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POP QUIZÂ… In 2003, sunlight began to shine on the beleaguered music industry, the brightest light emitting from Apple’s iTunes. The legal, pay-per-download music service has been an unqualified success. (This time next year, iTunes may be losing out to an ever-growing field of competitors, but not as of yet.) Beyonce and Justin Timberlake were the most popular artists of the year, but Madonna had a hold on this column. Despite dreadful sales of American Life (Maverick) and very little chart action of any kind, Madonna was cited in nine different columns. Beyonce, by contrast, only scored three, and Justin, four. And while we thought we talked about them to death, t.A.T.u. only racked up six mentions, or the same amount as — okay, this is getting embarrassing — P. Diddy. And dammit if we’re not likely to hear from the do-wa-Diddy next year, since he’s just announced plans to make his Broadway debut, in the original Sidney Poitier role of A Raisin in the Sun.
Until then, here’s a short quiz to test how "Crazy in Love" with music you were this year. The correct answers spell out the name of our nominee for Dance Music Artist of 2003.
1. Which American Idol‘s 15 minutes of fame are already o-vah?
S. Clay Aiken
T. Justin Guarini
U. Kelly Preston
V. Ruben Studdard
2. This year the Supreme Court rejected an appeal from a plaintiff who filed suit against a media organization. What were the details at issue?
H. Mattel sued MCA Records over Aqua’s 1997 unauthorized hit "Barbie Girl."
I. A 54-year-old professor sued Fox’s American Idol for age discrimination.
J. Hip-hoppers Arrested Development sued Fox-TV for using its name for a series.
K. Michael Jackson sued the Los Angeles Times over accusations of molestation.
3. What song lyrics are serving as inspiration for a screenplay?
A. I’m into having sex, I ain’t into making love ("In Da Club")
B. I get sprung and I don’t care who sees ("Crazy in Love")
C. Shake it like a Polaroid picture ("Hey Ya")
D. I’m not religious but it makes me wanna pray ("Nothing Fails")
E. He was a boy, she was a girl, can I make it anymore obvious ("Sk8r Boi")
4. "[Chrysler] wanted to show that music equals love. That’s who _______ is and what she stands for."
S. Celine Dion
U. Jessica Simpson
V. Britney Spears
5. What happened to the promised X-rated country album from retired porn star Jeff Stryker?
A. He developed blue balls (Porn-speak for: his label dropped him).
B. He refused to bottom (Porn-speak for: he quit, objecting to his label’s demands).
C. He couldn’t get it up (Porn-speak for: he’s still working on it).
D. He prematurely ejaculated (Porn-speak: for he lost interest).
6. Who DIDN’T attempt a comeback in 2003?
T. The Bangles
U. Duran Duran
V. Siedah Garrett
W. Michael Jackson
X. Sir Mix-A-Lot
7. And who ISN’T on track to try for a comeback in 2004?
K. The Cure
L. Duran Duran
N. Kylie Minogue
O. Tears for Fears
8. Which pair DIDN’T kiss each another this year?
E. Madonna and Christina Aguilera
F. Beyonce and Kelis
G. Pink and Kristina Loken
H. Lena Katina and Julia Volkova of t.A.T.u.
I. Madonna and Britney Spears
9. Which DJ duo will we never hear from again?
Q. Abercrombie & Fitch
S. Gabriel & Dresden
10. Who DIDN’T appear on Broadway or Off-Broadway this year?
L. Toni Braxton (Aida)
M. Angie Stone (Chicago)
N. Queer Eye’s Jai Rodriguez (Zanna Don’t!)
O. Mya (Chicago)
P. Back Street Boy Kevin Richardson (Chicago)
11. What music group is the most likely to never return to recording?
G. Depeche Mode
H. Destiny’s Child
Answers: 1. T 2. H. 3. E 4. S 5. C 6. U 7. M 8. F 9. R 10. O 11. G
Dance SegregationÂ… Does dance music, like the weather, change based on where you are? Does dance music in Miami Beach sound different than that in fellow sunspot Ibiza, or that in Paris differ from that in London? How about Washington? Several record labels suggest the answers are yes. But we have to ask: Don’t they think dance music has enough gated subdivisions? A house-head may avoid techno because he’s never been invited to the techno party, which isn’t very inviting to a novice after all. And a dance-popper may discount trance out-of-(glowstick)-hand, sound unheard, because she assumes, wrongly, that you have to be altered to appreciate it (it only helps). Then there’s the crux of the problem: most danceheads don’t even know the distinctions between the dance genres. That’s not surprising, since there is an arbitrary, velvet-rope type quality of exclusion at play.
