Posts filed under ‘Dance Music’
I have to confess I’m a bit late to the party for a particular pair of Canadian sisters who hail from Calgary, Alberta of all places. I’m talking about Tegan & Sara, who recently released their 7th studio album, Heartthrob.
I happened to catch a review of the album, and after listening to the samples in the review, I wanted to hear more. It didn’t take long to sell me on my first full album purchase in what must certainly be years at this point. I can’t speak to the sisters’ earlier work, but reviews seem to suggest that with Heartthrob, the duo have become more pop-centric and mainstream. Whether that resonates with their core fan base I have no idea, but I found the album to be a great collection of songs consistent in the quality of songwriting and production. I should note that the material is not dance music.
Closer seems to be the single getting the focus of attention—the dance remix for which I initially overlooked back when the promos hit, but went back to reconsider. I’m glad I did. The official video (of the original version, not the remix) is on YouTube, also embedded below:
Tegan & Sara aren’t the only Canadian twins who have been on my mind lately. Some distance farther west—Vancouver, to be exact—is the home of another set of musically-inclined twins in Carmen & Camille. Far less well-known than the Calgary duo, these two girls share with them some great innate talent and polished pop chops. The song they’re currently working from their own indie label (TwinSpin) is IDGAF, the official video for which is on YouTube, and embedded:
German production duo Punkrockerz have created en EP of dance treatments across EDM sub-genres, credited as Punkrockerz feat. Carmen & Camille, which was released in Europe on Mental Madness Records, and in the US by CAPP Records. My favorite is a terrific electro mix, and there’s a “remix” of the video for this version as well on YouTube, and below:
In any event, if these two pairs of twins and these two songs are any indication, good things do indeed comes in twos.
While as a DJ I don’t play that much trance generally, this EDM genre remains a favorite of mine—especially vocal trance, with its lyrics often showing amazing depth of feeling and emotion, paired with the classical-like rises and falls of the music itself that are so characteristic of the genre.
I recently came across a promo from Armada for a release on their S107 sub-label from Tenishia, the Maltese duo of Cyprian Cassar and Joven Grech. Last year, the pair released a full-length album titled Memory of a Dream, and the promo was for the song of the same name. With vocals provided by Chris Jones, the song is simple yet beautiful, with lyrics that pulse with emotion. The best way to hear that is the unplugged mix, which is little more than Jones’ singing and a simple piano arrangement. The full mix of the song follows the typical vocal trance formula to really good effect.
What sours an otherwise strong musical story here is an accompanying music video that is among the worst I’ve seen since Hannah‘s embarrassing video destruction of her otherwise stunningly beautiful release, I Believe in You. (You can see the video against Cahill’s mix of the song here.) In the video, the singer and a pair of dancers stage an amateurishly choreographed dance framed against a sci-fi backdrop that makes the original Star Trek television series look positively cutting-edge—none of it having anything at all to do with the stunning, heartfelt lyrics. But I digress…
The Tenishia video for Memory of a Dream does not, at least, look like a high school cinematography student’s production (like the Hannah video), but that doesn’t make it any less ridiculous. It starts on a beautiful, touching note: A little girl whose parent or guardian has ostensibly been killed in a car accident, looking on at the scene, crying. That much fits with the emotionality of the song. But it doesn’t last long. Soon enough, the video digresses into the two producers building a robot who becomes the little girl’s companion and they live happily ever after, apparently. It is, in a word, absurd—and completely not in keeping with the tone or substance of the lyric.
In any case, you can make your own judgment on the video while listening to the stellar song behind it; the official video is on YouTube, also embedded below:
Some of my favorite music originates out of Europe, and this new “favorite track” is no exception.
Sweed Lorine Talhaoui—known under the stage name Loreen—is perhaps best known outside Sweden as the winner of the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest. The song that took her to the win was Euphoria, which is amazing in its original version, and also had a couple of worthy dance remixes which have shown-up in my mixshows and sets.
