Way Out West, Gwen Stefani, RuPaul

by Doug Rule
Published on November 18, 2004, 12:00am | Comments

A DANCE BAND RISES… Way Out West is a dance music band. Think about how strange that concept is. And refreshing. You see, Way Out West is not a pop or rock band that occasionally creates a dance -- or danceable -- tune. They always do that. Nor is the group an R&B act that gets credited as a dance artist simply because they allow remixes of their slow or mid-tempo balladry. And now, with its third album, the original Way Out West men are no longer a behind-the-scenes dance act -- “featuring Kirsty Hawkshaw” on one track, Tricia Lee Kelshall on another, and so forth. That overdone practice is an artistically inconsistent and ultimately disloyal pattern that's hurting the genre, making it harder for even dance devotees to keep track of who's who and what's what.

After setting the course for the underground U.K. dance scene for nearly a decade, Way Out West founders Jody Wisternoff and Nick Warren have now moved on to appeal to the mainstream, adopting singer Omi as part of their crew and ever-so-slightly slowing down its beat barrage. Now they're touring as a band -- and not as DJs. They'll appear on stage at Nation this Friday, November 19, with a drummer and a guitarist. This move has upset many diehard fans, and dismayed some critics, but pay them no mind. WOW (as we like to call them) has just released Don't Look Now, a wonderful two-years-in-the-making album filled with fully loaded cinematic songs, each with its own storyline relayed through rollicking, often-unpredictable percussion, warm, romantic-period orchestral melodies and usually breathy, Sarah McLachlan-style languorous vocals. Brooding, building masterpieces such as “Fear” and “Killa," in particular, do wonders to quell an Underworld fan's growing impatience, waiting for that U.K. duo's return.

Dance-pop is in serious need of new thoughts and ideas, and new-old approaches. Songs, people, dance music needs songs. And it needs personalities and identities even more. WOW, in its new calculated effort to be a band and break into the U.K. pop chart and gain mainstream appeal, is hopefully just the first of many dance personalities to come…


Way Out West: Don't Look Now

Gwen Stefani: Love, Angel, Music, Baby

Rupaul: Red Hot

DANCE CHART ‘DIARY' ENTRY NO. 1… Any week now WOW's first single “Anything But You” should chart on the Billboard Club Play Chart. And we could go on and on about other tracks we hope will soon appear. (For the record, Jem's “They” is highest on our list.) But at the moment it's a pretty exciting chart as is. Alicia Keys sits on top, credited to Hani's whirlwind remix of Keys' “Diary“ featuring Tony! Toni! Tone! Who'll knock her off that perch? It could be Robbie Rivera, who's at No. 3 with “Which Way You Going?” Newcomer Elliott John sings over a Coldplay-inspired, Information Society-sounding tune that is just one of many impressive tracks off Rivera's debut artist album Do You Want More

WAITING FOR GWEN... We hope it'll be Gwen Stefani's “What You Waiting For?” to top the chart next. Her debut solo album, Love, Angel, Music, Baby, drops next Tuesday, and we absolutely can't wait to hear it. We could ramble on about the producers she worked with or the influences she cites for the album. But the best thing to say is what she told Billboard: “I was not looking to make an art record. I was looking to make a specific record that would be everyone's guilty pleasure. There was no room for anything but singles on this album.”

And the first single, in its original form, is fantastically alive. But the extended video is even better, and then there's Stefani's stellar choice of remixer, Jacques Lu Cont. That all alone earns her our unreserved esteem. Frenchie Lu Cont never fails to make you take notice of his unique style, whether he's remixing The Faint or Madonna. With Stefani, he creates a manic ticking time-bomb of a neo-disco remix that alternates between warm and smooth house and cool and hard near-techno, the way of the best ‘80s electro-pop…

RUPAUL LOOKS GOOD, FEELS BAD… Alicia Keys just pushed ahead of RuPaul to take the dance chart's top spot, but she did it with such force that the dancing drag queen tumbles six spots to No. 8 with his signature-sounding “Looking Good, Feeling Gorgeous.” You did know that Ru has a new album and single, right? Ru recently made a stink about garnering no serious mainstream press coverage for his self-released Red Hot. Little wonder though, since the album does little more than reconstitute the mid-90s “Back to My Roots” high-NRG sound that got Ru play in the first place -- a sound now seriously out of date. Ru does factor in the occasional Destiny's Child hip-hop number, and he sprinkles throughout uproarious short skits from the un-PC Shirley Q. Liquor. But for all his appeal, Ru is still largely a time-stamped novelty act for the masses. So settling for No. 2 on the dance chart as a comeback is nothing to get stinky-dinky about....

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