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GIVING ULTRA IN 2008… It’s only days away now, and the excitement is palpable. The year 2008 holds oodles of promise for pop music in general and dance in particular. Look at all those dance divas getting ready to boogie our way: Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Cyndi Lauper, Kristine W — the list goes on. The line is around the block!
Give It All You Got: Ultra NatÃ©
But several dance divas are already boogie-ing, just waiting for you to catch up and dance with them again. Remember how invigorated and free you felt dancing 11 years ago? ”’Cause you’re free, you can do what you want to do!” Ultra NatÃ© belted it out in her sultry, sensational voice, and she hit the mainstream. She’s had several dance hits since, but nothing quite like ”Free,” just about the biggest gay anthem ever. Nobody expects her to top that, but at least she has just released an equally indelible anthem.
”Give It All You Got” is actually the third to come from Baltimore-based NatÃ©’s Grime, Silk & Thunder album, released right before Capital Pride last year. It’s possible this will be no more successful than the first two singles from the album — both ”Automatic” and ”Love Is The Only Drug” hit big on the charts, but neither got as much club play as you’d expect, nor were they featured on any compilations. The timing just feels right for this kind of anthem, as a new year — an election year — dawns. ”Now is the time to pledge allegiance to all you believe in,” NatÃ© sings. Plus, it’s a key track to appear on the highly anticipated third Alegria compilation. (Keep reading.) Yep, that could do it. As NatÃ© asks in the song, ”You’re a natural wonder, so why don’t you believe?”….
D.A.N.C.E. GRAMMYS… After years of being slighted, Tiesto finally got his Grammy nomination. (Yes, Junior Vasquez, patience — not to mention politeness — pays.) For a change, nominators for the 50th Grammy Awards, to be held Feb. 10, pretty much got it right in the Best Electronica/Dance Album category, where you’ll find Tiesto’s Elements of Life. (But where is Tiesto rival Paul Van Dyk‘s In Between?) Other nominees include the over-hyped Justice, with Cross; LCD Soundsytem‘s second nominated set, Sound of Silver, which should win; and, way out of left field, We Are Pilots by Shiny Toy Guns. This under-hyped New Wave-steeped band is as much alternative rock as it is electronic, but no fan of dance would complain. Definitely worth getting to know.
We Are The Night by British pioneers The Chemical Brothers is the final album nominee. It’s certainly the band’s best, but I’d rather see the duo win Best Dance Recording for the deliciously devilish ”Do It Again.” They almost assuredly won’t, not up against the likes of Rihanna (”Don’t Stop the Music”) and Justin Timberlake (”LoveStoned/I Think She Knows”). And here’s Justice again, with ”D.A.N.C.E.,” a sure-fire hit among the preschool set. MIKA rounds out the category, with ”Love Today.”
This year’s pool of nominated remixers in the Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical, category is well-known and well-respected — from Carl Craig to Benny Benassi. But the remixed recordings for which they were nominated are mostly obscure, a sign that either Academy voters have become more forward-thinking or more pedantic, depending on your perspective. They’re certainly more techno- and trance-focused. Maybe that’s why we prefer the very-now house remix of Kaskade‘s ”Sorry” by Dirty South. But Eric Prydz should win it for his noteworthy mash-up with Pink Floyd on the banging ”Proper Education.”
Notably absent from any of the three categories this year: Stuart Price aka Jacques Lu Cont, who’s been nominated every year the past three. He’s won three out of five possible statues, two for his remix work (No Doubt, Coldplay), and then last year for his production on Best Dance Album Confessions on a Dance Floor, by Madonna. Clearly the Academy wanted to see him sit out a year, give someone else a chance….
GET SET FOR MORE CHA-CHA… The gay circuit’s best DJ and arguably its best party have teamed up once again on a record: DJ Abel Aguilera will finally release Alegria: Universo in February. Nearly two-and-a-half-years after Alegria Musica, this third in the excellent two-disc mixed compilation series from Tommy Boy will feature many new and unreleased tracks, as ever, including one from D.C.’s own Alex Cohen — ”Don’t Be A Hater,” featuring Sasha Fox. Chus & Ceballos, Frankie Knuckles, Louie Vega, Bob Sinclar, Freemasons and other house masters are represented, plus multiple contributions from Abel’s Rosabel project with Ralphi Rosario, including one amusingly titled number with Tamara Wallace: ”Looking 4 Men (Abel Ho-ing Dub).” A few more divas are here too: Tamia, Jeanie Tracy — and Ultra NatÃ©, of course…
NASTY FEEDBACK… Janet Jackson will also return next year, or four years after the Super Bowl performance that punted her career. (But not that of her co-star Timberlake.) Her new album Discipline is set for release Feb. 26. To ensure maximum exposure, she worked with nearly all the latest hitmakers. That didn’t exactly help Britney Spears, of course. And if you thought Britney’s latest was nasty, well — this is Miss Jackson, remember. Her new single, ”Feedback,” is a scorcher and we don’t just mean musically. ”Strum me like a guitar, blow out my amplifier/When you hear some feedback, keep going, take it higher,” Janet coos in her breathy delivery. Should be a wild video. Jackson is also expected to tour this time around….
