Movers and shakers
Dance beats out on current CDs
by Gregg Shapiro
It's fitting that B in the Mix: The Remixes (Jive/Zomba), an 11-track dance remix compilation of Britney Spears hits, opens with the song "Toxic," because this disc is the musical equivalent of hazardous waste. Not even Peter Rauhofer, the reigning Fuhrer of the remix, can make this track bearable with his Reconstruction Mix. We have the Walt Disney Company to thank for unleashing Britney on the world (and her parents as well, I guess), but Madonna also deserves some credit. At her sleaziest, Spears could pass for Madonna's kid sister. Who am I kidding? Madonna's old enough to be her mother. Older sister or mother, Madonna was idolized by girls like Spears when she was growing up, so the pair teamed up on "Me Against the Music," which can be heard here in a remix by Justice. The many flaws in Spears' reedy, cold and mechanical voice are brought to the forefront in remixes of "Touch of My Hand," "Breathe on Me" and "And Then We Kiss." Spears come closest to achieving dance-diva status on the Valentin remix of "Everytime," while the Davidson Ospina 2005 remix of "Baby One More Time" elevates the original bubblegum track to club classic.
Like Brit, Madonna has set her sights on the dance-floor again with the aptly titled Confessions on a Dance Floor (Warner Bros). But the innovator has now been reduced to imitator. "Hung Up" may be the best track on the disc, but it contains an Abba sample, something I would not have expected in a Madonna song. There's a nod to Giorgio Moroder-style electronics on "Forbidden Love," but every time Madonna spoke in the song (and I never thought I'd say this) I wanted to call out, "Please just shut up and sing." "Jump" (oy, she's talking again), which percolates like 21st-century electro, redeems things a bit, while "How High" lives up to the confession of the album's title. On the other hand, the embarrassing "I Love New York" sounds like it was written while Madonna was in the eighth grade when she should have been studying history. Esther, tateleh, the Jewish people have enough trouble as it is. Incorporating the Yemenite folk song "Im Nin'Alu" into "Isaac" might seem clever, but the late Ofra Haza's reading of the original song trumps the concept.
It's not like Beck's acclaimed 2005 album Guero wasn't already a dance-oriented affair, from the dance-rock vibe of "E-Pro," with its "na-na-nanana-na-na" thread running through it, to the way that "Que Onda Guero" harkens back to Beck's hip-hop days. B
Beck's Guerolito (Interscope) is virtually a track-by-track remix of the original album. In some cases, song titles have also been remixed. Islands (an off-shoot of queer band The Unicorns) do a respectful reinvention of "Que Onda Guero," while Octet's remix of "Girl" is more haunting than the carefree beach party the original suggested. Air's remix of "Heaven Hammer" (aka "Missing") recalls The Human League, as the aptly retitled "Ghettochip Malfunction" (aka "Hell Yes"), pops and locks like an urban robot. El-P's remix of "Scarecrow" retains the original's dance orientation, but Diplo's remix of "Wish Coin" (aka "Go It Alone") needs to incorporate an element of The English Beat's "Twist and Crawl" to complete the circuit. To his credit, John King didn't sacrifice the dance energy of "Rental Car" for his remix, and J'aime and Nick Diamonds of Islands resurface as Th' Corn Gangg for a subtly hypnotic remix of "Emergency Exit."
If you like the way that Beck and his remixers integrate borrowed sounds from other sources to create new and refreshing music, then you ought to consider Thunder, Lightning, Strike (Columbia) by The Go! Team. A thoroughly irresistible dance party spirit dominates. "Ladyflash" is the kind of song that begs to have a dance named for it. "Feelgood by Numbers" sounds like something Schroeder might have played for the Peanuts gang to dance to if he'd been washing down Quaaludes with Red Bull. The cheer within "The Power Is On" suggests a pelvis- and hip-thrusting line dance, and "Bottle Rocket" is an ultra-cool melding of the 60s soul and modern-day hip-hop. "Huddle Formation" rah-rah rocks the house, and album-closer "Everyone's a V.I.P. to Someone," incorporating elements of Harry Nilsson's "Everybody's Talkin'" and Laura Nyro's "Stoned Soul Picnic," brings the proceedings to an end on a high note.