Her latest single, which was released in Europe back in October but which has just been made available in North America as a DJ promo, is Crying Out Your Name. It’s another beautiful, heart-wrenching ballad that showcases Loreen’s amazing vocal talents.
For whatever reason, Loreen’s singles often receive remixes, but not always particularly good ones, IMHO. Unfortunately, that’s the case with Crying Out Your Name. The producers who contributed their work seemed to focus more on their own production work, in my view, than properly showcasing the beauty of the vocal and the songwriting. It’s a shame, but a couple of the remixes will be showing-up in my mixshows in the coming weeks anyhow.
There is apparently no official video for the track, but Warner Sweden has it posted against a static background on YouTube, also embedded below:
Here’s to Loreen and her music getting a foothold outside of Europe.
If you missed Euphoria, you can watch the official video on YouTube, which is actually pretty dance-infused itself. There are also some nice acoustic versions on YouTube, including this one from a television appearance. Enjoy.
In the interest of full disclosure, I work part-time for CAPP Records, an indie dance label based in San Francisco. CAPP specializes primarily in various techno genres (hands-up, hardstyle, etc.)—while my own personal tastes as a DJ run more toward the dance/pop mainstream.
Once in awhile, however, CAPP releases a project with mixes that step outside their techno focus, right into my favorite territory, and one of those releases is from California girl, SUNN. I had the pleasure of meeting SUNN in Seattle at a CAPP Records event early this year, and she’s got genuine charisma and sweetness—not to mention a lot of talent.
Shoulda is her debut release, a track she penned herself. My favorite mix is from Tale & Dutch, and regular listeners to the mixshow have heard it a few times now. You can watch the video on YouTube, also embedded below:
I’m not sure I find that the video lives-up to the strength of the song. Then again, I find that videos are always a bit hit or miss… In any case, I still love this track!
I recently got a DJ promo of a great new track from the UK R&B girl group StooShe, called Black Heart. The fantastic remix from Bimbo Jones (one of several remixes) gives the otherwise retro sounding track some seriously great energy, and while it sucks the retro right out of it, it doesn’t complete obliterate the song’s character.
The original version, viewable with the official video on YouTube, was a bit of a surprise when I heard it—after falling in love with the the dance mix. I’m not sure I’ve heard someone attempt to revive the classic 60s sound quite so unabashedly. (Embedded below.)
In any case, this is another you can expect to hear regularly in my mixshows for awhile to come.
Regrettably, the girls’ label—Warner—hasn’t seen fit to release the track in the United States. What a shame.
I have a large(-ish) music collection. I know there are people who make my collection look tiny, but I have roughly 15,000 MP3 files which are a combination of dance/DJ, as well as the smattering of other things I listen to. Anything from Diane Schuur with her smooth jazz vocals, to Elton John classics, to a crapload of 80s music of all types (although emphasizing new wave).
Since getting sucked into the cult of Apple (first iPod Touch, then iPhone, then iPad, then Apple TV, and most recently iMac and MacBook Pro), I’ve worked a little harder at resolving my disdain for iTunes. I still think it’s an abysmally poorly written piece of software, lacking anything even remotely resembling tools for true power users. But it is what it is, and I’ve tried to accept its glaring and numerous flaws since—for better or worse—it’s the requisite tool for managing one’s various iDevices.
So after trying to juggle my massive music collection and the need (well, desire) to have the right music on the right device at the right time, I decided—screw it. I’m signing-up for iTunes Match. $25 is a year is trivial for enabling me to access substantially all my music, nearly anytime, nearly anytime. Unfortunately, that meant undertaking a process of organizing this big pile of crap that is my music collection, and making at least some reasonable effort to ensure it’s tagged properly, de-duped, and so forth.
