FROM THE SECOND TIME YOU GOT ME BA-BAY… You should already know the name Offer Nissim by now. And Maya Siman-Tov, too — or at least, Maya. You’ve probably heard Maya’s voice, though it’s understandable if you’re unfamiliar with the name: Maya wrote the lyrics and co-write the music, but she went unheralded on Nissim’s debut album, First Time, and on the singles, from ”Searching” to ”That’s The Way I Like It” to the title track. In any case, Nissim’s album, released last spring, was obviously released a year too soon. The Israeli-based Nissim only really started generating buzz stateside this year, especially after a dazzling set at New York’s legendary, leather-inspired Black Party circuit event, where he actually outshone his label boss and putative mentor, headliner Peter Rauhofer. Now he’s spinning bimonthly at New York’s Roxy Saturdays, including a New Year’s Weekend gig with Rauhofer. And each successive single release charts higher on the dance charts; ”First Time” just recently became his first Top Ten hit on the Billboard Club Play Chart.
And so Rauhofer’s Star 69 Records has given the gay Nissim a rare second chance. Or more precisely, Second Time: a re-release of Nissim’s debut, packaged with a full second disc of new songs and remixes. And this time, Maya is front and center — the album is listed as ”Offer Nissim feat. Maya,” and that’s her image on the cover. Disc one remains one of dance music’s best-ever song-based albums. It’s an intensely moody and melodious set of tribal-tipped house, with a serious sense of purpose. Maya says she wrote most of it ”with tears” about an old flame that, obviously, burned her. It included a classical music-inspired ”Intro,” suggesting an alternative title for the album: Offer and Maya’s Symphony No. 1 in C Minor. And that makes sense if you’ve ever seen Nissim spin: he flings and flails his arms around as if he were conducting an orchestra.
So if you didn’t get this set the first time around, by all means get it now. But if you did, it’s up to you whether you should bother again. Disc two includes the great ”On My Own,” released as a single earlier this year — but that was included on David Knapp‘s Cherry 2006 Centaur set, otherwise known as Global Groove. Second Time also includes the good new single ”Perfect Love” and the okay next single, ”Be My Boyfriend.” The songs are getting progressively weaker, suggesting that these latest have been written too hastily. And aside from Nissim’s Reconstruction of ”Alone,” the remaining remixes aren’t especially noteworthy. Furthermore, the set doesn’t include the Dope Boyz’ bouncy electro rework of ”Perfect Love.”
Let’s hope Third Time is just around the corner — and that it’s a set featuring all new productions, created with as much care as the first….
WHITNEY TO TAKE ANOTHER CRACK?… Remember Whitney Houston? You probably thought her career went up in smoke, along with her marriage to Bobby Brown. (Houston has filed for divorce.) But reports about her down and out life might not be all they’re, er, cracked up to be: Apparently, she’s ready to make a comeback. And apparently, she’s got enough of her facility left to know who seems like a perfect producer for the project. That would be DJ Premier, the Gang Starr hip-hop presario nowadays best known for helping create Whitney-protÃ©gÃ© Christina Aguilera’s latest and greatest album, Back to Basics. She’s learned from the best, and all that: Billboard reports that Houston reunited with her label shepherd Clive Davis to begin plans for her first new studio album in four years, and that Premier is in early discussions to do the comeback honors. Premier is positively giddy at the prospect. ”I know what she needs,” Premier told Billboard, without any indication he was intentionally referencing Houston’s old hit ”Queen of the Night.” ”I’m not gonna give her a record about rolling on dubs and all that just because that’s what’s current. That’s beneath her. She can go left field as long as the record’s banging and she sings it well.” Ah, but that sounds like a mighty tall order there, Premier, so forgive us if we’re not waiting to exhale….
WARWICK’S WHACK TO WITNEY… Whitney may make a comeback with the help of some friends — that’s what friends are for — but not with help from her first cousin, or at least, not just yet. Dionne Warwick will release on Nov. 7 an all-star duets album, My Friends and Me. Her son, producer Damon Elliott, produced the set, for which Warwick has revisited classic hits alongside a hodgepodge of female singers, including Cyndi Lauper, Reba McEntire, Gloria Estefan, the late Latin great Celia Cruz, even American Idol also-ran Lisa Tucker. But no Whitney.
One track sounds like a particular knock-out. Chante Moore and rapper Da Brat are featured on ”The Windows of the World,” but overpowering them will be two dancefloor divas Warwick tapped: Angie Stone and Deborah Cox. Yes, those two and the rest sing — together! Doesn’t it seem like a crime Whitney’s gone missing? Same script, different cast….
GEORGE MICHAEL’S POTTY MUSIC… Oh no, not again. According to the Associated Press, late last Saturday night George Michael was found in London slumped over the steering wheel of his car — just as he had been found eight months earlier. And just as then, he was arrested for possessing marijuana.
