Soundwaves

T.A.T.U., Bowie, Broadway, & a Great Big Johnson,

DIAL 1-900-DIXALOTÂ… From the land of Big Butts comes word of new material (or new ass-ets, as it were). Remember Sir Mix-A-Lot? Eleven years ago, he was unavoidable. The Seattle rapper’s "Baby Got Back" smacked the fashion industry for shunning fat, topped the charts, earned him a Grammy and a ban from MTV. (Apparently some nineties’ nincompoops thought it sexist if anything but beanpoles were the object of desire.) Could it all happen today? Well, we may soon find out if the one-hit-wonder can finally get our attention again. But just what could this Sir sing about now? Don’t think female physical attributes. Mix-A-Lot is not interested in female "full-frontal wedgies" a la Fannypack, the silly pop-rap group with the delirious song, "Cameltoe" ("The only lips I wanna see are the ones that sing"). "Great Big Johnson" is for the ladies — and you know who else — Mix-A-Lot told Rolling Stone. Early reviews have been decidedly mixed about the song (and the album, Daddy’s Home, due September 3), which reportedly features a chorus of women repeatedly singing the adolescent line "Bring black/Bring white/Bring length/Tonight/If not/Bye-bye/We like/We like a great big Johnson."  Should be a big hit in gay circles.

TEMPORARY T.A.T.UÂ….All the things they said has caused many to wonder whether the girls of t.A.T.u. are the Russian lesbians-in-love they were promoted to be. The latest issue of the Advocate explores whether this probable marketing hoax is "good for the gays." It might not matter soon enough anyway. BBC Radio 1 gossips that the manufactured twosome might be calling it quits, just a year into the "relationship." It seems Julia, the brunette, is overpowering Lena in every way, and in bed she’s replaced her with a boy. Sounds like they’re speeding 200km/h in the wrong direction, after all. Let’s jump before they crash, okay?

SEASON OF LOVEÂ… Straight guys certainly squirm more, on average, than gays sitting through Broadway musicals. But aside from the all-the-rage, straight guy-squirm-inducing male nudity of today’s Broadway, little could be more enticing to the gays than if pop-music stars were thrown into the musical plot. And that’s just the stew a-brewin’ in 2003. If you happen to be in New York over the next couple months, you can take your pick from, to name just three: Toni Braxton, starring in Elton John/Tim Rice‘s Aida, Bernadette Peters, perfectly cast in the revival of gay-fave Gypsy, or sometime D.C. resident Franchelle "Frenchie" Davis, who shoulda woulda coulda won this year’s round of American Idol if it weren’t for Fox’s prudishness about her "adult" Web site modeling past. Everybody-loves-Frenchie is part of the Rent cast.



Bowie

Off-Broadway, one intriguing choice for dance-poppers is De La Guarda, where on Thursday nights throughout August not-exactly-known New York DJs (though "first rate" according to the Village Voice) add a booming soundtrack to the show. Show promoter Betty Kang calls it a "total sensory experience that’s about theater as clubbing and clubbing as theater." It’s an interactive experience, featuring a simulated rainstorm as well as a trapeze act that plucks audience members out of their seats (last year Britney Spears was one willing flyer; all 250-pounds of DJ Carl Cox took to the air this year). So obviously what the show may lack in true narrative it more than makes up for in sheer spectacle. See www.delaguarda.dj.

BOWIE GOES BOLLYWOODÂ… David Bowie has a new album, Reality (ISO/Columbia), set for a September 16 release. And while that may please many, we, as danceheads, are most excited by a Bowie development of a different sort. Bowie’s ’80s hits "Let’s Dance" and "China Girl" have been tweaked with Far Eastern flavorings to be included on a greatest-hits package for release in Asia this fall. The Wall Street Journal reported that "Let’s Dance," remixed in Indian Bollywood fashion with tabla drums, sitars and Hindi vocals, is already a hit in European clubs. Jetsetters, are you on the case? Put on your red shoes and dance the blues, and snag a copy for the rest of us to do the same over here.

Doug Rule is a theater critic and contributing editor for Metro Weekly.

