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LIKE A ROBOT AT YOUR COMMAND… Ultra NatÃ© topped the Billboard Club Play Chart last summer with her fantastic cover of the Pointer Sisters‘ 1980s hit ”Automatic.” And yet, you’ve probably heard it more this summer than you did last. The reason: Six new remixes were released earlier in the season, most significantly the Tikaro, J. Louis & Ferran mix that practically every leading gay club DJ has put in regular rotation, from Abel to Junior Vasquez to Brett Henrichsen, who included it on his Masterbeat One Mighty Weekend 2008 compilation.
And with any luck, you’ll be hearing a lot more from Nate. In a few weeks her label Tommy Boy will re-issue her underappreciated studio album from last year, Grime, Silk & Thunder. According to a press release, Alchemy: GST Reloaded will include all six new remixes of ”Automatic” as well as other new and previously unreleased mixes of songs from the original album, which also included the hits ”Love Is the Only Drug” and ”Give It All You Got.” Most interesting yet is a bonus disc, a compilation mixed by Nate, a regular DJ in her home base of Baltimore and at select dance industry events. To quote Nate, ”it’s automatic, I’m so excited”….
CIELO’S THE LIMIT… A hot new remix of Ultra NatÃ©’s seven-year-old song ”Twisted” takes center stage on a new compilation celebrating New York’s best place to hear all varieties of house music, Cielo. Mixed by Cielo residents Nicolas Matar and Willie Graff, Cielo Cinco is a two-disc set as classy and sophisticated as the intimate Meatpacking District club itself, host to regular gay-popular parties, including one helmed by Junior Vasquez. Cielo Cinco starts off smooth and groovy, though it’s deep and hot by the time Cielo regular and Grammy-winning legend Louie Vega‘s remix of NatÃ©’s ”Twisted” comes in at the peak of disc one. ”Got me going round and round and round and round,” NatÃ© sings in spirals. House music this good and timeless you’ll want to spin forever, too….
MY JOY, MY PEACE, MY STRENGTH… Quentin Harris worked as a co-producer on Ultra Nate’s album, and the increasingly prominent dance producer’s signature sound — deep house with serious bass lines, leavened by sweet touches from soul and disco — helped make Grime, Silk & Thunder more interesting than it would have been. The same is true with Colton Ford‘s Tug of War album: Ford’s music is better than you’d expect from a former porn star still using his sex appeal to draw attention, and it’s all because of Harris, so critical he plays a supporting role in Ford’s videos. The Detroit-born, New York-based Harris is a regular DJ in Europe, and next month he’ll debut at New York’s gay Alegria party. But right now you may be most familiar with his work in remaking a fiery, three-year-old track from neo-soul singer Leela James, which he’s turned into one of this summer’s biggest club burners. In Harris’s remake of ”My Joy,” Margaret Grace sings about finally getting over her no-good ex. ”’Cause, if, I, thought, you were the end all, and my be all,” Grace sings in a sweet voice, repeatedly pausing for dramatic effect. That is, until she gets to the three-part punch line: ”I would’ve never left you alone, and I wouldn’t be on my own, and I never would have wrote this song.” The song, to say the least, is this disastrous relationship’s silver lining….
DEFECTED, DON’T STOP… The phenomenal Harry ”Choo Choo” Romero remix of Harris’s ”My Joy” is a stellar track on a stellar compilation, Defected in the House: Miami 08. Many months after its release, the Defected disc three still reigns as the best mixed CD we’ve heard this year – and better still, you can get the whole 42-song, three-disc set for only $9.99 at iTunes. The slow-burn of disc one is perfect for a cocktail party – faster than chill-out music, with some hip-hop thrown in, but not so hot you’re quite ready to strip off your shirt. That doesn’t happen until the end of disc two, which perfectly sets up the nonstop heat from disc three, a fantastically mixed collection of house from the DJ known as ATFC that will appeal to all those who love both happy, vocal-driven songs and hard and banging electro-tipped tribal. You’ll be begging for more – or as ATFC puts it on his own original composition at the end, ”Ya killin’ me; please don’t stop”….
THE FEDERAL PLEASURE PRINCIPLE… Now, if only they could do something to revive Janet Jackson‘s career: A federal appeals court rejected the Federal Communications Commission’s half-million-dollar indecency fine against CBS, a fine levied for the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show when Jackson had her infamous, career-damaging ”wardrobe malfunction.” It was an over-reaching and just-plain ridiculous fine, as the judges made plain in their verdict – though it was based on precedent, not on prudence. ”The Commission’s determination that CBS’s broadcast of a nine-sixteenths of one second glimpse of a bare female breast was actionably indecent evidenced the agency’s departure from its prior policy,” they wrote, referring to its decades-long policy of not fining for isolated or fleeting material. No doubt the FCC will appeal, on account of the agency’s hypocritical concern for the children who watched the game and halftime show yet somehow missed the commercials using sexual imagery and innuendo for the likes of Viagra and beer….