Can’t we leave geography out of it? Actually we should, based on the evidence of the latest attempts at dance segregation. For example, Moonshine Music recently refashioned its popular Bargrooves series, with each of four releases through next year documenting dance music from a different Western city. San Francisco and Milan will be honored in the next two compilations, while one focused on the sounds of Paris was just released. Bargrooves: Espace Prive is a sexy two-disc set that manages to hint at what Paris has become in dance circles: a vestige for early house music sounds, updated sometimes as slow-dance chillout, and other time as unfortunate sax-y smooth jazz.
The problem is that there’s ultimately little difference between this Paris set and the previous release, Bargrooves: Al Fresco, ostensibly celebrating London. In fact, the latter features a smoothed-out French song, Ame Strong‘s "Tout Est Bleu," and the former features an ode to drum ‘n’ bass, which originated in and pretty much never strayed from London clubs. (Even more confusing, the song itself, "Definition of Dub," comes from the Swedish group Physics.) This supposedly geography-celebrating series doesn’t take itself as seriously as one would think, obviously. And it gets worse. In the liner notes to London’s Al Fresco, one featured track is celebrated as one that would sound great at "3am on a warm Ibizan evening," and indeed it would; on Paris’s Espace Prive, the assembled collection is celebrated as "drenched in pure San Fran soul." So will the coming San Fran collection be stymied in London fog? It only sounds like a bad joke.
George Acosta is one of the few remaining priests of pure, unadulterated trance. Over the years the reach-for-the-heavens sound has become far more grounded, incorporating rock and Moby-style techno-pop. But not in Acosta’s world. Latin-pop and tribal house are the key signatures of Miami, but don’t tell that to Acosta either. His most recent compilation, George Acosta: Miami (Ultra) unabashedly features the theatrical sounds of European trance-pop, a sound that has barely changed in a decade. But we’re supposed to be in Miami, remember. The compilation does manage to reflect the sunny, unblemished optimism of the place at least, with song titles summing up the experience: "Rush," "Stealing Beauty," "Let the Light Shine In," "Velvet Morning."
Meanwhile Ibiza, through the eyes of Pete Tong‘s Essential Selections (Moonshine), underscores the changes over the years to trance, now barely recognizable as the choice of raver kids everywhere. Tong’s collection suggests that this reigning Spanish dance musical capital is grittier, funkier and altogether sexier than Miami, at least as presented by Acosta. But are they really that different? It’s hard to imagine. Tong is himself a Londoner except during the summer, where in Ibiza he turns out mid-tempo soulful house jams that sound timeless, harking back to the ’80s heavy synthed-era one second, ’90s trance the next, with ascendant dance-rock of today throughout. I’ll bet he plays the same come wintertime in London.
It’s almost unheard of to encounter a dance compilation celebrating Washington, D.C. Which is why we automatically praise Black Hole Recordings for giving us One Night at GLOW, even if it does seem created as little more than a promotional vehicle for Club Insomnia‘s Saturday Glow party. A sticker advertises, "Buy this 2CD and get $20 off admission when you bring a friend to Club Glow!" Still, it’d be just fine by us if Nation’s Velvet takes inspiration and releases a similar compilation, perhaps mixed by resident DJ Wess. GLOW, mixed by its resident Pete Moutso, is a solid, satisfying exploration of the throbbing beats of trance, both old-school and new (are you taking notes, George Acosta?). Trance isn’t really the sound of D.C. nightlife beyond the Euro-diplo straight set though, and very few of the assembled artists on GLOW appear to be from the area either. There is "Sleaze" by a group named Washington, which seems fitting enough. But the idea of sleazy Washington and the reality of "Sleazy" by the Deep Dish-wannabes in Washington is nothing new, and neither is much anything else here. That is, except for the invigorating, stomping trance remix of Andain‘s "Beautiful Things" by the Photon Project. In addition to the desire to root for the home-team compilation and to take advantage of the coupon to GLOW, this track makes Moutso’s compilation the one to favor.
