It takes hubris to be a DJ, obviously. The Riddler is riddled by self-serving exaggeration when he speaks of his passion for music that has taken him "far into the music industry." Haven't heard of him? Funny, that. New York may be the epicenter of dance music, but its leading denizens who rarely venture beyond the five boroughs don't become household names simply by association.
The Riddler is an established New York radio disc jockey, and he's an up and coming mix-CD DJ. His latest, Dance Mix NYC -- Vol. 2, is an infectious collection of melodies and up-to-the-minute dance floor numbers, all blended into a seamless mix. Amazingly, of 15 songs there's only one real stinker: the insipid, 11-year-old "You Gotta Believe" by Fierce Ruling Diva. Why burden us with that, when what we want is more delightful, early-house-sounding ear candy like Oris Jay's "Trippin," sung by Delsena? Even those not-so-new songs have not worn out their welcome (yet). And "We Get Together" certainly is welcome. This Hex Hector-Mac Quayle (HQ2) production, sung beautifully by Kim Sozzi, offers a timely, make-love-not-war sentiment. "If we get together, we can change a thing or two...I'd rather spend all of my time trying to make things right." Like Afghanistan. Or bike rides that actually aid AIDS organizations.
The Riddler (a.k.a. Rich Pangilinan) can't help adding his own pseudo-commentary at the start and end of the disc, as is his radio DJ wont. As if he were with you in a New York taxi, touring you around the latest sights in dance music-land, The Riddler warns, "Don't forget to get a receipt from your driver." It's a strange conceit, but at least you won't want a refund. This meter system is scrupulously fair and pleasant. And the music keeps you movin'.
ABBA has refused every offer to regroup, leaving us pining for days gone by and settling for pale imitators. The latest, Alcazar, makes you long for Ace of Base. You may care that the pretty boy in the newest Swede group is gay. But it doesn't make you like it. Casino is to music what Vegas is to culture. Put in a quarter and you'll get a show but no class, and no promise of riches. Alcazar is the poorest of the poor in talent. Almost two-thirds of the album centers on just three songs, presented in their original productions and then each remixed twice. And every other song is a virtual computer-generated remake, or features melodies lazily copied from other songs.
The group's most popular song, "Crying at the Discoteque," [sic] sounds as if it had been stuck in a time capsule, just released after twenty-some years, worse for the wear and a little unhappy about the whole situation. Could someone get Alcazar some Red Bull before they sing again? Maybe throw in some vodka, for feeling? "Paris in the Rain" features the same keyboard and bass riff as Janet Jackson's "All For You" -- it, too, derived from a previous hit -- and that's the only pleasing part of Alcazar's tune. "Don't You Want Me" makes you appreciate the talent -- and you probably never thought that before -- of the Human League, the original group behind the song.
Alcazar is all American Idol earnestness and preening; none of the fun and playfulness of ABBA, another woefully underrated talent. We're all crying at the discotheque now.