TOP TEN LISTS: Anti-Valentine’s Day Songs

Not everyone is in the mood to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Here are some dance songs to remind you why..

1. Aqua – “Like A Robot”

While Aqua’s second single off their upcoming new album, Megalomania, is technically “Playmate to Jesus”, there’s just something about “Like A Robot” that draws us in. Fans of Aqua will note the mature content of the track, the hook of the track resting firmly on the question “So why do you still f*** me like a robot?” Yes, Lene is explicit in her delivery of this quintessential question that plagues many relationships. Musically, the track in on par with the mainstream, most familiarly sounding like Britney’s “Up N’ Down” bonus track from Femme Fatale. Nothing wrong with this, as “Up N’ Down” is a sizzling club track, and given the right remix, “Like A Robot” will tear dance floors up. Mature content makes Aqua relavent for 2011, no matter how much fun their return single “How R U Doin'” was.

2. Robyn – “Call Your Girlfriend”

Anyone who is a Robyn fan has heard this song. The emotion and caring in her voice really carries through on “Call Your Girlfriend”. She wants him to dump his girlfriend in favor of herself as their relationship has blossomed while his existing one has withered. And Robyn cares, she sympathizes, and she would want her man to let her down the same way. She wants him to be honest and up front without damaging her self-esteem and letting her know it will be better over time, and she does it all on top of a captivating electro-pop production that marks every burst of emotion with a splash of sound. The way Teddybears’ bandmate Klas Ahlund drags her voice into the music itself, diminishing it from her own vocals into an electronic instrument of its’ own, is worth the price of admission alone. Early stages of a mix by Kaskade can be found by those with the time for Easter eggs, but until a full mix is posted we’ll just say that it sounds promising.

3. Clare Maguire – “The Shield and the Sword”

We have a heavy hitter for you today. Sporting a send-off track with grand orchestra sweeps and a rolling drum rhythm, Clare Maguire pulls the heartstrings with “The Shield and the Sword”. Riding on the wave of hugely successful female singers like Florence + The Machine and Adele, Clare Maguire’s deep smoky vocals and organic musicality are a welcome breath of fresh air. The comparison to Adele is strong, as well, and pointed out by Maguire in the video. Of course, not only does the cinematic video draw obvious comparisons to “Rolling in the Deep”, but Maguire also mimics Katy Perry and Lady Gaga wonderfully. Perhaps that bigger than life approach to pop music appeals to electronic producers, because “Shield and the Sword” has been reimagined in a plethora of ways. From Almighty’s energetic house production to the lo-fi Amateur Best mix, then on to the more adventurous stylings of Teenage Fantasy and LoadStar, if you’ve never heard of Clare Maguire, now is the time to sit up and take notice.

4. Beth Ditto – “I Wrote The Book”

Beth Ditto seems intent on reviving the 90’s alone. With a pure diva house sound (can’t you imagine her popping out of nowhere to seduce with this song out at a big club somewhere?) and a video straight out of Madonna’s playbook, Beth lays a 1-2 punch with “I Wrote The Book”. Produced by Simian Mobile Disco, the track shows a huge chasm between her work with The Gossip and this smoother, sleeker, more seductive electronica sound. Her vocals alone show a difference as with The Gossip, it was about belting at the top of her lungs to some truly infectious pop rock versus her understated but still as talented performance here. “I Wrote The Book” is a track dedicated to the pitfalls and high marks of relationships. Revenge, regret, secrets, crying, forgiveness, she’s done it all. Remember, Ditto wrote every trick in the book, so don’t test her.