So, among other prospects, Michael has guaranteed tabloid titters will continue, especially considering that last April he also hit three parked cars. And yet it all comes at a time when Michael was finally getting serious attention for his music — or, at least, music-related antics. Just two weeks ago in Barcelona he kicked off his first tour in 15 years, celebrating 25 years in the business. Michael’s performance of ”Shoot the Dog” includes imagery of President George Bush in bed with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
We didn’t say it was a novel press-generating stunt.
North American dates of the 25 Live tour are in the works for early next year, according to Billboard, but in the meantime there’s new music to feast on in addition to potty humor. On Nov. 14, Michael will issue Twenty Five as a two-disc compilation or a three-disc set. Three new tracks will appear on both sets, including a duet with Paul McCartney. A fourth new track will be exclusive to the three-disc set. Both are, obviously, more expansive than his earlier collection Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael. This latest spans his hits in Wham! to 2004’s Patience. The label will also release a two-DVD collection featuring 40 of Michael’s music videos, including those from Wham!….
NOTICE ME, SAYS ‘N SYNC-ER JC… At least for the moment, Justin Timberlake is the new king of pop, and newly out Lance Bass is the new king of fops, as the British might say. Actually, Timberlake is probably both king of pop and fops, but let’s spread the wealth a little. So what’s another once well-known but now overlooked boy-bander to do, five years after ‘N Sync’s last bow? Joey Fatone has looked for bit acting parts, while Chris Kirkpatrick…. Well, who knows? Who cares? For his part, Towson-native JC Chasez has decided to keep on keeping on, never fearing Timberlake’s shadow. In fact, JC has enlisted J.T. to add some luster to his just-finished sophomore set, according to Billboard, with plans for release early next year. The still-untitled set is the follow-up to his heavily promoted yet underperforming debut Schizophrenic. Chasez wrote or co-wrote all the tracks on the album, and told Billboard the emphasis is on multi-genre melodic pop — much as the appropriately titled Schizophrenic was. ”It establishes a sound that is specific to me, a mash of all things,” Chasez says. ”I hope it’ll be fresh for radio and listeners. In ’97 and ’98 pop ruled. But now hip hop is the phenomenon and Top 40 radio doesn’t play pop records anymore.”
So Chasez has set out to create pop by enlisting today’s leading hip-hop-focused producers, including Timberlake’s right-hand man Timbaland and Dallas Austin. How’s that? First single ”Until Yesterday” was co-written with Timberlake. ”Just because one of us does well, it doesn’t mean there’s no room for the other to do well,” Chasez says, clearly pinning hopes on Timberlake boosting his prospects. If all else fails, perhaps he can count on recapturing some attention through a long-rumored ‘N Sync reunion? Not likely, Chasez suggested to Billboard. ”It ran its course. It’s like, okay, we went to high school, and now it’s over”….
HIP HOP AND DANCE… Chasez’s gambit to create fresh pop through hip-hop is not so unusual, actually. It’s essentially the same way top-of-the-chart dance music is being shaped these days. In fact, Timbaland has created at least two of the year’s biggest dance hits: Timberlake’s ”SexyBack” and Nelly Furtado‘s ”Promiscuous.” That was one of the sobering topics discussed at this year’s Billboard Dance Music Summit, held last month in Las Vegas. ”Dance music used to be cutting edge,” bemoaned RCA executive and dance-music-champion Hosh Gureli, as quoted by About.com’s DJ Ron Slomowicz. Not anymore. Chris Cox even took part of the blame. According to Slomowicz’s, Cox, a regular gay-party DJ and a prominent remixer, told dance summit attendees: ”There are a lot of bad dance records out there. I know because I made some of them”….
BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD BEAT… A stagnating, or worse, dance scene can’t just turn to hip hop for salvation. Name recognition means everything. ”If ‘SOS’ was by an unknown, instead of Rihanna, it would have been labeled a dance record, and it would have been less successful,” claimed Cory Robbins, head of dance label Robbins Entertainment. In a Billboard interview printed in advance of the dance summit, Robbins also said that dance-friendly rock acts such as the Killers and Bodyrockers are helping both to bring more people to dance music and to change the genre by incorporating more rock influences.
Also changing the dance scene, and the music industry as a whole: MySpace.com. Robbins talked about the surprising success his label had with German trio Cascada‘s mainstream hit ”Everytime We Touch.” ”I didn’t think it would happen in America,” he told Billboard, citing the song’s hyped-up sugar-rush sound as totally foreign to American radio. But MySpace kids started posting it, and the word-of-mouth eventually inspired mainstream radio stations to pick it up. In the end, nearly one million people have downloaded the track, ruining keyboards and whatever else purchasers’ sticky fingers touched in their wake….