HALLELUJAH FOR ALEGRIA… The dance compilation you’ve waited all year to buy is finally available, DJ Abel Aguilera’s two-disc Alegria Musica. If this set’s 140-minutes of driving and dynamic tribal house beats and warm, tasteful melodies don’t make you want to go to New York’s Alegria dance party, nothing will. Well, except maybe the promise of being amongst just about the hottest crowd of gay men you could ever imagine. Alegria is held on Sundays seven times a year, including this weekend for Halloween, at New York’s top-flight mega-club Crobar.
Alegria Musica is the sequel to last year’s Alegria set, both compiled and sequenced by the party’s resident DJ Abel, one of the scene’s very best DJs. While the first set was superb, it wasn’t without flaws — namely that it was a bit unbalanced, with the ”Peak Hours” of disc one featuring tracks that wore thin after oft-repeated listens, and the second ”After Hours” disc featuring too many monotonous tracks that didn’t even encourage oft-repeated listens. Thankfully Abel has corrected this with Alegria Musica, a well-balanced and nearly flawless set that you’ll want to listen to straight through, over and over again.
The smartly eclectic compilation, driven by tribal house and neo-disco pop sounds but also incorporating traces of salsa, mambo, even funk, opens with Abel himself acting as enticing announcer before launching into his captivating, rattling Latin-heated beat bed. The set never once loses momentum or appeal during the course of disc one, ”The Midnight Session,” and only rarely drags on disc two. Among other tracks, ”The AM-PM Session” includes the sauntering ”El Tigre” by Ralphi Rosario, Abel’s production partner in Rosabel. If only this graceful track, featuring Valerei Vix, didn’t feature the Janet Jackson-popularized roaring black cat sample. Here, it actually reminds me of the sound made by the flushes from Nation’s heavy-duty toilets. It’s not something I really care to have on record for posterity’s sake….
FALLING IN LOVE WITH DEUX… As with the previous compilation, it’s hard to single out one track as the stand out on Abel’s Alegria Musica. But the leading contender is one of this year’s best dance songs: Deux‘s ”Sun Rising Up.” Deux is the Spanish duo of Toni Bass and David Penn, joined here by vocalist Rebecca Brown. ”Sun Rising Up” was the standout track on DJ Paulo‘s Party Groove: Fireball 3 compilation released during the winter, but Paulo was way ahead of his time. The song was only released as a single a couple months ago. The Sharp Boys Eclipse Mix, as featured on Abel’s set, is several times more musically dramatic than the Original Club Mix, but like the original it features gradually rising verses.
Even better than the climactic music itself are the song’s lyrics. Brown starts off quietly, telling her story about how she struggled with severe depression ”before you came and showed me the reason why” life was worth living. As with the music, Brown’s voice in the verses gradually increases in volume and positivity as she savors the shining stars and cascades of rainbows that she now sees before her. She’s in full diva-mode by the time she gets to ”you’re the reason the sun is rising up even when it’s twelve at night/You’re the reason why I think I’m falling in love.” Falling in love, indeed….
DJS WORTH GETTING BLACK & BLUE FOR… During his set at Montreal’s Stereo Bar during the Black & Blue circuit party earlier this month, Victor Calderone spun ”Sun Rising Up” in the most dramatic fashion possible, completely cutting off the sound system for a minute right before the song’s chorus came in and just after an a cappella climax of ”I think I’m falling in love.” It was the most stunning moment of the most stunning event during Black & Blue.
My picks as the party’s other best DJs, at least among those I was able to hear over the course of 32 spinning official events, include Manny Lehman as most surprisingly good, going siren-free during a never-dull and meticulously sequenced set at the very best event, the Military Ball at Metropolis. Paulo was the party’s most underrated DJ, turning out a festively percussive and seductively melodic set that kept most everyone in the intimate crowd at Parking grooving on the dance floor for exhaustively long periods of time. Calling all D.C. nightlife promoters: Paulo is overdue for a return engagement….
THE NEW C+C MUSIC FACTORY… This year’s Black & Blue DJ To Watch was undeniably Chus & Ceballos. The Spanish duo spun a hypnotizing, revelatory set during the party’s mixed-crowd main event, which drew an estimated 15,000 attendees to the Olympic Stadium. Chus & Ceballos are gaining increasing recognition for their invitingly warm, melodic, moderately paced and exceptionally dense polyrhythmic tribal house music. They deservedly scored big over the summer with their exuberant yet sophisticated remix of Jody Watley‘s ”Looking for A New Love,” managing to breath new life into an old, dated hit.
And now they’ve been tapped to do basically the opposite for Madonna. Chus & Ceballos have just completed a remix for her new, vaguely dated song ”Hung Up” – vaguely dated given its synth samples from ABBA‘s ”Gimme Gimme Gimme.” Tracy Young, Bill Hamel and the song’s producer Stuart Price a.k.a. Jacques Lu Cont have also each remixed the quickly chart-ascending hit. It will be at least a couple weeks before they become commercially available though, PerfectBeat.com reported….
