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BEMOANING MTVÂ… This week we thought we had good news to share with those who’ve ever bemoaned the lack of outlets to see dance music videos. Video production company Promo Only has developed a daily hour-long "Monster Mix" of dance and R&B music video programming for MTV2. Obviously, it was to be good news only for those bemoaners who have digital cable. What, you thought the main MTV channel might actually play videos? P-shaw. And it was to be good news only for those with digital cable who can watch it weekdays between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., when it airs. Obviously it was good news for a very, very limited number of bemoaners post-college. But there’s always TiVo, right?
Now for the bad news: While you can still set TiVo to record the show, but don’t expect much in the way of what we’ve come to think of as dance music. The program mostly plays the R (as in R. Kelly) and the B (as in Busta Rhymes) in R&B, and all the bling-bling 50 Cent will buy. Over the past week the higher-ups at MTV even suspended that, requiring day after day a 2Pac Monster Mix so as to saturate the airwaves with Tupac Shakur, capitalizing on the MTV Films’ Tupac: Resurrection that just opened. When Promo Only launched its Monster Mix program, it promised a "mix of dance/electronic and R&B/hip-hop." The first few episodes did just that, mixing Missy Elliott with Dannii Minogue with Tiga — though there only seemed to be a couple episodes, since they repeated every few days. Will these ever repeat again, or is it now hip hop, ya don’t stop?Â…
MUSIC VIDEOS ON DVDÂ… Would you be willing to pay for music videos, buying a mixed-DVD instead of — or in addition to — a mixed-CD? If so, Radikal Records may be on to something with its new Dance Hits USA DVD. The press release announces that these are "all previously unreleased and unseen on national video outlets such as MTV, MTV2, VH1 and Muchmusic." You can say that again. In a leap of logic, it also says that these are "America’s favorite dance videos," though if we’ve never seen them, how could that be true? It’s not. Despite the name, these are, to a one, European artists, and the dance style here is mostly trance, with a little German techno added by way of the totally banal Daddy DJ. Daddy’s self-titled track belies the idea that progress has been made in the sound of bubblegum dance-pop over the years. Or has it? Perpetuous Dreamer argues that it has, with its awkwardly titled "Dust.wav" that nearly lives up to the excitement generated by its "Sound of Goodbye" hit last year. This, we hope, is the sound of dance music’s future.
Dance Hits USA DVD is the same concept behind Radikal’s two volumes in its Dance Hits USA CD line, featuring many of the same artists — ATB, Voodoo & Serano, Marc et Claude — and even some of the same tunes. The fifteen videos themselves are mostly boring, though not Gouryella’s "Ligaya," a project of the two renowned DJs Tiesto and Ferry Corsten. Together, they marvel at the wonders of science, and science fiction. "Digital life equals ultimate happiness," a message flashes on the screen as the buoyant music purrs out of the DJs’ naturally 100-percent digital equipment. It alone is almost worth the suggested retail price of $9.99. Yes, that’s right, the price is roughly half the suggested retail price for the same series’ CDs, or any other.
In addition to this DVD, Radikal Records is showing a real commitment to showing dance music videos. The label has already filmed a pilot episode of "Dance Hits USA" the TV show that is scheduled to air early next year "on cable channels nationwide." What channels specifically? Stay tunedÂ…
REO FRENCHWAGONÂ… Gilles Luka, lead singer of the new French dance-pop group Galleon, complained to Billboard about the "facelessness" of dance music, about how he doesn’t get respect as an artist. "I feel I am more disposable than a pop artist" such as Britney Spears or Jennifer Lopez, whose images are everywhere, he said. But you reap what you sow. Neither Luka nor his partner Philippe Laurent can be found in the video for the group’s first single, "So I Begin," which instead focuses on a half-naked beautiful woman, as is the custom for dance music. There’s exactly one photo of the two, disguised by fat sunglasses, in the case for the group’s debut album, So I Begin (Radikal). It’s a CD you really want to like, that you listen to again and again in hopes that it’ll grow on you. But there’s little "today" about the album. "Respect to all 80’s pop-rock bands," the group says in the album notes, acknowledging the sound that permeates the album. Think REO Speedwagon, but faster. Or Huey Lewis and the News, but dancier. Or what Daft Punk would have sounded like had it existed in the ’80s, before its sound had maturedÂ…
