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”PATIENCE” AND ”FAITH”Â… George Michael‘s first tour in 15 years, scheduled for the fall across Europe, has been met with such high demand that his handlers are optimistic an American edition will follow. ”I can’t imagine it won’t come to America,” his tour manager told Billboard. The 25 Live Tour celebrates Michael’s 25 years in the business and will feature a career retrospective, including hits from Wham! and Michael’s solo career. Why was he M.I.A. for 15 years? To see if his fans still have faith? More because of a series of personal and professional setbacks. Little things like, you know, suing his label Sony, getting caught cruising for sex in a public bathroom and getting grumpy and bitter about decreased sales for his recent work. ”He just became a bit reclusive, not really wanting to go out and engage the public,” his tour manager reported to Billboard. But now, you might say he wants your sex again….
FROM BROKEBACK TO THE CARIBBEAN… Tired of hearing Gustavo Santaolalla‘s ”The Wings (Theme from Brokeback Mountain)” at a club near you? Well, the success of remixes of that instrumental track, including the most popular Manny Lehman, Tony Moran and Warren G Collaboration Remix, has encouraged Disney to release remixes for its upcoming blockbuster. ”He’s a Pirate” is the theme to — what else? — Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, hitting theaters next week. Among those on tap to remix composer Klaus Badelt‘s theme: tribal-pop upstarts Friscia & Lamboy and the straight club scene’s most popular DJ, trance-master Tiesto, whose bombastic style and sound seems perfectly suited to the chest-thumping task….
ROCKING TO ELECTRONICA… Two adventurous rockers will release new material in the coming months that could stretch the boundaries of what has become known as dance-rock. Thom Yorke, the frontman of adventurous electronic rock band Radiohead, will release his solo debut next month. Not to worry: Radiohead is very much still functioning, Yorke says. The band is spending the summer touring and previewing tracks in consideration for its next studio album. Yorke just wanted to try out some material on his own. ”Inevitably it is more beats and electronics” than Radiohead’s output, Yorke was quoted as saying about the album, The Eraser, due July 11. Yorke will perform from his new solo work July 15 on The Henry Rollins Show, a late-night talk show hosted by the uber-gay-friendly punk-rock legend on the premium-cable IFC Network.
Meanwhile, former Jane’s Addiction/Porno for Pyros frontman Perry Farrell is prepping the debut album from his new group Satellite Party, which features ex-Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt and guest appearances from two Red Hot Chili Peppers. Sound too hard-rock for your taste? Well, also guesting on the set is Black Eyed Peas vocalist Fergie — hopefully there’ll be no talk of her humps for a change — and, most notably, Peter Hook, who as the bassist in New Order is one of dance music’s most influential musicians. Also on tap for vocal duties: Farrell’s wife, Etty Farrell. Mr. Farrell told Billboard: ”We wanted to add a nice, healthy dose of female energy into it, especially female voice, because it’s wonderful for chorus. We’re chock full of great, grand songs… It is lush and beautiful and sexy and loaded with energy”….
FROM WEIRD TO ”WONDERFUL”… Last November Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox released a new single as the Eurythmics, ”I’ve Got A Life,” and included it on a new greatest-hits compilation. After years of silence, the two even hinted that they might write and release more synth-happy pop songs together. But for now, only David Guetta‘s chart-topping remix of the song is still heard. Nothing else new. And all signs point to renewed separate ways.
Stewart’s new rock band with hit songwriter Kara DioGuardi (Kylie Minogue, Kelly Clarkson), called Platinum Weird, will release its self-titled debut August 22. Meanwhile, Stewart is taking a creative approach to promoting the band, enlisting the help of pop stars to either create from scratch the band’s history, or to share a previously unknown truth. This Wednesday, July 5, VH1 will air a 40-minute film that sounds trippy in more ways than one. According to Pitchfork Media, in the film Stewart suggests he originally formed a band by the name of Platinum Weird more than 30 years ago with an unknown singer named Erin Grace. The partnership with Grace, according to the story, gained early buzz in the industry, but fizzled out after she mysteriously disappeared before the band’s debut album was produced. Mick Jagger, Ringo Starr and Elton John are among those sharing recollections about Grace and the ”original” band’s music — as do, improbably, Christina Aguilera and Lindsay Lohan. If nothing else Stewart is putting the literal truth to the band’s name.
Meanwhile, Billboard reports that Annie Lennox may not take even half as long to produce a new solo set as she did last time. Three years after her brilliant album Bare, Lennox is already beginning work on a follow-up. By contrast we had to wait eight years for Bare after 1995’s Medusa. It might still be another year or more, though. Billboard reports that no delivery date is set, and that Lennox is too early in the process to reveal who she’s working with, much less identify a theme to the album. Right now her only goal is putting together a collection ”with 12 strong, powerful, really emotive songs that people can connect to.” Sounds like typical Lennox….
