Category Archives: Top Ten Lists

SONG OF THE DAY (SUNDAY FUNDAY): Elena ft Glance – Mamma Mia (He’s Italiano)

elena-glance-mamma-mia-470

When I first heard about this summery europop song buzzing overseas, I thought, please not an ABBA or Mayra Veronica cover. Luckily, it is neither, but an original song by Romanian pop singer Elena Gheorghe – best known for her Eurovision entry “The Balkan Girls” and the hit singles “Disco Romancing” and “Midnight Sun.” For Mamma Mia, she moves away from the traditional Romanian pop sound and incorporates an Italian flavor both in the music and blatantly stereotypical lyrics. Hey if Inna can morph into a Latin singer, why can’t Elena become Italian? All this is said in good fun as the song is light, airy, and so catchy that you can’t help but sing along. For club consumption, the Bodybangers have toughened up the beats while keeping the pop vibe intact. For some reason, this sounds like a song that you hear on cruise ships with a dance routine, à la “Macarena” or “Saturday Night.” I thought for sure I would find a clip on YouTube with the official choreography but the colorful and playful video works just as well.

Image Courtesy of Robbins Entertainment.

TOP TEN LISTS: Retakes of a Life – Whitney Houston In the Mix (Top Remixes to Remember Her Music By)

By: Jason Shawhan

Whitney Houston’s music was a gift that she gave for all to hear. But the beauty of her many remixes is that dance music was occasionally able to give back; there is a tension and a vibe in many of the great tracks that reconfigured her voice for late-night consumption by disco light that weren’t always there in her official output. With Whitney, there is always the voice. In the way that every Michael Jackson song was defiantly his (with his proprietary percussive noises and snaps), Whitney’s voice and its arrangements (which she often did herself) made these songs her own. So finding the right sounds to bring That Voice into new realms could sometimes be a challenge.

But as Alba’s timeless anthem says, “Only Music Survives.”

With that in mind, I’d like to take you on a brief tour of some of Whitney’s outstanding moments on the dancefloor. By no means is this comprehensive. These happen to be my favorites. My hope is that it might give you an excuse to re-experience an old favorite, or hear something for the first time you might never have heard before. Regardless, respect to Miss Whitney Houston. Here’s hoping everybody finds that someone to dance with (who loves them). Here they are, in no particular order.

 

  • “My Love is Your Love” (Jonathan Peters)

I’ve never found a middle ground with Jonathan Peters mixes. Dance mixes, by nature, often aim for a middle ground that will attract clubgoers while not pissing off fans of the original song, and if, in the process, they achieve something transcendent and magical, that’s just gravy. Jonathan Peters mixes were never about the middle ground, and sometimes they didn’t work at all. But when they did (Jessica Folker’s “To Be Able To Love,” Luminaire’s “Flower Duet,” Paula Cole’s “I Believe In Love”), it was dazzling. And his mix of “My Love is Your Love” is the first Whitney track I listened to after hearing of her untimely passing. It is cosmic and beautiful, with a lush arrangement. It uses periodic sequences of dissonance to build into the big moments of beauty, and I’m in awe of it, more than a decade on. Of all of the remixes that have been done of Whitney Houston’s songs, this is the one that feels like the perfect blend of artist and new sounds.
Ads

  • “I’m Every Woman” (Clivilles + Cole)

C+C gave a preview of what was to come in the X-Beat era of 90s house music with this track. A double vinyl set with three different ten-minute mixes, the gem here is the Clivilles and Cole House Mix II, which runs through the album version (with some Cathy Dennis pads), drops down to a lounge-y interlude, then kicks in around 6:14 with some serious deep house damage. C+C use some devastating loops and set the tone for what would become the New York sound of much of the 90s- deep, dubby, and cavernous.

