's contempo' Christian albums chart with You Light Up My Life (Inspirational Songs). Yeah, I know!, huh? Sigh...