Soundwaves

Gay Country music, Gloria Estefan's new album, and more

ISO GAY COWBOYÂ… We reported last month about gay porn star Jeff Stryker‘s coming full-frontal invasion of country music. He will release, with his band, the Soggy-Bottom Boys, a porn-inspired country comedy album in the fall ("Pop You in the Pooper" is the first single). Well, hold on to your trousers cowboys, cause he’s not the only one working to make country music a little bit gayer. Unlike Stryker, though, music songwriter/producer Larry Dvoskin is completely serious: He’s holding open auditions around the country next month in search of "America’s first openly gay country music star," Rolling Stone reports. Why of course it’s all to be eventual fodder for yet another reality TV series. An early ad in a Nashville newspaper said Dvoskin was looking for an "18-23-ish, exceptionally good-looking, extraordinary singer who plays guitar." That criteria may have changed some, but the magazine reports that gay Dvoskin is still looking for "somebody who will be a role model and spokesperson" who can handle homophobic hostility. The search all started as a result of a debate Dvoskin had with a friend about whether country music would accept an openly gay country singer. The experiment begins with an audition in New York August 7Â…

CUBAN-AMERICAN MATRIARCHSÂ… Gloria Estefan hasn’t been heard from, in English, since 1998′s underrated album of dance gems Gloria! (Epic). So it’s with great delight to report that she’s wrapping up a new English-language album to be released at the end of September, and will tour with the new material next year. Billboard magazine reports that Unwrapped (Epic) won’t sound much like any other album from the Latin-pop progenitor. Which on face value is too bad, considering that her last album, 2000′s Alma Caribena, was her best ever. Even if all she did was translate each song into English, keeping the potent Caribbean rhythms intact, it could still compete as the best album of 2003. But that’s not the way of Latin poppers recording in English. One of her mignons at Estefan Enterprises told Billboard that the music on Unwrapped is her most intimate and personal yet. Gloria has "tapped into a place she’s never gone before," he said. Written almost entirely by Estefan herself, the album will be co-produced by her husband Emilio and Colombian star Carlos Vives’ obviously gifted producer Sebastian Krys. It will include four Spanish-language tracks, one remix, and duets in English with the Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde and Stevie WonderÂ…

Gloria’s Alma Caribena featured a winningly playful duet, "Tres Gotas de Agua Bendita," with Celia Cruz, the Latin music matriarch who died last week. No current music star, performing live, had more energy or a bigger, more infectious smile than the Cuban exile. Cruz’s final album, Regalo de Alma (Sony Discos), has already wrapped and will be released August 5. Based solely on her last several albums, it’ll be more than worth any expense it takes to get hold of a copyÂ…



Jewel

HOLLYWOOD INTUITIONÂ… On "Intuition," folksy dance-popper Jewel sings at one point, "You got something that you want me to sell/Sell your sin, Just cash in." It seemed to be a cunning eye roll at the over-saturated state of American commercialism in the style of Madonna, who sings on "American Life" "This type of modern life, is it for free?" In fact, both of the singers can be bought. Jewel has cashed in, licensing her hit song for a new Schick woman’s razor, appropriately called the Intuition. Slate online magazine tsk-tsk’ed the development, calling it "blatantly contradictory" of Jewel. Her brilliant video for the song sends up our crass consumer culture — but all with a wink and a sexy shimmy, shimmy. So what’s more surprising to hear is that this type of modern life is for Madonna, after all. Beginning next week, she can be seen alongside Missy Elliott in an unprecedented TV ad campaign for The Gap. And why not? Her publicist did say Madonna wears Gap clothes. And the Associated Press notes the retailer could use some buzz. So could Madonna, of course; this time it’s got to be goodÂ…

PHILLY IS FUNKYTOWNÂ… Okay, so if you really want to shake-shake-shake your booty with all the faded stars of disco’s glory days, prepare for a day trip. Last week, we reported that Pepper MaShay and Thelma Houston would return to the area next month along with the Village People, the Pointer Sisters, Martha Wash and more. That’s still true, if you’re talking of the Mid-Atlantic area. Right after we announced their plans last week, organizers of the "Get Up N Dance: The Summer’s Biggest Party" shot us in the foot with their inability to secure a venue in Baltimore (not to mention Washington). So now the closest the divas will get is Philadelphia, where they’ll perform Saturday, August 16, at the First Union Center. Tickets can be purchased through TicketmasterÂ…


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Gloria Estefan

Jewel

Missy Elliot

Doug Rule is a theater critic and contributing editor for Metro Weekly.

