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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Buddy B's Best Club Songs of 2011

2011 was a good year for dance music, showcasing some fine vocal talent and a slate of equally impressive remixers attached to their songs. The UK ruled with the 4-to-the-floor sound freshly reloaded by Bimbo Jones, Moto Blanco, Almighty, 7th Heaven and Digital Dog, to name a few. All are actually indebted, to one degree or another, to the classic Almighty style, while Almighty has stayed relevant by refreshing its formula and bringing in new remixer talent. This sound has enjoyed a true worldwide renaissance over the past few years, originating as the beat of classic disco and continuing as Europe's hiNRG sound. It's subversively re-uniting the world.

England's classic HiNRG producer/remixer Pete Hammond came back prominently this year, and American stalwarts like Tony Moran, Ralphi Rosario, Eddie Baez and Jonathan Peters held their ground in the brave new disco world before them.

Note my opinions are just that and, as such, highly subjective, but these are the songs that I enjoyed playing the most, and that inspired me to get up and dance and to party on down. Now, let's get to that list! Shall we?

My top-15 artists are in alphabetical order, starting with the ubiquitous Adele, who was felled only recently by throat surgery (from which I understand she's recovering quite nicely). Adele has had a few of her pop songs translated for the dance floor, both legitimately and not. Dance remixers did quite well by this talent regarding "Set Fire to the Rain," "Rolling in the Deep," and "Someone Like You" (my personal favorite, even if it didn't fare as well as the previous two).

Pattie Brooks is disco-diva royalty best known for her 1978 sensation, "After Dark." She garnered positive notice this year with "All About the Music." Pattie started her professional career in the chorus on The Smother Brothers Comedy Hour, and toured with people like Bobby Darin and Ann-Margret before signing as a solo artist for the Casablanca record label. "All About the Music" was mixed by a slew of remixers domestically, in England, and in Australia. It was originally produced by legend Paul Gianatos. An energetic tune that'll rouse you to the floor, it's nice to have Pattie back to dance to after dark. And nice to have Charo on the scene again, too, with the latter's "Sexy, Sexy."

"Sexy Sexy" showcases the Cuchi-Cuchi Queen in fine form, still with the laughable broken English (a put-on, surely, considering how long she's been speaking English) and camp lyrics. "Feel on me, dance on me, touch on me, creep on me," Charo emplores to a disco beat. Below, she performs the song (after her bawdy, knowingly self-depracating, drag queen-like patter, dubbing herself, "The Spanish Puta". "Viva La Puta!" one of the boys shouts back from the crowd). The show was filmed earlier this year at Splash, NYC. Charo is one hot mess, but an intentional one (I think)! And she's looking simply stunning, sweeties! Here's the video for your enjoyment (and wait till the posse of go-go boys arrives):

Two women who are always a pleasure to have back on the disco scene returned this year with top-notch numbers to showcase their voices: Deborah Cox, at the end of the calendar year with the Janice Robinson-penned, "If It Wasn't for Love," and Taylor Dayne, this past summer with "Floor on Fire." Two strong, solidly written and produced tracks for two great, distinctive deliveries.

The divas known as Erasure (Vince Clark and Andy Bell) made a wonderful and welcome comeback with "When I Start to Break It All Down" in the fall while Lady Gaga ruled dance floors with a new anthem. "Born This Way" had a great beat, positive and empowering lyrics you can dance to, and melodic structure that reminded many of Madonna's "Express Yourself." But that's not such a bad thing, is it? I mean, she could do worse in terms of a model to clone from. Call it an homage and it isn't a problem any more; call it plagiarism only if you care to be ugly about it. Recent remixes of "Marry the Night" (my favorite song off the album) also score big on this year-end tally.

Jennifer Holliday has been away from dance music for too long, so it's a warm welcome back to that belting voice as she re-emerges for the club crowd with "Magic." The Tony Moran-produced track from his album, Mix Magic Music is truly a stunner worthy of this great diva. Remixes have started to emerge in just the past month or so. It is a powerhouse club threat, and I am telling you I'm not going to have this off my turntables for some time!

While Laura LaRue has a current Billboard dance charter with "Un Deux Trois," her Gay Pride-timed hit, "San Francisco Is My Disco," made me smile... and dance, and won a place in my heart, and is consequently on this list as a dance fave of the year. Here's the original, non-remixed version, already designed for the clubs.

Two Martins make my chart for the year: Billie Ray and Ricky. Ms Martin (by which I mean Billie Ray) started as vocalist for the '90s electropop group, Electribe, then had her first international solo hit with "Lovin' Arms," famously remixed by Junior Vasquez in 1995. This German diva is freely inventive with a style I can only call "disco avant-garde," and when she gets it right, the results are amazing as in this year's "Sweet Suburban Disco."

"Deep grooves are overlaid with layers of sparse, cold, synths which are expertly counterpointed by Billie’s huge warm vocals and the best lyrical content we’ve heard in dance music for a while," raved Just keep 'em comin', honey! Love ya!

Martin, Ricky, on the other hand, had a hit on the Billboard Dance chart with "Freak of Nature" (originally entitled "Mas"), going all the way to #7, propelled by the brilliant Ralphi Rosario remix. This really was one of the very best dance songs of the year, and I was championing it since back in the spring (check my blog archive for evidence). (It shoulda gone to #1, I tell ya!) Try not to dance when you put this on. Muy caliente!

Michele McCain, whose dynamic vocals are like a cross between Loleatta Holloway and Izora Whitehead, has never gone beyond cult status, unfortunately, despite a history of well-produced but definitely diva-driven club numbers. This year's "Make a Friend" made a friend of me and was easily one of my faves.

Kylie Minogue's "Put Your Hands Up" charted on Billboard's 2011 top-50 dance listing, ascending to #1, and certainly was adored by moi! Viva La Minogue! And Viva La Ono, as Yoko, at 88 years of age, scored not one, but two Billboard dance charters for the year: the brilliant "Move on Fast" and the even better "Talking to the Universe." She's the new Betty White, people, so look out! (Betty's duet with Luciana, "I'm Still Hot" was a fun dance track, even if it fell short of my fave list.)

And, rounding out my list is Kristine W. This girl has really lasted, thank God, and what a shame it is her name isn't a household word.
She's been a beacon in the world of dance music since the 1990s; one of the most reliably stalwart vocalists, and a great lyricist to boot, frequently taking dance music to a level of human emotion and thoughtfulness consistently paralleled only, perhaps, by the Pet Shop Boys.

So, there you have it, my favorite club songs of the year and the 15 artists who lifted me to new levels of pure joy throughout the four seasons. Wishing everyone a happy New Year, and even bigger and brighter diva-fueled hits for the 2012 dance floor.

1 comment:

  1. Love @ end of Charo's video when she says, "Fuck Britney Spears"! Also loved that song. Hope she'll be back with a new one soon. I know that charted on Billboard Dance last spring.