Alas, now was the time anyway. I recently got a NAS (a Western Digital MyBook Live Duo, specifically), set it up in RAID 1 mode, with the express purpose of having a central repository for my music, my videos, my photos, and various digital bric-a-brac. Let’s just say that sifting through the contents of roughly a dozen desktops and laptops, along with a handful of external hard drives, to extract content that I want to save is a process akin to yanking all my teeth out with a rusty pair of pliers. First off, it hurts like bloody hell, and secondly, it seems to be consuming a lot of time.
In any case, I did manage to get my old shared music library quickly tag-cleaned (read: barely dusted off), moved to the NAS, where it joined a somewhat more scrubbed copy of my DJ music library, so at least there’s a centralized copy of that. (There’s still a lot of work to do; there’s music scattered everywhere in the storage devices around here.) And I did sign-up for iTunes Match. And I have added the resulting centralized library to iTunes.
As I write this, iTunes is busy uploading a megaton of obscure dance music to the Apple servers—songs it failed to match successfully against Apple’s own store content. I reckon it’ll be finished by the end of the weekend at this rate, despite having a full 20 Mbps of upstream capacity here.
In any case, the process of cleaning-up my music collection, adding it to iTunes and syncing to the cloud has reminded me of an awful lot of great music I have in my music collection which I’ve not listened to in years. Among them is Anything Box.
Billed as a “synthpop” group, they are best known for their late-80s smash hit, Living in Oblivion. Personally, I think their best work came later on, but I was ecstatic to rediscover great tracks like Where is Love and Happiness, Every Single Day, Life is Fun, and Lady in Waiting, which I remember putting on endless repeat when first acquired.
I was also happy to discover that ABox head Claude Strilio and his musical partners who’ve ebbed and flowed over the years are still going strong. (Information at anythingbox.com.)
Maybe I’m showing my age, but I was also happy to discover the sense that the music of Anything Box still feels modern and relevant to me. Stylistically, Anything Box is not unlike Erasure, Duran Duran, or other groups dating back to the late 80s and early 90s which coincidentally are still finding audiences today. (Albeit, perhaps, audiences…of a certain age.)
Below is a YouTube video of one of my favorite ABox songs: Every Single Day; this is the remix version. The video is not great (and the audio isn’t either). The group’s actual performance of the song starts at about the 1 minute mark, but it’ll give you a taste.
Perhaps my favorite track of the moment is a new one from the UK’s Ben Montague.
I’d not heard of the guy until the promo for Love Like Stars came across my in-box in the form of a remix from Cahill, that delicious trio of producers from Liverpool. I’ve no idea who penned the song (perhaps Montague himself?), but it’s got a beautiful lyric, an infectious melody, and Cahill’s production work turns into a flawless mainstream dance track with haunting synth hooks and arps that really drive the thing home.
The original version, viewable with the official video on YouTube, is also a terrific rendition of the track, and lets Montague’s pipes shine through a tad bit better than the dance production. (Embedded below.)
The single will be out soon on iTunes, at least in Great Britain… No word on whether the track will be available in the US iTunes Store.
Regardless, you can catch this one in my mixshows from time to time; it’s already made an appearance a couple of times, and I’m certain I’ll be spinning it more in the future.
With this post, I’m beginning a series to start out the new year. There are so many angles to ponder here, there’s no hope whatever of fitting it into a single article.
To put some context around this, in my recent Top 50 chart, I cited my belief that mainstream dance music is an industry in decline. Now, while I believe that to be the case, I think it’s necessary to dig past the sound bite, because one could make a pretty good case that electronica, as a music meta-genre, is actually more vibrant than it’s ever been. So as I contradict myself left and right, I think it’s important in this first part to define some scope.
Before I do that, I want to make something very clear:
First, let’s define things a bit. What I personally consider “dance music” is both broad and narrow at the same time. What I’m “into” is what I’ve come to call (as I said above) mainstream dance music. It’s not a genre, as much as a genre-crossing classification. How do I define mainstream dance music? It is music that:
- Is melodic. Unless you know a thing or two about music and music theory, this may be meaningless to you, but melodic music has a central theme of some sort… Musical notes, in defined patterns. Typically those patterns are a popular song form (see below), and each one typically represents the pitches associated with each syllable of the lyrics (if in fact there are words, which is not a prerequisite for a melody; see below). The opposite of melodic is free-form, often called experimental. A lot of hip-hop and rap also lacks a defined melodic element. I can’t really describe this any better; consult a book on music theory for a better explanation.