Soundwaves

Live disco concert on tour in Baltimore, Deborah Cox's remix CD, Pepsi's TV concert series, and more

PEPSI POP’S POPÂ… Dance pop can get no love. There are the periodic taunts from hyper-macho rock ‘n’ rappers, and the frequent lashes from anti-pop "pop music" critics about "Abba-esque group harmonies" of the Britney Spears sphere. And just last night ushered in the latest jab, though you probably missed it — the show itself, not to mention its subtle slap at dance. Every episode of the WB TV network’s blatant advertising vehicle "Pepsi Smash" will feature performances from and interviews with five hit artists, drawing almost exclusively from R&B, hip-hop and rock. "There aren’t a lot of broadcast TV outlets for artists," the show’s producer told Billboard, suggesting his show could help boost the struggling music industry. Ah, but don’t expect the WB to break new ground. No loosely defined "dance artist" has been scheduled, and rare will be the underground act on tap. Instead, we’ll hear from the same people we’ve heard from too much already on the one music outlet we’ve had for years — MTV. Think Ashanti, Evanescence, Bow Wow, Michelle Branch. Pepsi is probably to blame, since the WB show was the pop maker’s idea in the first place.



Wade Robson

In any event, better to hold out hope for an upcoming MTV series. When it was originally announced back in April, this show was said to be about "dance music," though logic, and recent information, suggests it may be just about "dance" instead. The man — boy actually, since he’s only 19 — behind the show is cutie-patootie Aussie Wade Robson, Britney’s and N’Sync‘s choreographer as well as an aspiring musician and filmmaker. The show, tentatively known as "The Wade Robson Project," will begin filming at the end of the month with a competition among aspiring dancers. What about aspiring dance poppers? No word on that. Given recent events, best not to hold your breath.

STAYIN’ ALIVEÂ… We can always relive the past when the present fails to pop, I suppose. And if you missed the 2003 Capital Pride Festival’s dueling disco divas, or you want to see them again, you’re in luck. Thelma Houston and Pepper MaShay will tour with the national disco tour, "Get Up ‘N Dance: The Summer’s Biggest Party." The Village People, Martha Wash, KC and the Sunshine Band, The Pointer Sisters, Anita Ward and others will relive the magic and celebrate good times. The hitch: you gotta catch a ride to Baltimore, since that’s the closest they’ll boogie-oogie-oogie to D.C. The glitch: The organizers are still finalizing plans for the actual venue, to be announced this week. They have announced the date, though: Friday, August 15. You may ask, just what is MaShay, who had no part in disco, doing in the mix? The obvious answer is that she was able and willing to perform, while Donna Summer wasn’t. And "Bad Girls" has to be sung ya know? Beep-beep, uh-uh.

XANADU-EW-WUHÂ… Another reason MaShay will perform at the disco tour: it’s incredibly lucrative. Next time you hear groans about illegal musical file sharing contributing to Starving Artist Syndrome, take it with a grain of malt beverage. Forbes reports that today, artists make so little from record sales, profits of which mostly go to record labels, that they are turning to perpetual touring, with or without new material or a current recording contract. Even long-past-their-prime stars, performing in smaller venues, rake in anywhere from $25,000 on up to $100,000 a gig. Forbes reported on the profits being reaped by’80s acts Olivia Newton-John, Sheena Easton and Taylor Dayne (the latter two are also modern-day dance dabblers), thanks to frequent individual performances at Native American casinos and Las Vegas lounges. And they didn’t even mention Pride parades and disco tours. Nice work if you can get it.

IT’S OVER NOWÂ… She’s not on tour, and she’s not likely to appear on any TV music program, even though she would be a natural choice. But Deborah Cox will get your attention in an even better way, as she releases her first full-length album of dance tracks next Tuesday, July 22. It far surpasses the bonus CD of remixes included in early editions of last year’s One Wish (J Records). Unlike similar efforts from other artists, Cox’s Remixed (J Records) is one long continuous mix, from the inconsistent mixing duo Al B. Rich (Rich Pangilinan and Albert Castillo). It’s effectively a "greatest hits" package, packed as it is with all her hit club remixes since the mid-1990s, or at least radio edits of them, from her lesser-known debut, the David Morales-remixed "Who Do You Love," to the well-known Hex Hector work, including "Nobody’s Supposed To Be Here," "Things Just Ain’t The Same," "Absolutely Not," and her latest, "Play Your Part." The set also includes three new tracks, including her cover of Phil Collins‘ "Something Happened on the Way to Heaven" that has just been released as a single. The album is the second "baby" to drop for Cox this month: She gave birth to a boy, Isaiah, July 1.

Doug Rule is a theater critic and contributing editor for Metro Weekly.