TAKE COVER FROM COVERS… Soon you’ll be hearing a dance cover of Sheila E‘s ”Glamorous Life.” And just as with most dance covers of ’80s and ’90s pop tunes, you’ll try to forget all about it. Melissa Thautz‘s girly chipmunk voice and cutesy delivery is all wrong for the song. The gritty guitars and hard-charging rock attitude of the Hotfuss Club Mix does work, however. But nothing could save the cover, or make it glamorous.
And could somebody please stop the madness? Please stop polluting our airwaves by tossing off these tepid covers that no one has put any thought into. Yes, here’s looking at you DHT. Please just go away. You’ve had your fun, scoring, with ”Listen to Your Heart,” a Billboard Hot 100 Top Ten hit — Top Ten? Still, this Roxette cover made no dent on the Club Play Chart, so thank heaven for a chart haven. Lately only two covers have been worth remembering, and we can give credit to Peter Rauhofer‘s Star 69 label for both. First was this spring’s cover by Inaya Day of ”Nasty Girl,” originally performed by the also Prince-affiliated Vanity. Day got dirty and tore into the song, looking for a man to ”lo-ohve” her. And wouldn’t you know she found thousands of gay men ready and willing to do the honors.
More recently Suzanne Palmer lusted after a ”boy” in her driving remake of the nearly 20-year-old house hit ”Fascinated,” originally recorded by the short-lived Company B. The song just peaked at No. 10 on the Billboard Club Play Chart. Why it didn’t go higher, I don’t know. It’s a standout track on Palmer’s standout debut artist album, Home. Palmer explained to HX last month how the cover came to be. ”It was Peter [Rauhofer]‘s suggestion,” she told the New York magazine. ”At first I thought, ‘I can’t do that song. It’s too bubble gum.”’ Not anymore. ”The original sounds like it’s a little girl, but [producer] Eric Kupper and I took it lower. Now it sounds like a woman singing”….
TIFFANY V. DEBBIE, TAKE II… Speaking of little-girl bubblegum pop from the ’80s, we just might have a Tiffany v. Debbie Gibson match all over again. Where are they now, you ask? Well, Tiffany released a rock album a couple years back that didn’t go anywhere, even though an appealing dance remix by Solar City of ”I’m Not Sleeping” got some deserved play. Now she’s just self-released a dance-pop album Dust Off and Dance that she hopes gets her more club action. The album is available for sale at cdbaby.com where reviewers have written salutary things like, ”Oh My God!” and ”Awesome” and ”Wow” and ”Totally hot!” Like, are these people stuck in the ’80s or what? And one of them wrote this: ”1,000 times better than you’d ever imagine…” Sorry, but that’s 1,000 times overstated. The album sounds stuck in the ’80s. She’s still singing bubblegum, except when she tries a really unfortunate rock hip-hop blend (”Everyone Get Down”). And she’s still singing through her nose. She even covers her own cover: her first No. 1 hit, ”I Think We’re Alone Now.” Have we mentioned how we feel about ’80s covers?
Debbie — now Deborah — Gibson was more talented than Tiffany, a sharp pianist who wrote her own songs. She also had somewhat longer of a chart run. But where is Gibson now? Her Web site lists several upcoming events: as a one-time audition judge on the upcoming season of American Idol; as a performer on Fox’s forthcoming new show Skating With Celebrities; and as the star of her very own Caribbean cruise, setting sail next March. But aside from all that and several past star turns on Broadway — and, like Tiffany three years before her, a March spread in Playboy – Billboard reports she’s ”itching” to get back into pop music-making. ”I’m ready for my big Tina Turner ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’ radio comeback,” she told the magazine. Billboard says Gibson has written a couple songs, including a ”dance-pop club type,” for the film Coffee Date, in which she’ll co-star with Wilson Cruz. But she’s not committed to dance pop, we’re sorry to report. Billboard says she’s considering writing in a jazz/blues piano style. ”As you mature, lyrically, the songs get more sophisticated and you want the music to support that,” she said, in a slap that really stings….
SAY HER NAME… Yet another songstress of old wants to make a comeback. This time it’s someone from the ’90s, so not so old. And it’s someone we didn’t know too well in the first place. LeToya Luckett was one of the original members of Destiny’s Child, before Beyonce and Daddy Knowles kicked her to the curb at the peak of ”Say My Name” popularity, replacing her with Michelle Williams so fast everyone had whiplash. Well, Luckett’s luck has finally come through, seven years later. Capitol Records will release her debut solo turn in February. Was she contractually forced to wait until DC broke up for good? Hmm… In any case, many of hip-hop’s biggest names are assisting her in fashioning what she calls a ”hard R&B” sound. So as her first single states it, ”All Eyes On Me” may ring true for the first time in her career….