AND THIS YEAR’S SUMMER ANTHEM IS… Now that the season has officially begun, it’s time to consider contenders for Song of Summer 2006. At this very moment, the latest from Shakira and Nelly Furtado have the lead, but others are quickly catching up. And as in years past, they’re all women. With ”Buttons,” the Pussycat Dolls could bring it again, at least in gayville and in clubland (not mutually exclusive domains, of course). Meanwhile, neither Mariah Carey nor Rihanna seem to have the staying power with their respective hits ”Say Somethin”’ and ”S.O.S.” But Tony Moran does do a nice job reworking Rihanna’s lackluster single, ”Unfaithful,” so his remix could make that the sleeper summer song.
Chances are high, however, that Madonna will rule the gay airwaves with ”Get Together.” Just weeks after release, the club-happy song is already dominating all dance charts. Among the remixes, only the disco-washed Danny Howell and Dick Trevor KinkyFunk Mix stands up to repeated play. Stick to the original, and you’ve got a real contender….
XTINA PACKS A SUMMER PUNCH TOO… Christina Aguilera is also riding high with her new song ”Ain’t No Other Man.” All it takes is one listen to reveal why it’s another strong contender to be Song of Summer 2006. The funky horns, swaggering beats and Aguilera’s celebratory attitude make the classic-styled R&B stomper the perfect genre-bending summer jam, along the lines of Beyonce‘s ”Crazy in Love” from three years back. It’s also an enticing preview of Aguilera’s third album, Back to Basics, hitting stores August 15. Aguilera set out to revive and slightly modernize the sound of vintage jazz and soul from the greats that she says inspired her, including Billie Holiday, Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald. ”What I used to call my ‘fun music’ when I was a little girl,” she explains. Aguilera re-teams with Linda Perry, who created the gay classic ”Beautiful” and other tracks from 2002’s Stripped. But she worked mainly with little-known hip-hop producer DJ Premier, and in previous reports she has said the album sounds different from her past work. But not completely different: One track, ”Thank You,” features bits from her first hit, ”Genie in a Bottle.” And another, ”Still Dirrty,” has been described as a ”sassy club track,” just like the Stripped hit that obviously inspired the title, ”Dirrty”….
BEYONCE’S SUMMER RETRY… If ”Ain’t No Other Man” isn’t this year’s ”Crazy in Love,” then Beyonce hopes to take the honors again herself. But simply titling her latest summer release ”DÃ©jÃ Vu” doesn’t make it so. It’s a cute track for sure, and one that deserves to be a hit, no question. But Beyonce sounds more shrill than ever, and the song is more traditional R&B and not nearly as infectious as ”Crazy in Love.”
Fortunately, Beyonce did bring back ”Crazy in Love” producer Rich Harrison for other tracks on her sophomore album, dubbed B-Day. In fact, she told Billboard she created ”healthy competition” between the five hitmaking producers she tasked for the album, including the Neptunes as well as Harrison and ”DÃ©jÃ Vu”’s Rodney Jerkins. She would begin work with each producer telling him that another one just laid down some ”great beats” for her. No word on whether she actually added ”Can you keep up?” But that was her intention, and apparently it worked — none of the producers were dismissed. While 2003’s Dangerously in Love focused on the joys of love, Billboard reports Beyonce’s latest is ”about female empowerment,” and ”speaks for every woman.” Sounds like ”Independent Women, Pt. 3”….
JUSTIN COMING ‘SEXYBACK’ TOO… Is it 1999 all over again? Pretty much all we’re missing is Britney and the boy bands. And if you count the tabloids — but wait, here comes boy-band grad Justin Timberlake, expected to release his sophomore set, FutureSex/LoveSounds in September. The first single, ”SexyBack,” won’t be released until early July, so a little on the late side to make it a true contender for Song of SummerÂ…
DANCE DIVA DUMP AT ITUNES… Still haven’t had enough of divas? How about throwing into the mix some Whitney, Deborah, Angie, Annie and Kelly? Well, we can’t promise you’ll find anything new. But in case you didn’t notice the last time you dived for divas at iTunes, the RCA Music Group recently dumped three loads of hard-to-find dance tracks from among its stellar roster of dance stars. Some of these were only available to DJs, others were only available in edited version; none were previously available in digital format.
But thanks to RCA’s Hosh Gureli, dance music’s biggest champion in the music industry, now you can have the digital full-length version of David Morales‘ aptly named Emotional Club Mix of ”So Emotional” from Whitney Houston [iTunes]. That’s 11 minutes, 22 seconds of dance-floor bliss, or nearly three times the edited remix included on Houston’s The Greatest Hits set. Or you can download Peter Rauhofer‘s Club 69 Mix of ”Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here.” You say you only knew of Hex Hector‘s classic remix of that Deborah Cox [iTunes] signature? Hector’s is better — and it’s here as well — but check out Rauhofer’s unique take anyway. It’s a high-stepping sizzler.