5. Neon Hitch – “Get Over U”

Written by Sia and produced by Benny Blanco (so that’s a hell of a pedigree right there), this a kiss off anthem that feels completely mournful and yet hands-in-the-air triumphant at the same time, which is a strenuous balancing act. I love the shuffly drum accents at the end of the rhythm loop, and the breakdown-and-bridge on this song is MASSIVE. It pumps a lot of energy, but never feels frenetic or desperate. And Hitch’s vocals can veer from little-girl breathy to pop coo in a heartbeat (imagine Christina Amphlett’s little sister). The kick drum is urgent, but never overwhelming, and when the synth crashes happen, they’re like something ethereal breaking through. More, please…

6. Frankmusik ? “Better Off As 2”

You couldn’t get more buzz on a debut male electropop artist if you tried. Last year’s 3 Little Words EP started people talking about Frankmusik, a 23-year-old college drop out who writes, produces and performs his own form of electronic dance music. Frame of reference – imagine the guy that Robyn and Lady Gaga were fighting over decided to do his own album. The first official single “Better Off As Two” is a breakup song that is equal parts vintage New Order and Pet Shop Boys with a 2008 pop edge. Yes, it’s that brilliant and you will want to purchase his album Complete Me.

7. La Roux – “Bulletproof”

When we mentioned “Quicksand” by La Roux, we referred to them as an electropop duo. With the release of “Bulletproof,” I think its more fair to call them a synthpop duo as it sounds like a modern day Human League/Vince Clark/Flock of Seagulls track. No matter what you call them, they’ve created one of the most brilliant pop records of the year which debuted at #1 on the UK pop chart. The video is incredibly eye catching – almost like a modern day Swatch commercial art that was directed by Piet Mondrian. For the US, label Cherrytree has wisely enlisted Dave Aude and Morgan

8. MSTRKRFT featuring John Legend – “Heartbreaker”

Taken directly from the electronica A&R playbook, when a dance act is ready for mainstream crossover success – enlist the talents of a mainstream vocalist. The Canadian duo MSTRKRFT (say it like Mastercraft-they removed the vowels,) have been touring relentlessly with a combination live show and dj set. Their fusion of rock and electronic sounds have gained a following in the hipster scene with original productions as well as remixes for Justice, Crystal Method and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I am guessing that John liked their remix of his track “Greenlight” and signed on for vocal duties for this 80s feeling synthpopy followup to thier party anthem “Bounce.” Watch out for remixes by Laidback Luke, Wawa and Joachim Garraud on dancefloors everywhere.

9. Bodyrox & Luciana “Shut Your Mouth”

“Hands up, shoot you down” exclaims Luciana over this new energetic electro-house jam from the Bodyrox crew. While you can definitely tell its a Bodyrox tune with their nearly trademark sound, the flavor of old rave a la Calvertron is clearly in effect as an influence, a continuation of their development from “Brave New World.” With the massive amount of records flooding the market each week, this is the first tune of 2010 which grabs the DJ, shakes him by the ears and screams “Play Me!” Hands up, yes indeed.

10. FoxxJazell – “Split Enz”

“Split Enz” is kind of amazing, imagine the offspring of Uncanny Alliance and Lady Gaga making flowing futuristic over a hiphouse beat. Comparing relationships to hair is always an interesting writer’s convention, whether you are washing the man right out of your hair or going back to your roots. With Chris Rock’s documentary Bad Hair fresh in the collective consciousness, “Split Enz” seems even more timely. Already danceable in its original mix, a cute electro mix by the Perry Twins really toughens it up for the club. The video, well, it is as colorful and energetic as Miss FoxxJazzell is herself.

11. Make the Girl Dance – “Kill Me”

The Frenchmen behind “Baby Baby Baby,” return with what seems like a response track. This time sung in English, rather than a song about a girl who wants everything, the vocals are about hedonists spoken over a rocking electro beat. Like the previous single, the video seems to be the main focus. The clip answers the question “What would you do if you only had 8 days left to live?” The hedonistic journey takes them to New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas on a drunken, drug fueled binge full of sex, skating and tattoos. Granted it is not a bad way to end your life (or spend $30,000 dollars), I do wonder if dolls qualify for protection from child abuse. This video (and song) is definitely Not Safe For Work.

