Kristine W, Jewel, and Gwen Stefani, plus Haru's promtional dance song

By Doug Rule
Published on May 6, 2004, 12:00am | Comments

FILL ME UP WITH GAS… Can music make you hungry? Some of it sure can give you gas. Haru, a New York-based Japanese restaurant chain, is achieving at least one of these feats. “You've danced to it. Now eat to it.” That's Haru's advertising slogan, referencing the popular current dance hit of the same name. To ensure you don't forget it, the name serves as both the title of the song and the artist. (The song's female singer, as is regretfully common custom in dance pop, goes unnamed). And the name is repeated like a birdcall on the track, as is the play-on-words line “you fill me up.” But assuming you weren't already aware of the song's marketing origins, don't you feel bloated now? Gad Romann -- hired by Haru to handle advertising, the very reason he created the song -- trusts you won't. He told Billboard that it all depends on where you first heard the song. “If that first experience was authentic, positive and legitimate, ‘Haru' will be accepted as a song,” Romann says. “Then, when you find out that it's also the name of a restaurant, you won't feel cheated.” That's awfully presumptuous on his part. Dance music the past few years has been used to sell non-music related products, but let's hope this variation of the trend doesn't catch on, or we could soon be dancing to Buca di Beppo, Red Lobster or perhaps the forthcoming Girls Gone Wild restaurant chain.

Of course the worst of it all is that “Haru” is such an innocuously tuneful track. Actually, no. The worst of it all is the approach that Romann's production company, as with so many others, is taking to create music. He told Billboard, “We are not building artists' careers; we are building content.” It's that lack of a named living and breathing being out in front of a song that's killing dance music today, turning it into the musical equivalent of canned refried beans. Sure it tastes okay, but watch out. It'll come back to bite you in the ass -- and not in a good way…

BLOND AMBITION I: KRISTINE W... We have good news, bad news and mixed news to share about three “blond” ambition singers. First the mixed news: The amazingly talented Kristine W -- surely one of the most far-ranging, energetic live performers dance pop has ever produced -- told Metro Weekly last month that her upcoming fourth album will be her first to diverge from uptempo dance pop. The followup to last year's Fly Again will be a musical fusion, mixing jazz standards with a modern-day chill out lounge sensibility. It's more a reflection of what she tells us she listens to at home, beyond the dance music that fuels her mornings. She specifically cited Mel Torme, Annie Lennox, Sarah Vaughan, Chaka Kahn and even Heart as artists who get repeated play during the day. Does she worry she'll lose her dance-pop fans by making the switch? Not at all. “There'll be lyrics and stories they can relate to.” But for good measure, she quickly added: “And there will of course be some dance tunes on it, and of course we'll be remixing it as well”…

BLOND AMBITION II: JEWEL... Was it only a year ago that Jewel courted us by speeding up her music and adding electronic touches? The video for her lady-razor-christening first single, “Intuition,” even spoofed MTV with its text message from a fan glowing about how he likes Jewel much better “now that she's dancing.” Well, party's over. According to Rolling Stone, Jewel is at work on her fifth album, to be released next year. The artist says “it's going to be really lo-fi,” featuring songs that Jewel has played live for years but never recorded. It will be far removed from the dance-oriented material of last year's appealing dance pop album 0304, according to the magazine. That was apparently just a passing fancy -- passed over, perhaps, because the album and its singles were only modestly successful, nothing close to the fancy she was surely gunning for…


BLOND AMBITION III: GWEN S... But fear not, as another “blond” singer will pick up where Jewel and Kristine W left off -- and we're inclined to think Gwen Stefani will at least match Kristine W and far exceed Jewel in uptempo pop artistry, given her track record. The No Doubt frontwoman and fashionista will release later this year her solo debut. Billboard recently quoted Stefani talking about a track written with No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal “that is really a mixture of everything we loved growing up: Prince, Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam, and Club Nouveau.” Sounds fun and funky. Also promising is earlier reports of collaborations with producers Dallas Austin (most recently known for creating Janet Jackson's ear-candy club hit “Just a Little While”), Missy Elliott, the Neptunes, and best yet, Outkast's Andre 3000 (“Hey Ya”). A single should be ready for release this summer, after No Doubt's tour next month. And then, in November, around the time of the album's release -- what a synergistic coincidence! -- Stefani will make her big-screen debut, in Martin Scorsese's biopic about Howard Hughes,“The Aviator.” Stefani will play Jean Harlow…


Jewel: 0304

Kristine W: Fly Again

No Doubt Singles

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