- Has a conventional popular song form. Some experimental types of music have melodic elements without having a melody per se. What makes that different from what I’m talking about is that—in my view—mainstream dance music has a popular song form. Again, consult a music theory book if you want, but by “popular” I don’t necessarily mean pop music, but any popular music form from the 19th century or so, up to today, whether big band or country or jazz or modern pop or whatever. Put in another context, song form is what we’re talking about when you think of a song having verses of a particular melodic pattern, choruses of a particular melodic pattern, and bridges of a particular melodic pattern. It’s what makes a song recognizable structurally.
- Is generally vocal. Vocals are not a prerequisite to a dance track by any means, but it sort of goes hand-in-hand with a melody.
- Has four-on-the-floor percussion. You just don’t have mainstream dance songs with 3/4 (waltz) time, like you do in, say, country or folk. They’re always (always) 4/4, with a heavy, defined, consistent kick (bass) drum with which people on a dance floor can keep time.
- Is electronic. This probably goes without saying. I suppose mainstream dance music wouldn’t have to be constructed with fully electronic instruments, and in fact, large parts often are acoustic. But you won’t ordinarily find a so-called dance track made without at least some sort of drum machine.
- Is listenable. This is the most ethereal of any of these attributes. But mainstream dance music is, in my view, music that can also be listened-to off of a dance floor without sounding harsh or putting someone on edge. There’s an awful lot of dance music that is, in my view, only enjoyable in the context of a night at the clubs, or in conjunction with a drug trip. Obviously that’s quite subjective.
I suppose mainstream dance music is sort of like obscenity; it’s hard to define what’s obscene, you just know it when you see it. Many people associate what I know as mainstream dance music, with pop and pop remixes. A dance remix of Lady Gaga or Beyoncé or whoever is, in fact, usually mainstream dance music.
But my definition of mainstream dance extends beyond mere pop and pop remixes to include a lot of techno, vocal trance, some dubstep, and perhaps many other electronic/dance sub-genres. But it’s all melodic, has conventional song form, is generally vocal, has 4/4 time, is electronic, and is listenable.
Examples of mainstream dance music are everywhere:
- It’s the music you hear on radio stations such as iDanceRadio.fm (which I program), Fusion Radio Chicago, BPM (a channel on Sirius/XM satellite radio), Radio Danz (where my mixshow airs), NRRRadio (where my mixshow also airs).
- It’s the music that results from popular producer/remixers like Dave Audé, Klubjumpers, Cahill, Cutmore, Freemasons, 7th Heaven, and many more.
- It’s the music that’s on the Billboard dance charts.
- It’s the music that DJs get on CD subscriptions like ERG’s Nu Dance Traxx or XMIX.
- It’s the music that’s promoted by long-term industry players like Loren Chidez, Brad LeBeau, Claudia Cuseta, Bobby Shaw, and others.
All of that, and more, is what I call mainstream dance music.
So, to be very specific, my contention is that mainstream dance music is what’s in decline. Electronic music as a whole, and dance music more generally, is probably in roughly the same condition with respect to the music industry as a whole as it ever was (well, except for perhaps the disco era, when it all pretty much started, and at which time dance dominated the greater music scene). The music industry as a whole is in decline too in many respects, according to many people, but like dance music, it’s rather a matter of which part(s) you’re looking at.
In any event, with mainstream dance music now defined to the best of my ability, in the next part, I’ll start to look a little more closely at what I think is going on, and make my case about why I think it’s in decline.
As always, I welcome your feedback. Disagree with me? Tell me why… I’m always willing to change my mind.