DJ VANS WITH FANS… D.C.’s own Deep Dish is the 10th best DJ act in a new poll of the world’s best DJs. The duo is virtually alone in representing America in the 2003 edition of probably the most celebrated DJ poll, as voted on by readers of the respected DJ Mag. But that can be explained in part by the European base of the British magazine — and the European base of much of dance music, especially trance, which predominates here. The top DJ slot goes again this year to the Dutch Tiesto, who recently graced Washington with his presence. Nipping at his turntable’s steel wheels are two fellow Germanic trancemakers, Paul Van Dyk and Armin Van Buuren. Both the Germany-based Van Dyk and the Netherlands-based Van Buuren have recently graced us with albums of all original productions featuring female and, for a change, male guest vocalists. The two albums testify to the ranking order of the DJs: Van Dyk’s Reflections (Mute) is a more salutary effort, with a genre-defying collection of delectable dance-pop songs. This could be Van Dyk’s bid for mainstream recognition, his first foray into traditional pop that reverberates more from a radio than from a club. Van Dyk’s not-strictly dance-oriented pop sensibility is on sharpest display with "Time of Our Lives," where he collaborates with the band Vega 4. They jam out a Coldplay-esque electro-pop tune featuring a constant ticking of an alarm clock and enchanting vocals and piano playing from Vega 4’s John McDaid. Van Dyk strays a bit, venturing into dub-heavy hip-hop on "Knowledge," though even here he performs above expectation.
Van Buuren’s 76 (Ultra Records) doesn’t surpass expectation, offering a collection of tracks that are the musical equivalent of church hymns for the raver-set: heavy on organ-styled keyboard riffs, angelic vocals, and melodies — frequently lyrics, too — that uplift through a haze of brooding, layered melody. The question is: is there still a raver-set to uplift? And why is he shushing us on the album cover? The music is as loud as trance from a decade ago, and sounds very much the same. At times, it slows down a bit, taking a page from modern-day chill-out. At other times Van Buuren follows Van Dyk in exploring dance-oriented rock. His "Yet Another Day" featuring Ray Wilson, is a blaring and moody trance number that quiets down every time Wilson takes to the mike with his plaintive vocals. "Someone take this pain away, I’m dying to see another day," he sings, as a lonely electric guitar gently weeps over his plightÂ…
THE FIRST ‘A’ IN ABBA… There are still queens out there who play ABBA‘s Gold: Greatest Hits at every gathering at their house, or who unabashedly blast "Dancing Queen" from their car stereo. But even those with a more temperate interest in the sunny Euro-candy music of ABBA may be in for a treat next year. Agnetha FÃ¤ltskog, the blonde of the quartet, is putting the finishing touches on her first album in sixteen years. Due in March — at least in Europe, since an American label deal has yet to be confirmed — with a first single planned for release in January, the album will be comprised of English-language covers of pop standards that inspired FÃ¤ltskog. Obviously, the jury’s out as to how much it will sound like ABBA of yore, especially since it’s reported to be a collection of fifteen acoustic tracks recorded with a full orchestra. No other ABBA member is involved in the album…
COME INTO HER WORLDÂ… Can she get stuck in our heads all over again? We’ll know by February, when Kylie Minogue drops the follow-up to her 2001 album, Fever. That album earned Minogue her first real success stateside since her silly 1988 remake of "The Loco-Motion." Out next week everywhere but the U.S., Minogue’s Body Language hues to the same dance-pop sound that is her stock-in-trade. The first single, "Slow," has already been released in the U.S., but, reports Billboard, Capitol will hold the album until February 10, allowing time for Minogue to promote it internationally through the end of the year, giving her all of January to "lay the groundwork" statesideÂ…
PEOPLE EVERYDAY SUEÂ… The phrase "arrested development" was not coined by a pop act a decade ago, but a certain-named pop act is taking a page from Spike Lee as it seeks to arrest FOX-TV from using the name for a new series. "Use of the phrase will dilute the meaning of the band’s name in the eyes of its fans," according to a suit filed last month in a Georgia court. It’s reminiscent of Lee’s failed attempt to stop cable channel TNT from changing its name to SPIKE-TV. But are there still fans of hip-hop group Arrested Development to be confused? Who knew the group was still together? It is, and a new album is due early next year, according to Billboard. Led by Todd "Speech" Thomas, Arrested Development has so far lived up to its own name, since its only hits, "Tennessee," "People Everyday" and "Mr. Wendal," all came from its one successful album, 3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life ofÂ…. And that was the group’s 1992 debutÂ…