The previously unreleased portrait of k.d. lang that adorns makeover (★★★☆☆) is a side of her we’re not used to seeing. Shot by David LaChapelle, the image of lang seated at a drum set in a flowy sky blue dress is not unlike the dance remixes that make up the album — uncanny at first, but somehow they work.
Though lang’s reputation as a country and folk legend are well-deserved and may have had more staying power in the long run, it was her pop run in the early ’90s that made her a star and cultural icon. That decade following her pop breakout Ingénue, and the subsequent All You Can Eat, gave us some of her most celebrated tracks.
The dance remixes presented on makeover are certainly less well-remembered today, although their very existence speaks to lang’s broad appeal and her chameleonic versatility as an artist.
The album’s tracks span an 8-year period from 1992 to 2000, and feature some of the decade’s most prolific and celebrated professionals. As lang notes with some apparent surprise in a press release, “two of these tracks had even hit #1 on the dance charts!”
Of course, even the best remixes tend to have a brief shelf life as footnotes to the original tracks. What they may have lacked in staying power more than make up for in injecting energy and dynamism into lang’s originals.
DJ Krush’s remix of “Sexuality” cranks up its inherent sensual vibe, transforming it into an intense small-hours journey. “The Consequences of Falling in Love,” a highly subdued track, is given an injection of late ’90s dramatic pop flair in the Love to Infinity “Radio Mix,” a stellar effort that is only outdone later in the album by a 7-minute extended “Funk Mix.”
As interesting as the entire collection is as a project, not all of the tracks hold up as much more than relics of their time. Tony Maserati’s “Sexuality” adds little to the original. One particular outlier is the St. Tropez remix of “Miss Chatelaine.”
While iconic, the original is not much of a dancepop song, and this remix is so subtly different as to raise the question of why it was even included in the compilation, other than to make sure one of lang’s most essential songs made the cut.
Part archival pet project, part Pride month-ready nostalgia bomb, makeover is a curious artifact of an album. As lang herself explains, “I had the idea of putting together a dance remix compilation, as I mused about how we built community in those days before the internet, mobile devices, and dating apps.”
Where makeover succeeds is as a snapshot of an era — not only a pivotal moment in lang’s career, but of an ephemeral moment in the history of dance music and the communities that thrived around it.
Makeover is available for purchase and streaming on May 28.
Read More Music Reviews:
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!