For several years now, one of my most popular perennial blog posts has been my “top 50″ charts. Last year, I actually did a top 100, but it’s been such a marginal year for dance music, I scaled it back once again to 50 this year.
To expand on that thought, 2011 marks a year of further decline in the music industry as a whole, and dance music specifically. While some may disagree with me on that point for various reasons, I find it objectively demonstrable that the volume of well-crafted, quality music has been heading (and continues to head) downward. I’m not here to debate the point, nor speculate on the reasons for it—if I happen to be right. It’s easy to blame file trading and piracy; too easy, in fact. But I suspect the causes are far deeper than that. I’ll leave it to the experts; all I know is that the situation is getting worse, not better.
In any event, at least for me, it’s remarkably difficult to come-up with a list of even a dozen tracks from 2011 that I’m truly, genuinely, enthusiastically excited about—let alone 50, let alone 100. What you’ll find below is the best I could manage.
You’ll find some important information below the chart. I hope you enjoy the list and find it useful. Please support dance music and keep it alive by supporting with your entertainment dollars the artists, remixers and record labels who bring it to you.
|Rank||Artist||Track (and Preferred Mix)||Label|
|1||Clokx||Catch Your Fall (Extended Mix)||Spinnin’|
|2||Ti.Pi.Cal. feat. Josh Colow||Stars (Long Mix)||Do it Yourself|
|3||McFly||That’s The Truth (7th Heaven Club Mix)||Island|
|4||Tale & Dutch feat. Mark Wild||Love Life (Original Club Mix)||CAPP Records|
|5||J. Majik & Wickaman feat. Dee Freer||In Pieces (7th Heaven Club Mix)||Ministry of Sound|
|6||Santito vs. Block+Crown||Back It Up (Extended)||Robbins|
|7||Selena Gomez||Who Says (Bimbo Jones Club Mix)||Universal|
|8||Avi Elman & Danny J. feat. Nuwella||What’s the Point (Seamus Haji Remix)||Strictly Rhythm|
|9||Pixie Lott||All About Tonight (The Alias Extended Mix)||Mercury|
|10||DJ Fresh feat. Sian Evans||Louder (7th Heaven Club Mix)||Ministry of Sound|
|11||The Wanted||Gold Forever (Moto Blanco Club Mix)||Island|
|12||Meleka||Work for Me (Cutmore Extended Mix)||Warner|
|13||Nick Fiorucci feat. Selena Gittens||I Can Give (Criss Wave & Nick Fiorucci Club Mix)||Hi-Bias|
|14||Made by Monkeys vs. Rossko feat. Lisa Gary||Euphoria (Original Extended Mix)||Kult Records|
|15||Melanie C||Think About It (Electric Allstars Club Mix)||Warner|
|16||Alexis Jordan||Hush Hush (Cahill Lounge Club Mix)||Columbia|
|17||Darren Hayes||Black Out the Sun (7th Heaven Club Mix)||Mercury|
|18||Nadia Ali, Starkillers & Alex Kenji||Pressure (Clokx Extended Commercial Remix)||Simply Delicious|
|19||Will Young||Jealousy (The Alias Club Mix)||Sony|
|20||Erasure||When I Start To (Break It All Down) (Steve Smart & WestFunk Club Mix)||Mute|
|21||Leona Lewis||Collide (Extended Mix)||Sony|
|22||U.V.U.K.||Forever (Original Extended)||Robbins|
|23||Wendel Kos feat. Andrea Holley||Dancing on the Lights (Bayazzo Extended)||Robbins|
|24||Adele||Set Fire to the Rain (Plastic Plates Remix)||Columbia|
|25||Chicco Secci & Graham Wheeler||Fly With You (Benny Benassi Club Mix)||Magnificent|
|26||The Saturdays||All Fired Up (The Alias Club Mix)||Polydor|
|27||The Saturdays||My Heart Takes Over (Soul Seekerz Club Mix)||Polydor|
|28||Henri||When You Walk Away (Scotty K Vocal Klub Mix)||Dauman|
|29||Hurts||Better Than Love (Freemasons Pegasus Club Mix)||RCA|
|30||Stellar Project feat. Emelie Norenberg||Strong (Club Mix)||Ultra|
