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ALEGRIA BY ANOTHER NAME… Roland Belmares has spun for party promoter and former DC resident Ric Sena before, at Sena’s Alegria in New York, the special-Sunday night party that makes you prematurely wish Saturday night would hurry up and be over. As a seller of Latin-spiced tribal house with a generous side of disco, it makes sense that Sena would find favor in Austin-based Belmares. Sena has tapped Belmares to headline the New York Pride Weekend launch of his new Friday night party, NRG. At least on the initial flyer, Belmares even got top billing over Alegria staple and circuit-star Tony Moran for the event. It’s set for June 23 at PachaNYC, the former Sound Factory space with an elevated central DJ booth fronted by blocks of mirrors — until the party really gets going that is, when the mirrors become flashing, multi-colored glow cubes.
Still, it’s nice to imagine that Sena tapped Belmares to spin at NRG after just one listen to Belmares’s latest Centaur compilation, Party Groove: Blue Ball 5. Certainly one listen will make you want to check out Belmares this Saturday at Velvet Nation, when he spins for the Queer as Folk-derived City of Babylon Tour. More than any other set released lately, it very much resembles the two Alegria compilations that Abel Aguilera compiled for Tommy Boy Records. Like Abel, Belmares isn’t afraid of diva vocals. But also like Abel, whether by default or design, he chooses his diva vocals wisely — these aren’t tracks you’ve already heard, or at least they’re not tracks you’re already tired of from overexposure. Chances are, you still won’t be tired of this smart, appealing set this time next year. Belmares makes that prospect all the more likely by incorporating wild but tasteful beats into his mix. Like Abel, his tribal polyrhythms move your feet without beating you over the head about it. Belmares never loses control or veers from his overriding happy-dance sensibility. ”We like the disco sound,” goes one disco-sampling track midway through. When disco sounds like this, it’s a truism no one could deny….
CENTAUR’S SOUR CHERRY… Philadelphia’s Blue Ball, no longer a depths-of-winter party but one held in the spring, has become a direct competitor to our own nonprofit circuit party Cherry. As has been reported, Cherry organizers are considering a move away from the annual weekend format to nightly events several-times-a-year (an official announcement about Cherry’s future is expected in just a couple weeks). If that happens, Blue Ball will be in some small part at fault. This year’s Cherry had a better lineup than Blue Ball, held two weekends ago. But Blue Ball had Roland Belmares — and with Belmares, Blue Ball gets the better compilation. Cherry’s wasn’t even a designated Cherry compilation anyway. Cherry attendees got a limited edition version, with a different cover and a Rachel Panay remix of the latest Global Groove set from David Knapp, who did not play at Cherry. Why couldn’t Centaur have tapped Closing Party DJ duo Rosabel to compile a set?
In any case, Knapp’s set is one you can do without. Not because it’s bad, but because it’s not that good. It’s way below expectation from this veteran. Though Knapp has included several new and up-and-coming dance hits, he doesn’t compile them in any compelling way, and as good as some of them are, they’re exactly the kind of diva tracks that suffer from overexposure. Closing out the set with ”Give Me Your Love” by Carl Cox featuring Hannah Robinson. Fabulous track it is — and a recent dance chart-topper too. But it’s been played and played and played some more. For well over a year. Belmares had it on his Party Groove: Winter Party 8 compilation last year, in fact….
A GAY GAMES HIT PARADE… If you’re looking for a hit-parade compilation, turn to Joe Bermudez and his debut for Centaur, Gay Games Chicago 2006. As far as hits-of-the-moment compilations go, this is actually one of the best Centaur has ever released. The first of two Gay Games VII compilations to come, Gay Games Chicago 2006 belies Bermudez’s skill as a radio DJ (most notably for XM and Music Choice). Bermudez has assembled a varied mix of hot tracks from both big and soon-to-be-big names in clubland. Among the standouts: With ”Bring It On,” he’s finally found — and remixed — a worthy successor to Debby Holiday‘s sweet breakthrough hit ”Dive” from a couple years ago. (Her second single ”Half A Mile Away” is thankfully many miles behind us now.)
And Bermudez managed to find an altogether pleasing track — no complaints — from Vernessa Mitchell. It’s shocking to believe, I know. For once, Mitchell barely screams at all on ”Love Will Find A Way,” and D.C.’s own Yiannis has outdone himself with his Outstanding To The Limit Mix featured here. To paraphrase several of those past shout-fests from Mitchell, you might say this song has liberated her. Yiannis took her life and made it better. And now, finally, we can accept her for who she is. As long as she doesn’t go changing, that is. In which case, we’ll have to leave her again….
