The last time Georgio Moroder put his name to an album was 1985. He had scored a surprise hit with Human League vocalist Philip Oakey on “Together in Electric Dreams” from the film Electric Dreams, and they decided to parlay that success into an entire album.
Simply called Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder, the album scored a couple of minor hits: “Be My Love Now” and “Good-bye Bad Times.” Moroder is a legend in the music industry, a dance music pioneer who helped Donna Summer to stardom with a series of innovative singles capped by the enormously influential “I Feel Love.” He has numerous other hits to his name, often working on soundtracks: “Flashdance… What a Feeling!,” “Take My Breath Away,” “Danger Zone,” “Call Me,” and “The Never Ending Story” are just a handful of hits to his credit.
Moroder’s influence has never waned, and lately it’s been more strongly felt than ever. In 2013, Daft Punk included him on their album Random Access Memories in a piece featuring Moroder speaking about his creative technique. Perhaps realizing that his stature in music has never been more exalted, he decided to record an album of his own, which leads us to Déjà Vu. It features the 75-year old working with a wide range of current pop vocalists.
The first track to appear from Déjà Vu was “Right Here, Right Now,” a collaboration with pop diva Kylie Minogue that was released back in January. It’s a catchy if somewhat unremarkable dance track. It’s nice enough, but one would never guess it’s Giorgio Moroder if his name wasn’t on the label. It has little to do with his classic style. Moroder has embraced modern mainstream electronic pop — but he does it well.
The second single is the title track, featuring vocalist and songwriter Sia. While “Déjà Vu” is a half-step up from “Right Here, Right Now,” it still doesn’t blow down the doors. It has an understated vibe with funky guitar that fits more in the traditional Moroder sound, but isn’t overflowing with personality.
The rest of the album is up and down. Opening track “4 U With Love” is an instrumental raver that’s got some nice electronic textures and effects, but there’s nothing to suggest that it’s not an Avicii B-side. “Tempted,” a slight pop number featuring Matthew Koma, is largely forgettable. The notion of reworking Suzanne’s Vega’s subtle and haunting “Tom’s Diner” as a dance track with Britney Spears should have been killed before it ever made it to recording — it’s an embarrassment. Much better is the upbeat “Back and Forth” with Kelis, a superb and versatile vocalist who’s capable of getting the most out of her material. “Wildstar,” featuring Foxes, has a certain frenetic excitement and some of the old Giorgio Moroder magic, its old-school vibe crashing headlong into the present. The closing track “Le Disco” is really what one would expect from Moroder. A beautifully produced slice of electronica with celestial vocals way down in the mix, it’s a tantalizing glimpse of what a Moroder album might sound like had he not gone the route of writing pop songs and trying to bring in guest stars to give the album commercial buzz.
Of course, Giorgio Moroder’s legendary career speaks for itself. He’s been responsible for a seemingly endless number of hits, and Déjà Vu is certainly a welcome return. Unfortunately, for the most part, the songs just don’t stand up to the extraordinary quality we are used to hearing from one of the true masters of pop and dance music.
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