Soundwaves

New releases from Dido, Kim English, Beyonce and more

POP LADY COMEBACKSÂ… We’re still waiting to hear of an American record label picking up Sonique‘s sophomore album, released last month in Europe. In the meantime we’ve learned of a few other promising developments. First, it’s official: Kim "Unspeakable Joy" English will release a full-length album, My Destiny (Nervous Records), later this summer. Nervous will issue remixes of English’s newest single, "C’est la Vie," later this month. In late September Arista Records will release the long overdue sophomore album from U.K. chanteuse Dido. The label has already released "White Flang," the first single from the album, Life for Rent, which is said to continue Dido’s introspective pop stylings, setting her up for a possible — and worthwhile — duel with Annie Lennox come Grammy time. Finally a real blast from the past. The Bangles are also due for a September release of a first album in some 13 years. Already released in Europe and Japan, Doll Revolution (Koch Entertainment) will include a bonus DVD for the American release. The erstwhile ’80s girl band still features all four original members, who harmonized many hummable hits, none more memorable than "Walk Like an Egyptian." All the cops in the donut shop sayÂ…



DJ Skribble

AMERICAN POP’S STOPÂ… More than 227 years after the founding fathers declared independence from England, America has nearly closed its pop-culture borders, turning deaf ears to music originating elsewhere. There are the occasional fads that except the rule — Latin pop a few years back, Jamaican and South-Asian influences in hip-hop now — and they prove the point: Politics is not the only thing worsened by isolationism. Don’t believe it? Take a turntable look across the pond with American Anthems (Ultra Records). Don’t be fooled by Ultra’s hopeful title for the compilation as the label is merely distributing stateside this two-disc set, commissioned by the legendary U.K. Ministry of Sound. Two high-profile American DJs (MTV’s DJ Skribble and David Waxman) may have racked up the track listing, but American Anthems is as American as house and techno are today. Which is to say, not American by much. Chicago and Detroit may have created these two main dance genres– molded into modern-day form by New York. But Paris, Berlin and London clearly set the tone now. Few are the songs here that have had an American airing. Wayne Wonder‘s "No Letting Go" is one, though Al B Rich‘s Club Mix sounds little like the Jamaican original, which features the same rhythm as Sean Paul‘s "Get Busy." A few other tracks will likely gain some recognition by year’s end, and most of the others should. Panjabi MC‘s heady, subcontinent banghra beats-based "Beware of the Boys," surely will, though with the original rap from Jay-Z that’s missing in the Triple X Remix.

EURO TRANCEÂ… David Waxman also mixed another Ultra Records compilation, Ultra.Tranced:2, that could fool the casual listener into thinking that trance is the strongest dance form going. Well, okay, this intensely melodic, fast-paced pretty music pretty much is top of the pops in Europe. Waxman has included so many of the same songs here also found on American Anthems that there’s little sense in bothering with both. (It’s an obvious hallmark of Ultra Records, since its Ultra.Dance 04 — to drop next month, with mixing by the biggest-selling compilation DJ Louie Devito will be loaded with many of the same tracks, yet again.) The biggest draw for Ultra.Tranced:2, besides its status as the best self-defined trance compilation in a good while, is Disc 2, a DVD featuring eight videos of trance tracks. The music industry seems to be waking up to the fact that "add-ons" lighten the load, and sweeten the deal, for many potential consumers of its stubbornly inflated double-digit CD pricing scheme. Because dance music videos go unseen by even most American adherents, Ultra Records is to be commended for its decision, even if the eight videos here are, to a one, boring and predictable. The prevailing sentiment is that skimpily attired Euro-blondes have more fun. No thanks.

BEYONCE’S HUMBLE PIEÂ…Beyonce‘s "Crazy in Love" is one truly timely "American Anthem" not included in that collection, but inescapable everywhere else. The always understated Destiny’s Child frontwoman was as humble as ever in an interview with Billboard magazine. "I wasn’t sure that people were going to understand ["Crazy in Love"] because it was so different — it doesn’t sound like anything else," she said. "But it’s a great song and people get it. I guess they were happy to hear something fresh." In fact, the song’s horn-blaring samples and dizzying vocalization do sound pretty fresh in 2003, though very much like three-decades-old R&B. And, by George, Beyonce, people get it, too. Crazy, ain’t it? Well, you sure worked it out better this time than last summer’s try. So watch that you don’t "blow your horn" too much there, girl.

Doug Rule is a theater critic and contributing editor for Metro Weekly.

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