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JANET’S NOT ”CRAZY IN LOVE”… We should hear a new single from Janet Jackson within the next month, or months in advance of Jackson’s next album. But the single won’t be a high-stepper, or at least it won’t be the high-steppers that those still getting their music illegally may have heard recently. Jackson tells Billboard that several tracks she recorded a couple years ago have been leaked online, including one called ”Put It On Me.” But none of those tracks will be featured on her new album, she told the magazine. She obviously decided against working with those tracks’ producer, Rich Harrison. And all we can say is: too bad.
Yes, it’s great to hear that her latest album will refer back to her breakthrough album, Control, released exactly 20 years ago. In fact, her latest album, due in late September, will be called 20 Years Old, a direct reference to Control. It’s also an acknowledgement that her career has reached a level of maturity matched by few others, as well as the fact that some Janet fans, barely 20 years old themselves, can’t even remember a time when she was just the youngest Jackson, or Penny from Good Times. Makes you feel old, doesn’t it?
It’s also great that Jackson is still working with her longtime collaborators Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, in addition to her boyfriend, Virgin Urban president Jermaine Dupri. But while it’s possible that they’ve cooked up some spicy sweet goodness, the likes of which Jackson hasn’t served up in years, Rich Harrison would have surely done the job. Don’t recognize the name? Well, the Maryland native and Howard alum Harrison, working as Richcraft, created Beyonce‘s ”Crazy in Love,” Amerie‘s ”1 Thing,” and future hits from the likes of Missy Elliott, Toni Braxton, and the Pussycat Dolls. Based on every production I’ve heard from Harrison pairing his distinctive big, brassy, bouncy sound with a female R&B vocalist, I’d call Harrison among the best R&B producers working today. Let’s just hope Jackson can coax out some classics from Jam & Lewis, who at least can say they were yesterday’s best R&B producers….
”CRUSH”WORTHY NEWCOMER ANNIE… The Norwegian singer Annie Lilia Berge-Strand, who records simply as Annie, gained a stateside cult following, particularly in the gay community, with the release last year of her bubblegum pop debut Anniemal. The album, with tracks from fellow Norwegian synth-poppers Royksopp and British electro-electronica producer Richard X, made multiple musical references to ’80s acts, and hinted that Annie could be the second coming of Madonna.
Less than a year later, like a good Madonna acolyte, Annie doesn’t want us to forget her. She may be still recording tracks for her follow-up album, but she hopes to have it released asap, and by the end of the year. ”I’m in a hurry,” she told MTV.com, adding, ”The new songs are more club-oriented, still ’80s-sounding, but different.” Chances are good we’ll finally hear her in the clubs, something that was only promised last time out, but never delivered. Her cute and springy first single ”Heartbeat” was remixed by The Scumfrog, and yet barely a beat was heard.
For her new, untitled set, Annie is planning to work with Alan Braxe, a French remixer who as part of the trio Stardust (also including half of Daft Punk) created one of the biggest dance hits of the past decade, 1998’s ”Music Sounds Better With You.” She’s also working again with Richard X, with whom she got the ingenious notion to cover ”Two of Hearts,” the ’80s hit from one-hit-wonder Stacy Q. First up will be an original composition ”Crush,” to be released as a single this summer….
PEACHES TALKS OF ”BUSH”… Merrill Nisker will return this summer to the gutter-mouthed, garage-punked and raunchy electro rapper/singer shtick she’s cultivated with modest success as Peaches. Her third album will be released July 11 — and its title, Impeach My Bush, seems to be more than just a taunt to an ex-lover or a hater, and more than just a clever play on words. Though not obvious from the song titles that have been reported — doozies such as ”Tent In Your Pants,” ”Two Guys (For Every Girl)” and ”Hit It Hard” — the album title at least suggests the set will include some political fire aimed at the current American President. And so does the Berlin-residing Canadian’s recent activism. Peaches performed alongside R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe, Rufus Wainwright, Moby and Fischerspooner at last month’s anti-Iraq War benefit concert, ”Bring ‘Em Home Now!” in Manhattan. She also pleads on her Website for people to protest the president’s opposition to stem cell research, explaining that her sister has an advanced case of multiple sclerosis, and the research offers some hope for a cure.
The album looks like it could be her most appealing yet, and possibly her most popular, considering that she’s collaborated with Joan Jett, and Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme and Leslie Feist. Peaches hasn’t really had a hit since her very first single, ”Fuck the Pain Away.” In advance of the album, Peaches will tour with what Pitchfork Media calls her ”sleazier-than-thou live act.” Joining her on the tour: JD Samson, the lesbian member of feminist post-punk trio Le Tigre. Unfortunately, the closest Peaches will come to our Bush is Pittsburgh, on June 30….