12. Erik Hassle – “Hurtful”

Leave it to the Swedes to unleash another incredible pop singer/songwriter on us. “Hurtful” has been bubbling around as a Coldplay-ish pop rock since 2008. I first heard the song on a demo and knew it would be back again. The DC Breaks mix, which is actual more drum and bass sound, was the first remix I heard recently and I was blown away by how incredible Erik’s vocals and lyrics resonated with the more aggressive electronic production. The Roqwell & ISancho mix goes a bit more progressive while the Wideboys mix is the commercial electro sound that we all know and love. “Hurtful” is such a strong song that it will work in any genre.

 

TOP TEN LISTS: House DJs

Our favorite DJs spinning and producing house music all around the world.

1. Roger Sanchez

Roger Sanchez is not only the DJ’s DJ but the producer’s producer. Constructing his entire new CD Come With Me from scratch, with outside assistance, he proves his skills as engineer, producer, programmer, and songwriter. Inspired by the dance Mecca island of Ibiza, the CD has already spawned several club anthems, with many more to come. To experience him as a DJ, check out his recently released mixed CD Release Yourself 5, his podcasts and radio shows, or live, as he spins all over the globe.

2. Frankie Knuckles

Godfather of House Frankie Knuckles doesn’t really need an introduction. His nights spinning at The Warehouse in Chicago during the late 70s and early 80s is where the term “house music” came from. Recipient of the first Grammy for remixer of the year, he has worked on just about every important soulful vocalist in the past 20 years – Diana Ross, Patti Labelle, Michael Jackson, Mary J. Blige, Natalie Cole, Chaka Khan, Luther Vandross, and Patti LaBelle just to name a few.

3. Gavin Hardkiss

Since 1990 Gavin Hardkiss has been one of the biggest players in the American dance music industry. Alongside his siblings Robbie and Scott, Gavin has served as a label-boss, performance act and Disc Jockey; promoter and a key industry figure. Any devoted fan of house music has been following his career while increasingly seeing his name appearing in tracklistings and on playbills around the globe.

4. Murk

Basslines too deep and dark for Talla 2XLC’s bog. Hi-hats that ring out like some particularly funky species of frog, punching through the night. And those synth hooks riding atop the groove like a painted harlot. These are the three basic components of the Murk sound, and over ten years later it still is emblematic of the primal incarnations of house and body music. In their own words, ladies and gentlemen, Murk boys Ralph Falcon and Oscar Gaetan?

5. Deep Dish

Grammy Award-winning remix team Deep Dish (Ali ?Dubfire? Shirazinia and Sharam Tayebi) have earned their well-deserved international reputation as one of the best remixer and live DJ teams – chosen as Best International DJ by Muzik Magazine and ranked highly on DJ Magazine’s World’s Top 100 DJs reader poll.

6. Armand Van Helden

It seems that Armand Van Helden has been out of the spotlight for a while, sticking to the underground scene. Fast forward to 2004 and Armand releases New York: A Mix Odyssey, a truly unique and ground-breaking mixed CD compilation blending 80s dance music from Yaz, Soft Cell and Blondie with his current productions. His new productions “Hear My Name,” “My My My,” and “Let Me Lead You” remind us of the brilliance of “You Don’t Know Me” and “Witchdokta.”

7. Junior Vasquez

If there is a person in dance music who needs no introduction, it is Junior Vasquez. As styles change and people come and go, Junior Vasquez stands singularly as one of our legends who continues to spin and produce music that clubland loves.

8. Robbie Rivera

He’s Juicy and Wicked and likes Sex while getting his Funk-a-tron on, so how else do you describe the multitalented DJ and producer Robbie Rivera? With his new mixed compilation Wicked in stores and distribution through respected indie Subliminal, Robbie has a lot to hum about.

9. Joey Negro (aka Dave Lee)

Whether you call him Joey Negro, Jakatta or one of the Hed Boys, Dave Lee is well known as one of roots of the British house and garage scene. With countless productions and remixes in every DJ?s set, he manages to find the best music for his compilations and DJ sets while exploring his musicality with diverse and soul-satisfying projects. His new set Kings of Disco, with Dmitri from Paris, is just the latest gift he has given to house music lovers worldwide.

