Soundwaves

Donna Summer and American Idol, Goldfrapp, Simply Red, Eurovision

By Doug Rule
Published on May 20, 2004, 12:00am | Comments

DONNA SUMMER REVIVAL?… Will Jennifer Hudson and La Toya London -- and Fantasia Barrino too, if the worst happens -- get recording contracts after the debacle of this year's American Idol competition? Here's hoping so. But at the moment we're just as interested in a separate, related question: Will Donna Summer try yet again to revive her career? She sure gave it a boost from a terrific, tremendous performance on Idol last week. But is there a place for female baby boomers in pop music these days? That's the million-dollar question of the day. The answer seems to be no, given that first Madonna and now even Janet Jackson can't make a go of it, sales-wise. And despite her still pristine power pipes, Summer hasn't gotten very far in even dance circles in the past year with the new song “You're So Beautiful” or the greatest-hits album it was taken from…

DONNA SUMMER'S LASTING INFLUENCE… Speaking of Summer, her influence is being felt at least twice around the pop charts of late. Most famously, it's her “Love to Love You Baby” that supplies much of the heat to Beyonce‘s latest smash hit, “Naughty Girl.” That song is inching up ever closer to the top of several charts, including the Dance Club Play Chart, which is also home to another Summer-inspired ditty: Goldfrapp's “Strict Machine” takes the chorus and the mechanically precise rhythm of Summer's “I Feel Love” as its starting point in fashioning a bewitching song about man vs. machine (in bed). There's plenty more where that came from on Goldfrapp's Black Cherry, the British group's sophomore album that alternates from soothing chillout to brooding electro in an unexpectedly consistent manner. Just off a U.K. tour opening for Duran Duran, Goldfrapp didn't get nearly as much attention in the U.S. as it deserved upon the album's release last year. Here's hoping “Strict Machine” continues its quick ascent up the Club Play Chart, and soon the Hot Dance Singles Chart, with the just-released remixes from Victor Calderone, Peter Rauhofer and others…

EUROPOP'S CHICK KIEV… Last week, we mentioned the Eurovision Song Contest, at which the first same-sex married contestant was competing. Well Tomas Thordarson from Denmark didn't make it past the qualifier round. He was two points shy of what he needed to make it to the finals, which instead was dominated by New Europe: newly eligible entry Serbia & Montenegro took second, while Ukraine's Ruslana won the contest. She'll hit the states to tour later this summer, when she'll also release her English-language debut, according to Billboard. On a related note, ABBA won Eurovision 30 years ago this year. And now, 23 years after they split up, not even $2 billion could entice the Swedes to regroup, according to Reuters. Maybe it's just as well, since Bjorn Ulvaeus told the news service: “I cannot remember a whole lyric of any that I have written. I am translating them into Swedish now for the first time because we are doing a production [of Mamma Mia! The Musical] in Sweden at the beginning of next year. I find that I don't know them by heart -- not one of them”...

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Simply Red

American Idol 3

REMIXING'S VIRTUES… Are dance remixes of popular Hot 100 chart hits a fad now coming slowly to an end? Maybe not, judging by the movers and shakers on any week's dance chart. Too many times though these remixes seem to be a marketing ploy for an R&B balladeer to further her career -- or actually sell records. But there is still some value left in the practice; sometimes a remix makes you even appreciate for the first time the slower version of the song. Take “Fake” by Simply Red. (Yes the “Holding Back the Years” band is still around today but you haven't heard from them in part because they're without a label.) Buried as it was among mellow, dull tracks on Mick Hucknall & Co.'s self-released album from last year, Home, “Fake” went unnoticed until we recently stumbled on its CD Maxi-Single, where Love 2 Infinity draws out the angst in the song's meaning. Love 2 Infinity's Classic Mix features dramatic keyboard strokes, all the more powerful because of their simple three-note back-and-forth pattern. After that -- and the pleasant disco vibe of Phunk Investigation's Exte Club Mix -- draws your attention, listen to the mid-tempo, Motown-inspired original, and also give renewed attention to the radio edit of the song. Its simple two-chord piano flourishes was the clear inspiration for Love 2 Infinity, and that simple melody adds layers of mixed emotions to the pining lyrics. As shocking as it sounds, the slow-tempo radio edit turns out to move us more, in the end.

Unfortunately, “Fake” isn't the Simply Red track just finishing a high-profile run on the Billboard Dance Chart. (It did that a couple months ago, reaching the chart's peak.) And the group's remake of the R&B ballad “You Make Me Feel Brand New” proves a different point entirely. No matter how much a remixer -- even an obviously great one, like Love 2 Infinity -- may try to transform a lackluster original song to make it at least tolerable if not enjoyable, sometimes it just doesn't work. I don't understand how the just plain awful “Brand New” remixes made it as high as No. 5 on the dance chart, but fortunately that's as high as it got. Here's hoping we never again have to suffer through its utterly cheesy emoting. “God bless me and you,” indeed…


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