GLAAD GRAMMYSÂ… There are 105 categories in the just-announced 46th Annual Grammy Awards, and there’s still not one specifically honoring Gay Music of the Year — unless you count the Best Musical Show Album category. Wouldn’t musicals be at the heart of any attempt to define "gay music?" Well, the problem is that most of the artists recognized through gay-popular categories such as that one aren’t gay, and the theme of the recognized art isn’t, either. So every year around this time our attention turns to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) for our gay music fix. Among the many categories of its Media Awards, GLAAD honors the previous year’s leading gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender musicians. For the 2004 ceremony, to be held in late March, the Outstanding Musical Artist category features a bountiful crop of nominees: the feisty lesbian pop-eclecticism of Bitch and Animal, R&B renegade Meshell Ndegeocello, naughty and haughty punk-pop rapper Peaches, pop-folk crooner Rufus Wainwright and last but not least our favorite, the madcap Danish dance-rock of Junior SeniorÂ…
DANCE GRAMMYSÂ… Junior Senior was one oversight among the Grammy nominees this year — if any song deserved nomination in the Best Dance Recording category, it was "Move Your Feet." Instead, divas dominate. Madonna racks up her only nomination of the year here, for "Die Another Day." (Alert the media: American Life (Maverick) is now, officially, dead.) Cher somehow squeaks by with a nod for "Love One Another," her unremarkable remake of a tune that earned Amber no recognition a couple years ago. Kylie Minogue is here with "Come Into My World," as is Sunshine Anderson, indirectly recognized for her dramatic vocal performance on Groove Armada’s neo-disco "Easy." But odds favor Telepopmusik‘s airy "Breathe" to win if Madonna doesn’t, since "Breathe" is the heir apparent to last year’s winner, original Mitsubishi-branded dance tune, Dirty Vegas‘s "Days Go By." A second dance music category honors best remixer, and previous Grammy winner Peter Rauhofer should claim it, for his mix of Christina Aguilera‘s "Beautiful." His competition? Well, it should include The Scumfrog for Monica‘s "So Gone." Or Gabriel & Dresden for Annie Lennox‘s "Pavement Cracks"), to name two obvious examples. Instead, Maurice Joshua appears again for his boring reworking of a Beyonce track, this time "Crazy in Love." Also nominated: Martin Buttrich & Timo MaasÂ for Tori Amos‘s "Don’t Make Me Come to Vegas," Bill Hamel for Seal‘s "Get It Together" and the incomparable Masters at Work for The Latin Project‘s "Lei Lo Lai"Â…
HOUSE GIANT LITTLE LOUIE IN TOWNÂ… In addition to its recognized remixing work, Masters at Work made probably the best house music artist album last year, Our Time Is Coming (Tommy Boy). Next spring, one of the two Masters, "Little" Louie Vega, will release his own artist album, Elements of Life (Vega Records), featuring uptempo, relentlessly upbeat songs infused with Vega’s seeming conversion to new-age spirituality since the birth last year of his son. It’s a blend of timeless-sounding soulful, God-fearing house, Afro-Latino rhythms and often Brazilian-styled chillout. While the album is heavier on rhythms than a typical Masters at Work album, it’s also strangely sleepier, with a little too much focus on easy-listening sonics. Here’s hoping Vega will concentrate his DJ turn this Saturday at Club Five — see www.primacycompanies.com for information — on tunes from his MAW repertoire as well as livelier tracks from Elements of Life, including the samba-oriented "Ma Mi Mama," sung by his wife, AnanÃ©, the salsa of "Quimbombo," and the improvisational Latin jazz of "Mozalounge"Â…
MAMMA MIA INDEEDÂ… Just to clarify our early comment: if musicals were ever truly gay, they’re becoming increasingly less so. Excepting for Elton John, nearly every high-profile Broadway musical in development looks to be insufferably straight. Credit Mamma Mia! mania, as well as Billy Joel‘s Movin’ Out — and not the fledgling Boy George-inspired Taboo — for the wave of musicals coming built around hit songs of aging rockers, or of musicals written by aging rockers. Not that there won’t be gay appeal in next spring’s Lovelace: The Musical, based on the life of late porn actress Linda "Deep Throat" Lovelace, written by the Go-Go’s Charlotte Caffey and Jane Wiedlin and starring former Family Ties actress Tina Yothers and John Waters regular Mink Stole. And there may be some gay appeal in We Will Rock You, a musical about the future using 32 songs from Queen that will open sometime in the next couple years. And who wouldn’t find appeal in next year’s musical, tentatively titled The Lennon Project, based on John Lennon‘s post-Beatles songs, including "Imagine?" But Tonight’s the Night, currently in London, based on Rod Stewart‘s greatest hits? Or All Shook Up, based on songs from Elvis Presley, set in the mid-1950s in "Anywhere USA," and coming to Broadway in spring of 2005? This "gay music" lover will pass, thanks.