  • “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength” (Daddy’s Groove, Peter Rauhofer)

Here was a chance for mixers to use some of the newfound grit in Whitney’s voice. Daddy’s Groove and Peter “The Artist Formerly Known As Club 69” Rauhofer both go for expansive, big room house mixes. But Daddy’s Groove use almost trance-y build-ups, which contrast nicely with Rauhofer’s chilly pinpoint synths. Either way, one sensed the immediacy and importance of the record, Whitney’s first after a long time away.

  • “It’s Not Right (But It’s Okay)”  (Thunderpuss, Johnny Vicious, Direct Hit/Robert Coleman)

Here’s the song that birthed countless remixes and hundreds of drag queens. It’s sassy, confident, and angry, and it’s an instance of dance music making a major step back into the mainstream. Thunderpuss (Hot Tracks’ Chris Cox and Kon Kan’s Barry Harris) mixed this track and knocked it out of the park, until pop radio had to reach out and take notice of what remixing was doing. It was a remarkable achievement for them, and a nice turn of events for a song that initially started out as the B-side to Houston’s “Heartbreak Hotel.”

But Thunderpuss was just one of the many mixes of this track. Peter Rauhofer (as Club 69) did a mix, KCC did a bootleg that ended up being picked up by Houston’s label, Arista, and there was a bootleg that got played in my club of choice at the time that mixed Whitney’s vocals with “Got the Groove” by SM Trax. So there was a lot of ground to be covered here.

Direct Hit, one of the remix services at the time, did a mix of the track for their Sector series that married Whitney’s voice with a track built on the syncopated relentless handclaps-and-synth-cowbells of Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” and some killer organ stabs from the Alex party records. It was a great assemblage of 80s and 90s sounds and it was the most fun of all of that era’s mixes. Robert Coleman, who did the mix, crafted something very special indeed.

But remember what I said about this being an angry song? Well, Johnny Vicious lived up to his name on this mix, and he created something unique. Clubland was moving away from the clanky Tribalism of the X-Beat sound and into the big room Circuit Party vibe. Vicious found a way to blend the clashy pummel of those X-Beat beats with the massive synth noises that drove the circuit sound, and he built a monster out of them for this song. I remember when the promo 12” singles went out, and one was advised to let the whole, 13+ minute Johnny Vicious Momentous Mix play out for maximum effect.

And it was like nothing else. Vicious’ mix brought the anger at the heart of this song front and center, taking one of Whitney’s anguished side notes from the breakdown and making it part of the musical backbone of the piece. The drop out at 6:44 is sublime, building itself back up into a completely different attack on the synth sequences. But even that plaes to the moment of drama he’s got in store… At 11:10, when he brings out the defiant rejoinders of the song “pay my own rent,” etc., it hits hard. And then at 11:32, he goes into a sustained note that sinks into your spine and you get the emotional heart of this song in such a visceral way that you just have to say “Damn.”

  • “Million Dollar Bill” (Freemasons)

A lovely poolside margarita of a song. I’d always wanted to hear what would happen when James Wiltshire would finally get to remix a Whitney track, and the end results are just beautiful. I like to remember in this kind of joyful place.

  • “I’m Your Baby Tonight” (Yvonne Turner)

Slightly housified from one of the first female, and most unheralded of full-on remixers. This was big enough to become the standard album version outside of North America. It was 1990, so a world that embraced “Vogue” would definitely feel inclined to accept house beats from its biggest names. Yvonne Turner would also remix tracks by Yazz & The Plastic Population, Lisa Stansfield, and Oleta Adams.

  • “I Look to You” (Giuseppe D)

Giuseppe D always has a gift for contrasts, and here, he finds a lush and supportive synth sound to elevate Whitney’s vocals, occasionally stripping things down to the gentle piano that periodically runs counterpoint. There are a lot of things happening in the track, but always in service of the song and its emotions. This is one of D’s best mixes, easily up there with Lutricia McNeal’s “Stranded” (which, if you don’t know it, you need to remedy that).

