After the Grammys it seems like a good time to discuss what's happening on the dance floors (or at least my dance floor). There's plenty of singles and remixes that are working and a few that should never be heard in public…ever!
Madonna's "Living For Love" is the new bell of the ball. With mixes by DJ Paulo, Erick Morillo and Djemba how could she go wrong? Really great productions, but believe it or not…..I'm stuck on the extended version of the album mix. But if you want a great mash-up version, the very talented and skillful Robin Skouteris has fused Madge with the 90s Pop classic, "What Is Love" by Haddaway.
Another floor-packer is the ever-so-popular "Uptown Funk" by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars. From the second I heard it, I was taken with Mr. Ronson's affinity for the 60s and 70s soul sound. This track took me back to my 45s of James Brown. Remixers/Producers like DJ Kue and Fabian Arche tapped into the funk element and created mixes that sample some of the hottest "old skool jams" from the 70s and 80s. And although their mixes are a swing down in BPMs at 115, nothing that a little speed and pitch control won't fix. But if you need a hot House mix, the Fabian Arche & Esteban Carrascor remix will serve your floor quite nicely.
It's always nice to see an artist grow and spread their wings. So, when I heard that Rihanna was recording with Sir Paul McCartney it piqued my curiosity. What in the world could they and would they have in common? Well, I guess the answer would be Kanye West. His track with Paul "Only One" is a lullaby to his new daughter, North West. Not really my cup of tea. And between his rant after the Grammys about Beck's win over Beyonce for "Album Of The Year" and his "Homeless Fashion Show", I don't see him recovering or having a hit anytime anytime soon. But Rihanna, Kanye and Paul's track, "FiveFourSeconds" might chart. Still not a strong single in my opinion, but definitely a departure from her normal material. And she was definitely in strong voice during their performance at the Grammys. The single version is radio friendly, but its only hopes for the dance floor are the Peter Muicy Remix and the DJ Mustard Remix. Peter clubbed it up and calmed down the guitar by Paul. And while I normally love what Disco Suckz does in their mixes, their mix sounds too much like the single version sped up. But DJ Mustard tweaked it out (probably the mix I will favor for my floor).
Now, every year or so there's a track that comes out that taps into the primal aggression that a lot of young people feel. Maybe it's just me, but as I get older I think our youth are getting more and more angry. Well, this year's new angry anthem is "I Don't Fuck With U" by Big Sean featuring E40. There's a lot of re-edits and twerk mixes for this track, but I was overjoyed to find a bootleg House mix by someone who calls himself Sames. It doesn't have the full vocal, but it has the hook that everyone sings. But if "IDFWU" isn't your taste, perhaps his collaboration with Calvin Harris on "Open Wide" will work better for your floor.
I love when a recording artist uses his or her celebrity to bring awareness to a cause. I actually believe that everyone in the spotlight should give back in some form. But when I heard Wyclef Jean was teaming up with Avicii for a song for the RED Campaign I was interested. The RED Campaign is an organization started by Bono and Bobby Shriver to get businesses and people involved in the fight against AIDS (originally the fight in Africa but now all over the world). Being HIV+, I try to get involved and support all efforts in this fight. Unfortunately, I do not like this single. "Divine Sorrow" is a terrible song. There are five different mixes and none of them have inspired me to play them. And the artwork that goes with the single seems problematic for me. There's a slogan under the drawings of Wyclef and Avicii that reads "Share The Sound Of An AIDS Free Generation" that could be misinterpreted. It almost sounds like "eliminate all people with AID"S. I know that's not what they mean, but I had heard about this slogan a while back and was uncomfortable with it then. Plus….I'm not sure another sappy song that will get lost in the shuffle is what we need to raise awareness. I mean….when I wrote "H-I-Vogue" for my alter-ego, Jade Elektra, I approached it as a public service announcement designed to reach a specific demographic. I know that some were uncomfortable with some of the lyrics, but it came from a place of truth. Perhaps Avicii feels that the acoustic guitar is the cowbell of the season (like his production on Madonna's song "Rebel Heart"), but I don't see it driving people to the floor. Perhaps the RED Campaign should have approached TLC about doing an updated version or remixes of their classic, "Waterfalls". Those were some lyrics that hit the message home.
And is it just me, but am I the only one who hears Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" in Ed Sheeran's "Thinking Out Loud"? I mean….if Sam Smith had to pay Tom Petty royalties for "Stay With Me", shouldn't Marvin's estate be calling some lawyers? And speaking of Sam Smith….I am glad that he is a high profile openly gay Grammy winner, but I don't want to hear another sad song about the guy who broke your heart. And yes they are remixing the hell out of your tracks, but enough is enough! In my opinion, you are taking up where good ol' George O'Dowd left off. For those who don't know who that is…Boy George. Yet another tortured soul who often wrote about his heartache over Jon Moss. This formula was quite profitable for Adele as well. But I have a feeling Sam is going to be in Lauryn Hill Land after such a sweep at the Grammys. And by that I mean that he will be cursed like Lauryn Hill and Alicia Keys where they were respected but never really had any other huge hits. And poor Lauryn just self-destructed by sipping her own Kool-Aid. At least Alicia can still record and attempt at making hits.