MAMMA MIA, HERE THEY GO AGAIN… Forget The Dark Knight. Oh sure, it’s raking it in at the box office, on track to break even more records than simply biggest opening weekend ever. But cut through all the hoopla, and it’s just a movie. Meanwhile, the No. 2 film last weekend is having a wider impact. And we don’t just mean the excitement that comes from knowing Meryl Streep can do anything and everything, including sing. She can! The real impact of Mamma Mia! is the resurge in interest in one of pop music’s most maligned and most enduring acts. Yep, ABBA‘s back! Well, not back, as in back together — they notoriously declined to regroup for a million dollars years ago. But the Tony Award-nominated stage musical that inspired the film continues to shine on Broadway after almost seven years, and now there’s the film and its soundtrack, which features new cast vocals and slightly tweaked original productions from group co-founder Benny Andersson. Andersson told Billboard he wanted to stay true to the originals but keep it interesting to those who know the music by heart. He succeeded: The soundtrack debuted in the Top 10 on Billboard‘s main album chart last week. It actually topped the British album chart, and the quartet’s songs are getting action on the singles chart across the pond, too. Plus, sales of the ABBA Gold compilation are on the rise again. Billboard reports it’s already sold over 4 million total copies in the U.S. — and that’s just among the gay population. (It’s not actually, but doesn’t every gay man own one?) Thank you for the music, ABBA….
SAY MY NAME, SAY MY NAME… Now that Destiny’s Child is really over, all those previously associated with the pop-hitmaking behemoth can finally get some attention without Beyonce hogging the limelight. Oh, wait, not so fast: The Bootylicious-est of them all is said to be readying a new album for release in November. It’s a set inspired in part by yet another upcoming film, Cadillac Records, in which Beyonce plays blues singer Etta James. Pop’s most ubiquitous producer, Timbaland, is on tap for the album, along with Rodney Jerkins….
MICHELLE’S DANCING TILL DAWN… But enough about Beyonce. What about Michelle? Michelle Williams was a gospel singer before and after her eight years in the group, and she also starred in The Color Purple musical. But now, as previously reported, she’s becoming a dance-popper. During New York Pride she performed one night at Splash, and in a new About.com interview she gushes about getting more involved with dance music and having just met one of her favorite DJs, Junior Vasquez. Well, okay then! Her dance album, Unexpected, is due in just a couple weeks. ”And we ain’t stopping till the morning light,” Williams sings about clubbing on first single ”We Break The Dawn,” which is slowly working its way up the Billboard Club Play chart and already topped the Dance Airplay chart….
KELLY’S JUST GETTING IN… Williams isn’t the only Destiny’s Child newly devoted to dance music and clubbing. Earlier this year, Kelly Rowland had a hit with ”Daylight,” a remake of a ’70s R&B song by Bobby Womack and added to a reissue this spring of Rowland’s lackluster-selling solo album from last year, Miss Kelly. ”Daylight” cracked the Top 5 of the Billboard Club Play chart earlier in the year, but it should have gone all the way — and surely would have if more people had heard the Hex Hector remix. Hector, who seems to be quietly returning to remixland, throws a little darkness and shade to what is an otherwise deceptively light and simple song, about the lure of nightlife that goes on all night. ”Most people are just getting up, when I’m just getting in,” Rowland sings. Rowland is reportedly in the studio working on her third solo set, though no word on its planned release….
THE INDEPENDENT WOMEN… And what about the earlier members of Destiny’s Child, the ones who didn’t survive the wrath of Beyonce’s dad, the group’s manager? Well, LeToya Luckett is expected to release her second solo album in the fall. It’s said to be influenced by music from the ’80s. She’s worked on it with some familiar R&B producers, from Rodney Jerkins to Babyface, as well as many of today’s biggest pop and hip-hop heavyweights, from Danjahandz to Pharell Williams to, yes, Timbaland.
Meanwhile, LaTavia Roberson is also working on a solo album with many of today’s biggest hip-hop producers, including Scott Storch, Swizz Beats and Outkast’s Andre 3000. Roberson’s album may also see light before the year’s out….
LITTLE SISTER DECIDED… And then there’s Beyonce’s little sister. Did you know Solange Knowles co-wrote Beyonce’s ”Get Me Bodied” and ”Upgrade U” as well as Williams’ ”We Break the Dawn?” Well, five years after her disappointing debut, Solo Star, maybe Solange will actually impress us the second time around. Her new album, due in late August, is awkwardly titled Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams. The set kicks off with cute, jazzy first single ”I Decided,” co-written by Pharell Williams. Aside from the expected Neptunes production, a second version, ”I Decided Part 2,” was produced by hot British dance production duo Freemasons. And the Freemasons’ more dramatic version is quickly ascending the dance charts and will be the main version released in Europe….