  • “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” (The KLF, DJ Earlybird)

This is the track that made the Roland TR-808’s synth cowbell sound immortal. The original dance mix, by Steve Thompson and Michael Barbiero (a-ha’s “The Sun Always Shines on TV,” Jennifer Rush’s “Heart Over Mind,” Madonna’s “Open Your Heart”), as was customary at the time, didn’t stray too far from the original version, and was a massive hit in clubs, on the radio, and in boomboxes.

Almost immediately, it popped up again in a rather unexpected place. The KLF, or, as they were then known, The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (or, furthermore, The JAMMs), made a track out of house beats, orchestra hits from Isaac Hayes’ “Theme from Shaft,” bits of the Mission: Impossible theme, and heaping chunks of Whitney’s recording of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” Known as “Whitney Joins The JAMMs,” the end result managed to not result in too many lawsuits, and it also put Whitney’s voice into some underground places it might not ordinarily end up.

A few years back, DJ Earlybird did a mash-up of Whitney with Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” which is a great record to throw on at a party. There’s an alternate version that brings Sean Paul into the mix, but I prefer keeping it focused on my divas. Call me old-fashioned…

  • “Same Script, Different Cast” (Jonathan Peters)

This remix is what a knock-down drag-out war between divas and synthesizers would sound like. Frenetic, busy, overwrought, and always getting higher and louder until finally everything explodes- and it is never anything less than enthralling. The last chorus, where everything modulates up again- it’s madness, but it all works. Sometimes in a remix, less is more. This is not one of those times. Recognizing the kitchen sink attributes of the duet, Peters and his team went all-out. This remix shines like a mushroom cloud made out of mirrored disco ball panels. Whitney and Deborah Cox’s vocal performances here were simply titanic. You have to go back to the 70s, to Donna Summer and Barbra Stresiand’s “No More Tears (Enough is Enough),” to find that kind of take-no-prisoners diva power.

  • “Peace and Harmony will Save The Day” (DMC/Kevin Sweeney)

“Peace and Harmony” was originally an Italo-inspired Brothers in Rhythm track that sampled a couple of lines from Whitney’s “Love Will Save The Day” and matched them to a new Dina Carroll vocal. Fortunately, DMC decided to fully bring in Whitney’s vocals, and the end result is hands-in-the-air Italo at its most ebullient. As with the Sector Mix of “It’s Not Right,” it’s fun to hear mixes which place Whitney’s voice in the context of 80s club sounds that would have been a bit too much for her image at the time.

  • “You’ll Never Stand Alone” (Jimmy from Jersey)

Often misattributed to genius remixer James “Jimmy Gomez” Wiltshire (who did later remix Whitney as part of the Freemasons), this unofficial take by underground mixer Jimmy from Jersey (Lebo M’s “He Lives in You,” Faithless’ “Hour of Need”) is simple and direct and it works beautifully.

  • “How Will I Know” (Divide & Kreate, Junior Vasquez)

Whitney’s breakthrough uptempo hit was initially remixed by Jellybean Benitez, the man who turned countless records into nightclub smashes in the 80s (E.G. Daily’s “Love In The Shadows,” Maria Vidal’s “Body Rock,” Alphaville’s “Jet Set,” as well as tracks by Divine, The Talking Heads, Fleetwood Mac, and producing Madonna’s “Holiday”). But it didn’t get supremely turned out beyond its original, recognizable form until 2000’s Greatest Hits collection. In what was widely seen as a controversial move by much of the industry, all of Whitney’s uptempo hits were presented in remixed form. This pissed a lot of people and fans off, but it served as a remarkable show of thanks from Whitney to her fans in the dance music community. Among the new mixes done for that project were several “Junior Vasquez” mixes, including a remarkable take on “How Will I Know.” It was bouncy, big room house, but with all of the fun and joy of the original song kept intact and, in fact, amplified. Using the background vocals as a counterpoint in the intro even added some great tension to the song, and it stands as one of the greatest achievements on that compilation.