Back in December of 2014, Nicki Minaj passed Madonna for the most singles on the Billboard charts and don't count on her stopping. It was extremely clever using the "Baby Got Back" sample for her "Anaconda" single, but I suspect that Nicki has watched and learned from her counterparts (Iggy Azalea and Azealia Banks). As a returned favor for her cameo on Beyonce's remix of "Flawless", Mrs. Carter appears on her next release "Feeling Myself". The clever trick with this song is that, like her other track with Drake, Chris Brown & Lil' Wayne called "Only" is exactly half Club speed. They both lend themselves to Club remixes very easily. If you want to crossover this is the route to go. Unlike Nicki, Azealia for some reason just keeps sabotaging her records. "Chasing Time" is a great track and the THEO remix is sick! But all these tweets and interviews attacking her white gay audience, other rappers for their views on Ferguson and picking fights with Erykah Badu are just not making me wanna play her at all. After T.I. was quoted saying that Iggy should get back in the studio and stop responding to all the black culture appropriation accusations I think she listened. She's got a new single out with Jennifer Hudson called "Trouble". Not bad….not going to be a huge hit, but I think it's a good move. But who is going to reel in Ms. Banks. Girl…stop whining about Iggy stealing your thunder! If you could just work on your music and shut the f#%k up, people might be able to focus on your talent long enough for your song to stay on the charts. "Chasing Time" came in strong, but quickly fell off.
Another smart cookie is Taylor Swift. I'm sure by now you have seen the photo of her and Kanye at the Grammys. It's only a matter of time before they are in the studio together. This would help his image immensely and would help her get the Hip Hop credibility that she seems to be craving. The Jumpsmokers remix of "Blank Space" is the only mix to play in my opinion. But if you want a great syche-out mash-up you gotta get your hands on the DJSkillzMusic Throwback Blend! Brilliant use of Lauryn Hill's "Doo Wop (That Thing)" instrumental! But Taylor's next single, "Style" (which I assume is a swipe at Harry Styles) is not going to do as well. Especially if the only offerings as remixes are by Craig Welsh or Jason Dee. They needed to strip the song bare and start with a new production….something in the vein of House.
After a strong release of "Aretha Franklin Sings The Great Diva Classics" RCA Records released with very little fanfare a Dance Remix Album in January. Basically it is a glorified remix E.P. of "Rolling In The Deep" with three extra tracks. Out of the "RITD" remixes, my picks are the Wideboys and the Ralphi Rosario & Cappo House Mix. Terry Hunter's Extended Mix of "I Will Survive" has a longer intro but removes the medley of Destiny's Child's "Survivor". While Mr. Hunter's Extended Mix of "You Keep Me Hangin' On" works quite nicely. And to close out the project is the epic Eric Kupper Club Mix of "I'm Every Woman/Respect". I think the label should have released "RITD" as a remix single and spent some more money on remixing some of Aretha's other covers. Like for example….wouldn't it have been great to have a House version of "At Last"?
Here are a few tracks that are personal favorites (not promising that they will be big hits, but I either love the sound or the video). Keys N Krates' "Understand Why" (dope video). John River's "Hope City 2" (great flow). If I were Drake, I'd be sweeten'. This kid is the real deal as a representation of Toronto Hip Hop. When I hear Mr. River rap I believe him as opposed to Aubrey Graham…oh, I mean, Drake. At the beginning of 2014 I missed "What They Say" by Maya Jane Coles, but because of Nicki Minaj's other single "Truffle Butter" with Drake & Lil' Wayne I discovered it. Love it! Some serious House goin' on! And speaking of Drake….remember his song, "Hold On, We're Going Home"? Well. its producer Majid Jordan has a really nice downtempo House track called "Forever". And finally, the Fabrikate Remix of The Weeknd's "Often" is my new favorite.
Ellie Goulding has done well with Calvin Harris in the past. "I Need Your Love" was huge. I don't know if the TV commercial that uses her version of Elton John's "Your Song" has turned me against her or not, but I'm not feeling their latest collaboration, "Outside". And like the reviews for "Fifty Shades of Grey" her contribution to the soundtrack, "Love Me Like You Do" (The Remixes) are not doing well either. I describe her vocals as sounding like a shivering cold teenager trying to sing. Her vibrato is annoying. There seems to be a trend of these kind of voices while gals with serious chops are being overlooked. Hopefully this changes soon.
I saved this one for last. I know that most of my audience are young ones who are in the mid 20s to early 30s and probably think that all I ever listen to are the latest club hits and turnt-up Hip Hop tracks. But the truth of of the matter is that my origins in music as a DJ are in Jazz and R&B. So, when Toronto's Micah Barnes asked me to take a listen to his new single, "New York Story" I was thrilled. I have been a a fan of his work since The Nylons with my good friend Billy Newton-Davis. If you appreciate a great smooth vocal as a soundtrack to a romantic evening, "New York Story" is perfect! Being an independent recording artist myself, I totally understand how hard it is to produce a full album. And I am a firm believer that if we do not support our own - who will? Mr. Barnes has opened an IndieGoGo fundraising account to get to his goal of $12,000. So, I highly recommend you check out Micah's track on iTunes and then go to https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/new-york-stories-a-new-release-by-micah-barnes to donate to his new project.