10. Ben Watt

Artist turned DJ – it almost sounds cliched, doesn’t it? In the case of Ben Watt, the transition from Everything But the Girl to Buzzin’ Fly is more of a logical artistic growth. The recent release of Buzzin’ Fly Volume 3 is a testament to the music that Ben Watt continues to produces and find for the househeads of the world.

TOP TEN LISTS: Progressive DJs

What is progressive? Like the way some people define obscenity, you know it when you hear it. Progressive refers more to structure than genre in the way the music builds up in layers leading often to epic tracks.

1. Sasha

Sasha has always been at the forefront of innovation in the DJ community. Following up his critically acclaimed Involver album, Sasha reinvents himself again with his custom-made Maven controller. He recently completed a national tour showing off his new mixing power which launched the recent release of FundacionNYC on Global Underground, his first CD showcasing how he has reinvented himself, yet again?

2. Hernan Cattaneo

The only DJ with two Masters Series releases on Renaissance Recordings, Argentinean native Hernan Cattaneo has steadily climbed up the DJ charts to number six. With one of the most hectic tour schedules one could imagine, he has spun in places like Nashville “Music City USA” Tennessee all the way across the world to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

3. John Digweed

While we all anxiously await the release of Renaissance:Transitions, the new mixed CD from John Digweed, a few of us dancemusic.about.com writers had a viewing party for the Delta Heavy DVD. Needless to say, we had to chat with Digweed about the tour and documentary.

4. Sander Kleinenberg

With his third release in the ever-growing and popular Everybody series, Sander Kleinenberg continues to annihilate dance floors from the Space terrace in Miami to his residency at Crobar New York. We had a chance to talk to Sander after his most recent US stop. He gives insight on the Everybody series, his use of the video mixing, the future of progressive house, and some off-topic items. Everybody loves Sander, for a reason.

5. Gabriel and Dresden

Once you get to remix Madonna, everything changes. After snagging their seventh #1 Billboard Dance Chart Hit with La Ciccone’s Britney Spears collaboration “Me Against the Music” and as their own group Motorcycle (with vocalist Jes) is conquering the world with their track “As The Rush Comes In,” 2004 looks to be another year in which Gabriel and Dresden’s presence at the forefront of dance production and remixing will continue to increase.

6. Ferry Corsten

Ferry Corsten closed the Progressive / Trance lineup at the first South American Music Conference. His appearances in recent months in Buenos Aires have created quite a following, and the 7,000 people that packed into the arena were left with no doubt that the Dutchman will return. Ryan Gawn spoke to Ferry about the conference and his experiences in South America.

7. Darren Christian

Spinning everywhere from Croatia to cruise ships, Darren Christian is building an international reputation for banging tech-house and trance. Branching into production, his work has been championed by all the big-name DJs ensuring his “robotic magic dust” is spreading everywhere.

8. James Zabiela

Between his residency at Club Space in Ibiza and his gigs all over the world, James Zabiela is taking his unique mix of breaks and house to the people. His debut CD ?Sound in Motion? on Hooj Choons was recorded live in one take, showcasing his exceptional mixing skills, tearing up Pioneer CDJ1000s like Technics 1200 for the new millennium.

9. Josh Wink

Integrity and diversity ? two words not often used to describe dance music. As many record labels are struggling to survive in this download economy, Josh Wink and Ovum records thrive by staying true to their musical vision. With a new mixed compilation ?The Fall Collection? highlighting tracks from their ten year catalog, Josh took a break for his insanely busy DJ tour schedule to chat about spinning, producing, and his love of music.

10. Steve Lawler

Since its first release in 1999, Global Underground has been the definitive source for dance music mix compilations from top international DJs. Not only have there been over 25 releases on Global Underground alone, there have also been many successful series such as Prototype, Nubreed and 24:7, just to name a few.