|31||Tank||I Can’t Make You Love Me (John Dahlback Remix)||Atlantic|
|32||Yasmin||Finish Line (Freemasons Club Mix)||Ministry of Sound|
|33||Bella Vida||Kiss Kiss Me Bang Bang (Wideboys Extended Mix)||Indie|
|34||Erasure||Be With You (Moto Blanco Club Mix)||Mute|
|35||Hurts||Sunday (Seamus Haji Club Mix)||Columbia|
|36||Joe Jonas||Just In Love (Soul Seekerz Club Mix)||Universal|
|37||Kim Sozzi||Little Bird (Italia3 Extended Mix)||Ultra|
|38||Marcia Juell||Calling (Saint’s Airplay Extended)||Black Hole|
|39||Mekki Martin||The Wonder (Club Mix)||U Recordings|
|40||Sugababes||Freedom (7th Heaven Club Mix)||Universal|
|41||Sunday Girl||Love U More (Buzz Junkies Club Mix)||Polydor|
|42||The Wanted||Lightning (The Alias Club Mix)||Universal|
|43||Wonderland||Not a Love Song (Club Junkies Club Mix)||Universal|
|44||Cristian Marchi and Nari & Milani feat. Max’C||I Got You (Antillas & Dankann Club Mix)||Ultra|
|45||Dash Berlin feat. Jonathan Mendelsohn||Better Half of Me (Extended Airplay Mix)||Armada|
|46||Kimberly Caldwell||Desperate Girls and Stupid Boys (Digital Dog Club Mix)||EMI|
|47||Medina||Addiction (Extended Mix)||Ultra|
|48||Ola||All Over the World (Buzz Junkies Club Mix)||Oliniho|
|49||Sirens||Good Enough (Liam Keegan Extended Mix)||Kitchenware|
|50||Swiss American Federation (S.A.F.) feat. Nichole Alden||Live So Free (Extended Club Mix)||Redstick|
Several things to bear in mind for those reading this chart:
- The artists and tracks listed are those I personally find the most interesting. I don’t read the Billboard charts, and I don’t care about them. I don’t pay attention to what’s on the FMQB chart, or what other DJs play, or even what promoters happen to tell me “everyone else” is playing. I play what I think has the best hook, or the sweetest groove, or whatever else about a song happens to catch my ear. As a result, my top 50 list is likely to be quite different than what you might be expecting.
- As a DJ, I characterize my music as “mainstream dance.” As a result, this chart may not even match your idea of “dance music,” especially if you prefer trance, techno, dubstep, or other sub-genres. “My” dance music is largely melodic, vocal, commercial, mainstream dance with largely house roots. Your mileage may (and probably will) vary.
- The tracks shown here are selected for the chart based on the number of times played, and other objective and subjective factors. In some cases (notably #28), you might see some material here that wasn’t released in 2011, but that for whatever reason I “discovered” and started playing during the year.
- I often play a variety of mixes of a single song. This year, that is taken into account in the data. My “preferred” remix is listed, though I may play others.
Music industry columnist Bob Lefsetz penned an interesting installment of his Letter the other day. Titled, Obscurity is Your Friend, I found it to be his usual strange brew of “WTF” mixed with lots of thought-provoking views. But it was this particular section of his post that truly caught my eye:
It’s no different in music. You may think you’re ready, but you’re not. You think if you just tell enough people, send e-mail blasts, fill up inboxes with unsolicited MP3s, you’ll make it. But this just turns us off, we’re immune to marketing. We only want to find out about products from friends.
But worse, when we finally check you out, we find out you’re just not that good.
I don’t know how it works in the greater music industry, but I can’t think of a truer commentary on music (and music promotion specifically) with regard to the dance music realm. (more…)