Gifts to dance by… Looking for the perfect gift for your dance-music lover — or even just yourself? Happy Holidays are here.
Mainstream dance… The ”mass” in the title of Joe Bermudez‘s Nervous Nightlife Presents Mass Movement implicitly refers to Bermudez’s Boston base. But it also accurately reflects the 14 tracks here: There’s something for everyone, whether you prefer your dance music hard or soft, sweet or sad, vocal or instrumental, inspired by rock or soul, colored by new tech-house or old-school techno — or creative dance-pop that splits the difference. Bermudez does a nice job of running the gamut of emotions a clubgoer experiences, from obsessive, even creepy lust, to the thrill of meeting someone new or the pain of parting with someone old, to the desire to escape and dance. A straight, satellite-radio DJ who spins regularly in gay clubs, including in D.C., Bermudez straddles the genre’s styles with aplomb. And his track selection is fresh, with several exclusive remixes and few tracks previously released. If you’ve heard more than two of these before, you’re probably already a Bermudez fan….
Cruise keepsake… Two months ago, Centaur Records released its first one-disc compilation featuring two DJs. Roland Belmares and Mike Cruz‘s Global Groove: Live 2 is an accomplished set that would satisfy any regular gay clubber/circuit lover — if they don’t already own it. But Centaur’s latest —
Warren Gluck and Wendy Hunt‘s White Party 8 — is more noteworthy. In fact, White Party 8 is Centaur’s most noteworthy release in years. Also a tag-teamed, single-disc compilation, this is better than you’d expect from either Gluck or Hunt alone. Together, they’ve created exactly the kind of unspeakable joy and exhilaration you get from a gay cruise — no surprise, since cruise veteran Gluck set the standard. The uplifting, energetic vocals here are as close to gospel heaven as gay dance music can get without selling its soul to divas who are (not-so) secretly anti-gay. From Jason Antone to Brian Kent to DJ Scotty K featuring Knockhopper, the set is loaded not just with male vocals — yes, really — but gay male vocals. Yes, really. Some of the best gay newcomers around, too, particularly Peyton, the food and drink gay on the UK edition of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. His work with ATFC on ”Beautiful” is as inspiring as a sunrise at sea amongst a thousand or so kindred spirits….
Serious club… Peter Rauhofer just released his second set this year and the third in his I Love series, this time I Love Montreal. But his Star 69 Records released months ago what is probably this year’s best compilation — Stephan Grondin and DJ Vibe‘s Stereo Sound 001 — which also honors that world dance music capital to the north. It was a popular year for that, actually, but this is the one Montreal set to bother with. Every track across this two-disc set that repeats on Rauhofer’s are better in form and presentation here, most especially ”Reaction.” Cold and creepy in the Martin Accorsi remix Rauhofer presents, Medway & Austin Leeds featuring Jennifer C.‘s original is warm and charmingly sassy. You’ve probably heard even more of the tracks here, since several others repeat from Victor Calderone‘s Evolve. You must hear these again. Not only are the versions here better, this whole compilation is what we had hoped to hear from Calderone in 2007: tribal music that has evolved to include, but is not all-consumed with, minimal and tech-house. DJ Vibe‘s set, in particular, is closer to the full-throttle fierceness of a live Calderone set in New York (or Montreal). Meanwhile, the gay Grondin’s set proves why he’s increasingly in demand beyond his home base at Montreal’s Stereo nightclub. A Stereo Sound 002 is in the making. Here’s hoping a D.C. visit for Grondin is, too….
Free my love… Okay, so you’ve just shelled out money for gifts for others. Fortunately, the best gift for yourself doesn’t even cost a penny, provided you have iTunes or can listen to podcasts. In the past year more DJs have turned to podcasts as a tool for promotion. And the best one yet started in July. DJ Chus Esteban is most popular as the lead half of the Spanish DJ/remix team Chus & Ceballos, responsible for one of the all-time best two-disc compilations, last year’s Back 2 Back. Chus has so far created five installments in his hour-long podcast series, most of which have been recorded live from gigs around the globe; all of which include regular voice-over promos, identifying the set as his. They are assembled on DJ Chus’s In Stereo. Podcasts 2 and 4 especially find Chus in peak form, weaving his way through snippets and layers of tracks, keeping the beats and rhythms interesting and varied. Every time, you’ll discover at least one track worthy of downloading at Beatport or your favorite dance music site. On podcast 2, the standout is the glorious, chiming Remode Mix of Axwell‘s ”I Found U,” though there’s also John Made‘s remix of ”Sweetest Day of May” by the Joe T. Vannelli Project. Any day is a sweet day when a track like that plays. It’s got a full-fledged gospel choir! Perhaps Gluck will play it on your next cruise — or at the MAL Reaction Dance next month. Till then, hear it here….