REPLAY RIHANNA… Last summer, Rihanna, a native of the Caribbean island of Barbados, had a hit with ”Pon de Replay.” It’s not hard to understand why. The song managed to sound both refreshingly different and comfortably similar to the pop competition. It sounded different thanks to its fetching dancehall reggae beat. But lyrically and melodically it simply followed a hit path trodded most recently by Jennifer Lopez (”Play”) and Madonna (”Music”). Not just in the musical request to the DJ — ”Hey Mr. DJ, won’t you turn the music up?” — but also in cute lyrics about the joy of dancing.
Now, less than a year later, Rihanna has done it again, proving she’s no one-trick-pony. Her hit ”SOS” sounds different because she thoroughly and ingeniously samples Soft Cell‘s ”Tainted Love,” (Why hadn’t anyone thought of that before?) and makes a lyrical nod to ABBA (”S.O.S.”), giving her song a fetching synth-pop ebullience and energy. The fact that it’s built around a familiar sample that gay listeners know by heart suggests Rihanna could have cleverly created the song of the summer. The song, along with a couple Jason Nevins’s remixes, is causing quite a stir in clubland, just as ”Pon de Replay” did last year.
It also suggests that Rihanna — born Robyn Rihanna Fenty — is not just the BeyoncÃ©-come-lately that you may have first taken her for. Like BeyoncÃ©’s before her, both of Rihanna’s albums suffer under the weight of too many entirely derivative R&B ballads. Still, there are several rump-shaking tunes beyond ”SOS” on the new set, A Girl Like Me. Which, it should be stressed, is her second album in less than a year. Rihanna, just 18, may not yet be quite as captivating as BeyoncÃ©, 24, but she’s working at least twice as hard to win our affection. After all, we’re still waiting for a new BeyoncÃ© set three years after her solo debut….
CASCADA’S HYPER HIT… Rihanna lost out to Cascada for the Best New Dance Artist/Solo honor at the recent International Dance Music Awards. Cascada is the recording name for the blonde, blue-eyed singer Natalie Horler, based in Germany. And her first single, ”Everytime We Touch,” is the genre’s biggest pop hit in America in years. It peaked at No. 10 on the Hot 100 a month ago and still lingers in the Top 20. The song — and Cascada’s music in general, including second single, ”Miracle” — is an uncomplicated and unsubtle hyper-fast brand of dance, built on trance and Europop. It seems custom-built for those with A.D.D. and for those who pine for the pre-A.D.D. dance days, a time nearly two decades ago….
PRE-A.D.D. DANCE DAYS REVIVED… Those pining for pre-A.D.D. dance days must be finding solace in the recent spate of dance covers, mostly from Europe, of decades-old pop hits — a cover such as the 2002 hit from DJ Sammy and Yanou, who enlisted singer Do to recreate Bryan Adams‘s tune ”Heaven.” It probably comes as no surprise that Cascada’s music is co-written and co-produced by a German producer named Yanou — one and the same. ”Everytime We Touch” itself is a cover of a 1992 song from an obscure Scottish singer.
To date this spate of covers (and all of Yanou’s work) has been released in the states by the label Robbins Entertainment. Remember the dance version of last year’s Top Ten hit ”Listen to Your Heart,” a Roxette cover from DHT featuring EdmÃ©e? Or Judy Torres‘s recent dance cover of Journey‘s power ballad ”Faithfully”? Both Robbins releases. But all this success hasn’t gone unnoticed by other American labels. Ultra Records, for one, has just released both club and ballad versions of a new track from dance singer Kim Sozzi, best known for her dance hit with Mynt, ”How Did You Know?” On her newest single, Sozzi covers Heart’s power ballad ”Alone.” As in, ”How do I get you alone?” Some of us, though, are power-singing a different question to the same melody: How do we get them to stop?…
DURAN DURAN’S INSPIRATIONS… Perhaps one way to stop the cover madness is by reviving old dance tracks that were never very popular in the first place. You could do it as a covers album, if you insist. Or you could create a compilation, such as the one Duran Duran is prepping. (In addition to finishing recording an album of all-new material.) Nick Rhodes and John Taylor Present: Only After Dark scoops up songs that these two Duranies say inspired the ’80s synth-pop quintet’s early days. Included on the set are obscurities from post-punk pioneers David Bowie, Bryan Ferry, Brian Eno, Psychedelic Furs and the Human League. Then there’s Donna Summer‘s ”I Feel Love.” And a Grace Jones track. But for now, you’ll have to pony up for an import, since there’s no word on if there will be an American release. The set hits stores in the U.K. this Monday, May 8…