”PRECIOUS” DANCE TRACKS… Every year in March dance music’s leading movers and shakers go to party after party in Miami as part of the Winter Music Conference. And nearly everybody is focused on the same goal: to identify the tracks that will have the biggest impact on the club scene over the next year. In recognition of that, artists, remixers, producers and labels all save their latest and greatest tracks to release en masse in Miami.
So, based on what happened last month, just what might be some of this year’s biggest tracks? Smart money is on Dennis Ferrer. Ferrer has two original tracks and several remixes that generated buzz in Miami. The latter includes what was also the biggest track in Miami last year: ”Most Precious Love.” The song just refuses to die. Written by production duo Blaze and performed with vocal fireworks by Barbara Tucker as part of the AIDS-benefiting collective known as Underground Dance Artists United for Life (UDAUL), the song was originally released in late 2004. But it didn’t gain much attention until Ferrer transformed it from a formulaic mid-tempo churchy soul-house number to a bright and bouncy synth-house stomper. Soon enough it was unavoidable at the clubs, topping the Billboard dance chart, and landing on compilation after compilation. Next month King Street Records will release still more remixes, including one from the hot new UK production outfit Freemasons, whose steeped-in-disco remix serves as the basis for a cute new animated music video for the single, which you can see by following the link at http://www.kingstreetsounds.com/news0406.htm. A cartoon Tucker sings from a club’s stage about finding inner-love, but the video focuses on the outer kind, as two opposite-sex strangers find, and nearly make, ”precious love” with each other on the dance floor….
ULTRA NATE’S LATEST ”PLACE”… Though we haven’t heard the end of ”Most Precious Love,” King Street has just released another single from Keep Hope Alive, the 2004 UDAUL benefit album. This time, it’s Baltimore’s Ultra Nate who provides the fantastic vocal fireworks. In its original form, ”Wonderful Place” was one of the best songs from the album, full of sweet chords and bristling beats that accentuated Nate’s warm voice and enthusiastic vocals. So far, the best remix we’ve heard is the Bobby & Steve & James Radcliff Afro Mix, which steadies the song upon irresistible, slightly jerky beats drawn from Afro-pop….
DEEP DISH WINS BIG… As big as ”Most Precious Love” has been over the past year, it still lost out at the Winter Music Conference’s International Dance Music Awards (IDMA). Nominated among an amazingly strong lineup in the ”Best House/Garage Track” category, the voting public chose instead ”Say Hello” by DC’s own Deep Dish. That song also took the award for ”Best Progressive House/Trance Track,” showing just how difficult it can be to put up borders around dance’s subcategories. Deep Dish also won as Best American DJ, bringing their award total to three (out of a leading seven nominations), the same as Madonna, but one short of Paul Van Dyk, who most notably won as Best Global DJ and Best Producer. Another multiple award winner: Best New Dance Artist/Group the Pussycat Dolls, whose ”Don’t Cha” won as Best R&B/Urban Dance Track. For more results, visit www.wintermusicconference.com/idmanominees06.htm….
NOTEWORTHY COMPILATIONS… What else besides ”Most Precious Love” was the talk of Miami last month and might soon be heard at a club near you? Three new compilations offer a starting point for answers. The UK-based Azuli Records has just released Miami 2006, its sixth annual set of tracks inspired by the Miami confab. Meanwhile, Om Records, the San Francisco-based label that just celebrated ten sweet and soulful years, has released Om: Miami 2006, a fantastic set of funky, percussive-happy and bass-drunk mid-tempo tracks that recall nothing so much as the energetic dance music that was popular 15 or more years ago.
But the Miami sound at its finest comes courtesy of the UK’s Defected Records. Defected In The House: Miami 2006 is where you’ll find Sergio Flores’ new remix of ”Most Precious Love,” which adds several more months of life to the tune by incorporating elements of Baile Funk, or Brazilian party music. The Defected compilation is also where you’ll find two new stomping Dennis Ferrer tracks: the intensely pulsating ”Son of Raw,” and the euphoric feel-good anthem ”Change the World,” in which K.T. Brooks Sr. takes us to church with his preacher vocals.
Having established itself as one of Europe’s very best dance labels within seven short years, Defected has just begun its campaign to fully impact the American market. And with Miami 2006, assembled and mixed by Defected founder Simon Dunmore, the label’s campaign starts off not with a bang, but an explosion. This is one of the strongest compilations the dance genre has ever encountered. This nearly flawless three-disc set runs smoothly for three-and-a-half hours. At least every other track could very well be dance’s next big hit. And all 46 tracks share an overriding sensibility: a serious love of disco.
And I mean flat-out, old-school disco, not just disco-fied contemporary house, which itself is naturally well-represented. Most tracks dazzle courtesy of the compilation’s musically sophisticated and utterly timeless party band vibe, replete with chipper cowbells, festive horns, swirling strings and wild live bass. And, of course, the dozens and dozens and all manner of singers ecstatic to share pleasure and move on from pain with a club full of understanding revelers celebrating a shared existence. And ain’t that just what dance music is all about?…