DON’T THROW OUT GARBAGE YET… Don’t put Garbage in the pop trash heap just yet. A Sept. 23 post to the band’s Web site alerted the ”worried and confused” not to — well, not to worry at least. ”We are not breaking up. However, we are taking some much-deserved time off to spend with our families and friends. How much time? We don’t know.” So it could be they’ll dive back in tomorrow, or never; it’s unclear at this point. This will be the second ”long hiatus” the band has embarked on, and it comes as a bit of surprise. The band’s drummer Butch Vig had just told Billboard in the spring that he’s not worried the band will implode, as it almost did two years ago when it took its first hiatus. ”Because we were on the verge of losing it all, we made the album of our career,” said Vig. ”We feel completely rejuvenated.”
Not completely apparently, and perhaps it has something to do with lackluster sales and fleeting press attention to the band’s fourth album, and first in four years, Bleed Like Me. Though it was the band’s highest-charter of its career, it has only sold about the same number as the band’s disappointing-selling third set, beautifulgarbage. Still, the band just notched another dance hit, courtesy of Eric Kupper‘s remix of the album’s rocking title track. By peaking at No. 6 on the Billboard Club Play Chart, it was one notch shy of 1996′s ”Stupid Girl,” and two shy of 1994′s ”When I Grow Up.” At least in club circles, that was a career high….
BRITNEY GETS REMIXED… Britney Spears has topped the Billboard Club Play Chart twice, but only recently: two years ago with ”Me Against the Music” and early last year with ”Toxic.” Her very first single, 1998′s ”Baby One More Time,” didn’t even register in clubland, and it wasn’t until 2000′s ”Stronger” and especially 2001′s ”I’m A Slave 4 U” that remixers’ interest was piqued. Now, however, everyone’s on board: Spears, like the Madonna she wants to be, will release on Nov. 8 Remixed, a collection of her remixes. The album is led by Junkie XL‘s remix of a new single, ”And Then We Kiss,” which factors into the commercial for Spears’s new fragrance, ”Fantasy.” A full track list has not been revealed, but Billboard reports it will include Jacques Lu Cont‘s ”Breathe on Me” — included on last year’s Greatest Hits: My Prerogative compilation — Hex Hector‘s ”Don’t Let Me Be The Last to Know,” Bill Hamel‘s ”Touch of My Hand,” even a remix of ”Baby One More Time” by Davidson Ospina. And even though Armand Van Helden‘s remix is the one you’re most familiar with, Peter Rauhofer‘s hard-to-find ”Toxic” will be included instead….
MADONNA NEWS AND GOSSIP… Do you ever feel like you’ve spent too much time and money on Madonna? Well, we’ve already spilt far too much ink on her forthcoming album, but there’s more news to share and — even better — a little gossip. First the news. Madonna’s new producer, Stuart Price, told attendees at last month’s Billboard Dance Music Summit in New York that Madonna wanted to make a dance-pop album from the beginning — clearly she’s learned what best butters her bread. So Price has assembled Confessions on a Dancefloor‘s 12 tracks as if they formed a remix compilation, making it one of the first artist albums to be continuously mixed. The album, due Nov. 15, opens with lead single ”Hung Up,” and carries on with a song titled ”Future Lovers” and then another that sounds-like-it’s-pandering, ”I Love New York.” Maybe it should be subtitled ”But Not As Much As London.”
Now the good stuff. Popbitch.com, the weekly gossip email newsletter from the gossip-happy land of Britain, Madonna’s adopted country of residency, has shared several other, much juicier details about the album. Of course, don’t take our word for it, but Popbitch dishes that ”Hung Up” samples ABBA‘s ”Gimme Gimme Gimme,” and that the creatively named ”Future Lovers” samples Seal‘s ”Future Love Paradise.” As Popbitch put it, ”Early reports on the Madonna album confirm that she may be running out of ideas.” A week prior, in mid-September, Popbitch gossiped that Madonna chortled when a friend suggested ”Hung Up” sounded like Gwen Stefani. ”That c[***]‘s been stealing from me for the last ten years so I thought it was about time I paid her back,” Madonna responded, or so Popbitch tells it….
WAITING FOR GOLDFRAPPÂ… Popbitch also dishes that staff at the London office of Warner Records, Madonna’s label, have taken to calling her ”Oldfrapp.” Whether it’s true, it’s a nickname obviously drawn from the name of British electronica duo Goldfrapp. That group’s own label is so pleased about the group’s forthcoming third album that it wants to make sure it gives as much promotional push in the States as possible. So Mute has pushed back Supernature‘s American release to February of next year. It was released late last month in Europe. Though it means we’re forced to wait still longer for the next ”Train” and ”Strict Machine” to come, it’s good news to everyone who wishes more push had been made to promote the underappreciated 2003 set Black Cherry….
PROUNOUNCING LU CONT?… Madonna’s producer Stuart Price is to-date best known as the Grammy-winning remixer and DJ Jacques Lu Cont, a name the Brit coined, he told attendees at the Billboard Dance Music Summit, for a laugh. ”I wanted to hear someone on the BBC get tripped up while saying it. Which has happened.”