Frankie Knuckles A New Reality (Definity/Def Mix)
Click here to listen to “Bac N Da Day,” No. 6 on the June 26 Billboard Club Play chart. A total nostalgia trip for club DJs and their audiences: The “Bac N Da Day” referenced here is specifically the mid-’80s, when Frankie Knuckles was one of the inventors of house music (and made piles of records with syncopated bass parts and electric piano solos like this one has). The rasping whisper is by Jamie Principle, Knuckles’ old collaborator, who sounds like his voice has gotten a bit ripped up since those days. The lyrics here are problematic, too. Time is supposed to feel like it’s suspended on the dance floor, so early house lyrics were usually about a joyous eternal now. But there never really was a social utopia in the discothèque, and the nostalgia for it here (“You could stay out late if you wanted to/ Oh, it wasn’t about the shoes/ It was about being you”) seems like a sop to dancers who used to be able to bounce back more easily from a big night out.
Junior Jack featuring Robert Smith“Da Hype” (Nettwerk) Click here to listen to “Da Hype,” No. 4 on the June 26 Billboard Club Play chart. Some of the best club records are basically just slight but ingenious variations on others. The Belgian/Italian producer Junior Jack’s “Da Hype” appears to be called that because its arrangement bears a very strong resemblance to Daft Punk’s 1997 dance hit “Da Funk” (with a hint of Giorgio Moroder’s 1978 “Chase,” a melody familiar to anyone who watched a lot of early MTV). Jack’s brilliant move, though, was getting the Cure’s Robert Smith to sing over the track. Smith’s crooning and yelping isn’t much of a song, as such, but the point is simply the inimitable timbre of his voice—it makes the song’s familiar, lumbering boogie tart and fresh. (He pulled off a similar trick on blink-182’s “All of This” last year.) And that squeal when the song’s full-volume whomp kicks in is the happiest sound Smith’s made in a decade.
Goldfrapp“Strict Machine” (Mute)
Click here to listen to “Strict Machine (Ewan’s Stripped Machine Mix),” No. 5 on the June 26 Billboard Club Play chart. Moroder’s influence is even stronger here. On the original version of “Strict Machine,” Alison Goldfrapp sang about love with the proper robot, modeling her chilly moan on Blondie’s Moroder-produced “Call Me.” The way she arched her high notes over the implacable synths, though, was an allusion to another great Moroder moment—Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love.” This Ewan Pearson remix sounds like an answer to Goldfrapp’s song from her love machine’s perspective. It unkinks the original version’s loping groove, sadly—the beat is altered from a swung 6/8 to a straight, slightly faster 4/4—but plays up the “I Feel Love” resemblance with a constantly mutating array of wobbly, vintage-sounding synthesizers. It also erases virtually all of Goldfrapp’s singing except for some vowel sounds edited into wordless soprano sighs—the sorts of sounds a robot might find intriguing coming from a flesh-based creature.
Rosabel with Jeanie Tracy“Cha Cha Heels” (Tommy Boy Silver Label)
Click here to listen to “Cha Cha Heels (Ralphi Rosario Radio Edit),” No. 1 on the June 26 Billboard Club Play chart. Ralphi Rosario, half of the Rosabel production team (with Abel Aguilera), is another early Chicago house DJ and producer; the song’s exhortations (“C’mon and show me what you got, honey! Get your cha-cha heels on!”) come from Jeanie Tracy, who’s got a 35-year recording history behind her—if she sounds like a background singer from your favorite old rock record, she probably was. (And if her performance sounds a little disjointed, it’s rumored to have been assembled from outtakes from her previous single with Rosabel, “The Power.”) This song will likely be in heavy rotation at the massive “circuit parties” thrown every summer for mostly gay crowds. “I know my fans and I know what they want,” Aguilera’s said. Here, it’s an unvarying groove that could go on for three minutes or for 20, a solitary catchphrase repeated ad infinitum, and a moment near the end where Tracy counts out the cha-cha beats for synchronized dancing. It’s purely functional, meant to be heard in a hot room with mass shirtlessness going on—and not, under any circumstances, in the privacy of one’s own home.
Cherie”I’m Ready” (Lava) Click here to listen to “I’m Ready (Dave Audé Club Mix),” No. 7 on the June 26 Billboard Club Play chart. There’s an art to pulling apart a pop song and turning it into something that works in a club. The original incarnation of “I’m Ready” is a compact feature for the French teen idol Cherie, a fairly pedestrian song with one remarkable feature: a two-note riff from Foreigner’s “Urgent” that runs through the whole thing, providing its harmonic center and pulse. Dave Audé’s remix smudges the tone of the Foreigner sample—making it a little less guitar-y, a little more synthesized-sounding—but turns it into the focus of the entire song, so the flurry of chord changes (which would ordinarily be almost verboten for a dance-club hit) seem ancillary to that sinuous drone. Without the dense arrangement of the radio version, Cherie sounds 10 years older—her announcement that she’s “ready for love” becomes world-weary rather than precocious.