Gay musicmaker and increasing musical-maker Elton John, meanwhile, is working with his longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin to convert gay-popular author Anne Rice’s The Vampire Lestat into a Broadway musical, scheduled for 2005. In addition, John and Taupin’s work has inspired, of all television networks, FOX, which plans to create a music-driven drama series, dubbed Rhapsody, with themes influenced by John-Taupin songsÂ…
MP3 KILLED THE 12-INCH STARÂ… The Internet is a glimmer in the eye of the music industry. Well, it is now, after the industry has finally given up treating it like a cataract, continuously trying to remove it. It took them years to see the value in offering legitimate download sites. And while the online sites that have sprung up this year still don’t offer much dance music in their catalogs, that’s changing. iTunes, as expected, is already ahead of the pack. The site features "exclusive" dance remixes of tunes from Annie Lennox, Seal, Jewel and Sarah McLachlan, to name the most prominent. And independent dance music labels are slowly adding their repertoires to iTunes. Coming soon: releases from Astralwerks (Beth Orton, Kraftwerk) and Ultra (Hex Hector, Dirty Vegas). Meanwhile, other labels are charting sites of their own to counter illegal sites that have established themselves as a treasure trove of obscure dance tracks and commercially unavailable remixes. Later this month British label Warp Records (Aphex Twin) will join Radikal Records (ATB, Galleon) and legendary disco label West End Records (Blaze, Tanya Gardner) in establishing an MP3 download section of its site. All three offer for download a handful of each label’s singles, remixes, and in West End’s case, full albums. DC’s own Yoshitoshi, founded by house DJ act Deep Dish, offers its entire catalog of singles and remixes as MP3s. Like iTunes and others before them, most dance sites are charging 99 cents per track.
A pioneer in both the dance and hip-hop genres, Tommy Boy Records is also gradually adding its stellar dance-pop catalog — including Kristine W, Masters at Work and Junior Vasquez — to iTunes. And its founder and namesake Tom Silverman will also help launch DJ Xpress in January. Specifically geared to DJs, though the rest of us should benefit too, this site will feature new and "classic" dance tracks — as old as three decades — from a variety of dance labels, not just Tommy Boy. Each will retail for 99 cents a song, or $2.79 a "MixPac" — three remixes or versions of one song, often in the form of an a cappella, instrumental and club edit, just as a 12-inch vinyl release would offer. Within the next month, at least two other sites will debut: Trax2Burn.com, featuring artists from various British dance labels, including Fatboy Slim, Darren Emerson and Tim Deluxe, and Traxsource.com, with soulful house artists including Ananda Project, Dmitri from Paris and Miguel MigsÂ…
MAKEOVER MUSICÂ… Don’t look now, but the Fab Five seek to throw out your music collection. Well, okay, you’re gay, so not yours exactly. "As we have been able to introduce better taste and sensibilities in living to prime time television, we will be able to introduce great music to a new audience,” Queer Eye for the Straight Guy producer Rob Eric says in the show’s typical style of total modesty and understatement. Capitol Records will release in February What’s That Sound, the first in a planned series of soundtracks to the hyper-gay, hyper-successful Bravo/NBC TV makeover show. Elton John has contributed a new song, tentatively titled "Run for Love," not to be confused with John’s "Are You Ready for Love," a 26-year-old disco ditty just re-released. A video for the Queer Eye theme song, "All Things (Just Keep Getting Better)," written by the DJ duo Widelife and featuring Simone Denny (LOVE Inc.) was shot last month at the Brooklyn Bridge. An edit of the weak tune, released this week, may be playing on a radio near you. And aren’t you already sick of hearing it? Maybe Kylie Minogue’s mesmerizing new song "Slow," remixed for the soundtrack by the Chemical Brothers, will rush to the rescue of our eardrums instead, or maybe it’ll be the soundtrack’s planned mash-up of Fischerspooner and Billy Squier that’ll save our airplay woes. With any luck you’ll soon hear Basement Jaxx’s "Good Luck," tooÂ…
BASEMENT SUPERSONICSÂ… If the Queer Eye album does nothing more than make "Good Luck" the hit song it screams out to be, that’ll be enough. The rockin’ neo-disco of "Good Luck" seems an odd choice for inclusion on the show’s soundtrack, given that featured singer Lisa Kekaula yells out to her ex, "Good luck, good luck/Good luck in your new bed/Enjoy your nightmares honey/When you’re resting your head." Doesn’t sound like the kind of tune to play after a Queer Eye episode. On second thought, maybe it’s the perfect tune. In any case, it’s the best song from an all-but perfect album, Kish Kash (Astralwerks),that also features funky, punky electro songs from Siouxsie Sioux (without her Banshees of old, but with her charisma intact) and Meshell Ndegeocello. N’Sync-er J C Chasez shines out of Justin’s shadow on the blazing "Plug It In." It’s the most defiantly mainstream of the three albums to come thus far from the British duo of Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe, with its weight toward hip hop. The duo’s "Jump ‘n’ Shout" from its first album, and "Where’s Your Head At" from the second, form the template here, as does The Neptunes’ sound. The Jaxx creates orderly, minimal songs that you both dance and rock out to. They only sound fully loaded with cosmic chaos. Kish Kash is the Jaxx’s most cohesive and melody-focused album yet, loaded with hits and delirious delights, like the first release, "Lucky Star," with its Eastern flourishes of an electric horn and its fetching slurred singsong rapping from Dizzee Rascal, the celebrated British rapper whose debut album will be released in the U.S. in JanuaryÂ…