The RCA Dance Vault is sometimes prominently flagged at iTunes, but if you can’t find it, the best way is to either search by your chosen diva’s name or use the keyword ”vault”….
AVIANCE ATTACK… It’s that time of year when you just may be at your gay-proudest. Maybe you’re so confident and comfortable you’re even starting to question the whole point of Gay Pride-dom. And then, just like that: Along comes reality to kick you down, brutally putting any doubts to rest you might have had about society’s lingering homophobia.
Last weekend, reality kicked dance singer Kevin Aviance, who was gay-bashed walking out of a gay club in Manhattan’s East Village, a city — and especially a neighborhood — generally regarded as very gay-friendly. Apparently Aviance, born Eric Snead in Richmond, Va., wasn’t even in his usual flamboyant drag and makeup. He was ”dressed like a boy,” the New York Daily News reported, wearing shorts, a T-shirt and a hat. Dressed like that, the singer of club hits who got his start in D.C.’s club scene was obviously not recognized by passersby.
And that’s the most disturbing part of the whole affair: there were passersby. Not one spoke up or tried to stop a half-dozen late-teenage boys as they yelled and chased after Aviance, 38, who frantically tried to hail a cab to get away. No one helped him as these neighborhood brats started throwing things at him and then punched and kicked him to the ground, according to news reports. At least one passerby later turned in one of Aviance’s attackers, who then helped police find and charge three of his cohorts with first-degree assault as a hate crime, the Daily News reported. And another passerby helped Aviance to a nearby hospital. He suffered a broken jaw and bruises and underwent surgery over the weekend. Sadly, with his jaw currently wired shut, Aviance will not be able to perform as scheduled during next weekend’s New York Pride festivities. But at least he is recovering….
ROCK, DANCE, SCISSOR SISTERS… Everybody’s favorite mostly gay band will finally unleash new material this fall. The Scissor Sisters will release its second album, the cutely titled Ta-Dah, Sept. 25. A few weeks before the album’s nod date, the glammy dance rockers will release ”I Don’t Feel Like Dancing,” written with and featuring piano tickling from one of their leading influences, Elton John. Yes, sadly we have to go all summer without new tunes from this neo-disco cutting crew. But at least that first single’s title doesn’t appear indicative of how the new music will sound.
”It’s pure hands-in-the-air, ridiculous disco fun,” says the band’s sole female member, singer Ana Matronic, describing the song ”Paul McCartney,” written by gay frontman Jake Shears as an homage to the famous Beatle. Strangely enough, Matronic told Rolling Stone it sounds nothing like a McCartney song. The quintet also recorded with David Bowie‘s guitarist Carlos Alomar, Roxy Music vocalist Bryan Ferry, and Kylie Minogue. It’s unclear if the last two artists’ contributions will factor into the final production.
”So many of the new songs are just really fun to play live,” says Matronic. Considering how much fun the band was live to begin with, it all sounds so fabulous….
DJ SASHA, LIVE AND LEGAL… Unless you skipped out on gay nightlife this past Saturday — have you no sense of pride? –you probably missed Sasha at D.C.’s Fur Nightclub. And chances are even more likely you’ll miss him when he spins in Los Angeles next Saturday. But that night Sasha will become the first DJ to ever release a fully legit on-the-spot recording of a set. A limited-edition two-disc set featuring two-plus hours of music will be available for purchase as clubgoers leave LA’s Avalon nightclub, or a month later at select record stores nationwide. The recording company Instant Live will pre-license all the music in Sasha’s collection so that whatever he plays will be legal and ready for use. ”This culture, like it or not, was built on bootlegs and now downloads,” Sasha says. ”Instant Live allows me to put my sets directly into the hands of the fans while supporting the music makers. With the artwork and packaging, it will be a great memento of the night.”
Born in England as Alexander Coe, Sasha is one of the techiest — one might say geekiest — DJs around. He’s also the genre’s leading trendsetter, progressive in more ways than just the style of house music he prefers: adventurous, rock-influenced pop at a moderate pace. He was the lead half of the original super-DJ duo, Sasha & Digweed, and he helped pioneer the idea of the DJ mixed compilation.
And now, the first truly live and legal recording from a DJ. It would be great if the idea catches on, since too often what you hear from a DJ on record is different from what you hear live. But the cost and time involved will only allow it to work for the biggest names in the business, spinning at the biggest events. So don’t hold your breath for a take-home souvenir from any club outing in your near future. Unless, of course, you decide to make it a straight night.
But wherever you go, be careful. As proud as you may be, it can be a hateful world out there….