Immediately after Whitney’s passing, an a cappella of this song started making its way around the Internet. It was a pristine example of Whitney’s voice and what it could do, but it also posed the question to at-home producers and mixers throughout the world “What can you do with this?” Sweden’s Divide & Kreate (they made that amazing Kanye West/The Knife mash-up a few years back) put Whitney’s vocals over the magical, melancholy track of Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own” and made something unearthly; they find the melancholy in the song and turn it into something even more than it was before.

TOP TEN LISTS: Valentine’s Day Songs 2012

Some special songs to help celebrate Valentine’s day with the one you love.. instead of a dozen roses, here’s a top 10 of love songs you can dance to..

1. Cosmic Gate ft Emma Hewitt – “Be Your Sound”

I was talking to a friend the other day about the recent rerelease of Utah Saint’s “What Can You Do For Me.” The original version sampled Annie Lennox and conversation turned to their massive hit “Something Good” which sampled Kate Bush. We wondered what it would sound like if Kate Bush was making electronic records today? “Be Your Song” by Cosmic Gate and Emma Hewitt might just be the answer. “In a world gone silent, I’ll be your sound” sung by Emma in her ethereal yet powerful voice over the thumping track with the gorgeous breakdown is just about magical. If you haven’t listened to Cosmic Gate’s album Wake Your Mind, you don’t know what you’re missing.

2. Bitrocka ft Sushi “Give Me the Love”

Don’t you hate it when you hear a melody and it gets stuck in your head? Something that is so addicting that you have to keep going back to listen to it again and again? For this wonderful aural version of crack cocaine, check out Bitrocka’s debut single “Give Me the Love.” You might know Bitrocka from his remixes of Kylie Minogue, Freemasons, and Sugababes though Sushi is a newcomer to the scene (not the Sushy who sang Ben DJ’s “Me and Myself” and DAB’s “Grease.”) “Give Me the Love” is straight-up pop dance with elements of progressive and a few samples that sounds strikingly familiar (is that a touch of Michelle Williams “We Break the Dawn” that I hear?) The key change in the second part of the verse (:16 – :34) is what blows my mind – I feel like looping it over and over again. We wrote about this track back in May and it has finally been picked up by the wise people at 925 Music. New mixes from Miss Nine, Oxford Hustlers and Proluctors should expand the buzz started by the tastemakers at Gaydar radio who were the first to tip the hot track. Watch out for this one..

3. Chris Willis – “Too Much In Love”

“Are You Gonna Go My Way”? Wait, this is Chris Willis, yanking the intro from the classic Kravitz song as the strongest aspect of his new track, “Too Much In Love”. Willis’ voice is almost a staple in male-fronted house music and this rock aspect to his style is quite a stylistic and welcome shift from the smoother stuff he was doing with Guetta. Of course, the last time Willis paired up with Guetta got him major airplay on the radio with “Gettin’ Over”, so don’t knock it if it works. But “Too Much In Love” has that welcome familiarity to it that comes with sampling a classic, and Kravitz should be flattered that his timeless classic is sampled in such an engaging way.

4. Kyven – “Higher Love”

Kyven dives into fun with “Higher Love”. This man has been working nonstop to release a deluge of entertaining material. Previously Kyven has worked with Serge Devant on the tracks “Part of Me” and “Surround U”, but “Higher Love” definitely lifts from those depths to embrace something more upbeat, friendlier, that lets the singer really lift his voice. “Higher Love” is what it is, an effervescent and entertaining foray into the kind of summer pop that makes mainstream crossover look easy. He may be a little late for summer, but Kyven’s voice and beats should last well into winter on dance radio. So keep your ears tuned, “Higher Love” is aiming for higher exposure and worthy of your attention.