We Break The Dawn
THE CATS’ NEW MEOW… Now that summer is really, truly here, you’re mind is probably dreaming about the beach and barbecue — not to mention what’s in store for the fall. The fall? Well, at least the music industry is. In the past couple weeks, the publicity wheels have been churning, announcing early details about many of the star attractions, most to come right after Labor Day. Like the Pussycat Dolls. As it were.
Yes, the Dolls are coming back to make you wish your girlfriend were a dominatrix like them. Doll Domination drops Sept. 16, or three years after their mega-selling and surprisingly satisfying debut PCD. Of course, they reteamed with Timbaland, along with Cee-Lo and old-pro Rodney ”Darkchild” Jerkins, who produced edgy first single ”When I Grow Up.” It will be interesting to see if chart lightning strikes twice for the group — it didn’t for lead singer Nicole Scherzinger, whose solo album went nowhere, and multiple tries for a hit single failed, too — even on the dance charts….
YOU’RE GONNA LOVE HER… Gay Pride in New York last weekend was much ado about Jennifer Hudson, who was the surprise performer at Sunday’s Pier Dance, working the crowd into a frenzy recreating her Oscar-winning showstopper from Dreamgirls, ”And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going.” She opened with ”All Dressed Up In Love,” her absolute gem of a song from Sex and The City. She also performed her new single ”Spotlight,” and then Junior Vasquez debuted two of his own remixes of the song back to back at the official Pier Dance After-Party. As a certain judge would say on the show that first brought Hudson to our attention, American Idol, the new song is just ”aiight” — and it’s not inspiring us as much as we had hoped it would in her self-titled debut album, due in September. Also concerning: The fact that she’s not reaching as far left field as it was originally announced she would, working with some of the most ubiquitous names in hip-hop. Nearly a year ago, for example, she was said to be collaborating with Salaam Remi, the man behind many an Amy Winehouse marvel. She also told Billboard then that she was staying away from hip-hop. That doesn’t seem to be true anymore. Ne-Yo and Stargate co-produced ”Spotlight,” and Billboard reports now that others, including Christopher ”Tricky” Stewart (Rihanna‘s ”Umbrella”) and, yes, again, the most ubiquitous of all, Timbaland. She also got help from shlocky balladmakers Diane Warren and Robin Thicke. ”I think people will be pleasantly surprised, because it shows a side of my work that no one has heard before,” Hudson told Billboard….
JEM FINALLY WAKES TO NEW GEMS… ”It’s Amazing” was another standout from the Sex and the City movie and soundtrack, a gem from Jem, a name that may not be familiar to you, regrettably. The Welsh singer wrote ”Nothing Fails” for Madonna years ago, and her signature sound is very much in that vein: moody, minor key music with electronic flourishes, and lyrics offering realistic but resolute expressions of hope. Her debut Finally Woken was one of 2004’s best pop albums. If first single ”It’s Amazing” is any indication, the new set, Down to Earth, due in September, traverses the exact same path. Billboard reports she’s worked with producers of hits for Kylie Minogue and Lily Allen. Sounds promising….
GET UR FREAK ON… Missy Elliott is also expected to release her latest studio set Block Party in September, with production help from the same old crew, from Timbaland to Timbaland protÃ©gÃ© Nate ”Danjahandz” Hills to Pharrell Williams. ”There are a lot of dance joints on there. It’s one of those albums you can play out in the streets,” Elliott told Billboard, adding that the album is probably more musical and melodic than her previous sets, with Elliott singing at several turns, including on lackluster first single ”Best Best”….
CIARA’S DANCE KINGDOM… Ciara is also set to release her third studio set Fantasy Ride in September, especially noteworthy because it’ll be three discs of five to six songs each. According to Billboard, one represents ”sensual songs,” another uptempo hip-hop in original Ciara style (think her 2004 hit ”Goodies”), and most exciting of all, a disc called ”Kingdom of Dance” showcasing Ciara’s ”house-leaning, freestyle-tinged cuts”….
CHEMICAL BEATS… Thirteen years together, the British dance duo the Chemical Brothers just get better and better as they go. But before they go any further, they’ll release a Best-of Collection in September. Brotherhood collects 13 of the duo’s greatest hits, from ”Block Rockin’ Beats” to ”Star Guitar” to ”Do It Again,” and also includes a new track ”Keep My Composure,” featuring Baltimore-bred rap group Spank Rock. A second disc in the set will feature ”Electronic Battle Weapons 1-10,” or the testing grounds and foundations for many of the Brothers’ hits and never before widely available. ”Electronic Battle Weapon 10” provided the groundwork for new single ”Midnight Madness,” set for release next month….