5. Clokx – “Catch Your Fall”

Dutch producer Clokx, originally known for the dance cover of Coldplay’s “Clocks” (hmm…the naming may be a stretch here…) hit up 2011 hard with the entrancing “Catch Your Fall”. Eurodance with a female singer? Check. But aspects of “Catch Your Fall” sound similar to Divine Inspiration’s “The Way” as well as David Guetta’s “When Love Takes Over”, giving this track the right amount of nostalgic “oomph” to get it some attention. The singer’s voice is steady and clear, tying up this nice little package with a big fat happy dm.a.c seal of approval. Give this a spin in your car, on your Ipod, on your floor…wherever works. It’ll entertain.

6. Mysto & Pizzi ft Jonny Rose – “Where Is Love (Love is Hard to Find)”

An ongoing pursuit of male-fronted club music yields the gem of “Where Is Love”, voiced by the emotional Jonny Rose and created by remix team Mysto & Pizzi. The Coldplay-esque production of “Where Is Love” supports Rose’s voice in a collision of uplifting sounds and thumping beats, suggesting you just go ape-nuts crazy on the dance floor when the track finally breaks. It is always refreshing when a familiar yet periphery name drops a track like “Where Is Love”, forcing you to remember that you don’t need a big name for a big song.

7. Zoe Badwi – “Accidents Happen”

If Zoe Badwi proves only one thing with her newest song, “Accidents Happen”, it’s that the singer has a bag of tricks and she ain’t anywhere close from emptying that thing out. The variety that comes across in her music makes each single a refreshing listen and her voice is engaging and clear. “Accidents Happen” may sound cheesy from a singer that lacks the capabilities of Zoe, her voice hitting spots where it sounds raw and unpolished. The music sounds similar to Wynter Gordon’s “Dirty Talk” enough that a mashup might be hot. Accidents do happen, but in Badwi’s case, it’s all due to careful planning and a damn hot bag of tricks.

8. Marc JB vs Peyton – “Keep Believin'”

What do you get when you cross half of Bimbo Jones with the finest male vocalist in club land? The answer would be the effervescent future club smash “Keep Believin'” by Marc JB vs Peyton. Peyton has an incredibly powerful voice and for this song he manages to use an almost staccato cadence for the verse (similar to Chocolate Puma’s “Always and Forever”) and go completely gospel for chorus. The production is also opposite between a seemingly electro verse contrasted by a hooky piano verse that wouldn’t be out of place on a Loveland or italo classic. Combining all these divergent elements could be a mess left to a less talented (and experienced) musician, but in the expert hands of producer Marc JB (of Bimbo Jones), he elevates the different parts to create what could be an anthemic club classic. Additional remixes by Max Jackson, ku ka chu, and Van Hej are good and will appeal to many djs, but to my ears the original mix is where its at.

9. Penny Foster – “Closer To Love”

Robbins just keeps chugging out the fantastic dance pop songs. Penny Foster gives us “Closer To Love”, doing her best to sound like Sarah McLachlan remixed. The production does remind of the bass growl of some of Gabriel & Dresden/Motorcycle’s work, but some of the other aspects give the track a spacier feel. “Closer To Love” is one of the strongest Robbins releases in recent memory, topping the beauty of Niamh Egan’s “You’re the One” by a landslide. Whatever remixes support this track will hopefully maintain some of the trancier aspects of the track while continuing to push Foster’s gorgeous voice to the forefront. Can’t wait to see this one take over.

10. September – “Resuscitate Me”

While the production on September’s brand new future hit “Resuscitate Me” may be a bit more streamlined than some of her previous tracks, her obvious talents have been generously employed here. The track retains much of the catchy songwriting that September’s songs have been known for, as well as her tender vocals carrying you from beginning to end. And any track that uses the words “I need love CPR” (think JLS – “Beat Again”) is a track that deserves some attention. Mixes by Buzz Junkies and Moto Blanco are something to look forward to. Welcome back, Petra (loving the haircut).