Stories Behind Some of Your Favorite Dance Songs

 

Stories Behind Some of Your Favorite Dance Songs

 

2013

 

2013

 

Sail On [September 2013]

Well, that ADD song has finally reached the U.S. top 20 in its 55th week on the Hot 100 chart.  That’s right, AWOLNATION’s “Sail” must have set some sort of record.  We ADDed it to our Megamix page last April, so we came to the party a little late ourselves.  Alternative radio first played “Sail” back in 2011.  It’s currently No. 27 at mainstream top 40.  Consistent sales and streaming have kept this song on Hot 100 as it slowly crosses over to top 40 radio.

Sons of Mix-a-Lot [August 2013]

First came Major Lazer’s “Bubble Butt,” which is a thematic descendent of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.”  Now Major Lazer faces some competition in the form of Flo Rida’s “Can’t Believe It,” which should be subtitled “Bubble Yum Bum.”

Fall Classics [August 2013]

With only two more weeks to go before Labor Day in the U.S., we all know the biggest hits of this summer are “Blurred Lines” and “Get Lucky.”  So which songs will be the champions in the fall between Labor Day and Thanksgiving?  Among songs that are currently outside the top 10, the new singles from Katy Perry and Lady Gaga are obvious contenders.  Early airplay and sales numbers give the edge to Perry.  We also see two dark horses that have a shot to rule the fall, each taking a different path to the top 20 so far.

With surging multi-format support from radio, Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness” should go top five soon.  And as fans continue to download the Cedric Gervais remix—and maybe pick up a copy of the album version on a whim—it could go higher.  Thanks to stronger than expected sales to date, Avicii’s “Wake Me Up!” has found its way to the top 20 with far less airplay.  But radio is starting to come around.  First embraced by dance radio, this track is now a hit at mainstream top 40 as well.  Triple-A is beginning to play it.  Expect rhythmic top 40 and adult top 40 to follow suit eventually—and maybe even alternative and a few adventurous country stations.

Alive and Glowing [July 2013]

It seems songwriters sometimes get the same idea.  This year has seen several titles with the word “glow,” including tracks from tyDi and Nikki Williams.  And no one could have missed hearing Demi Lovato loudly proclaim “you make me glow” on “Heart Attack” (she is one of our loudest singers).

Another trend is the use of the “#” symbol.  Songwriters should be careful as computer terminology can sometimes have a limited shelf life.  Twenty years from now, people may not know what a hashtag is.  Even though e-mail is probably here to stay, the “@” sign has shown up in only a few song titles since the Internet went commercial in the 1990s.

But the most popular word in dance tracks in 2013 has to be “alive.”  Here are all the titles we can think of.

  • Brass Knuckles – As Long as I’m Alive
  • Case & Point – Alive
  • D.O.N.S. & Alim – Alive
  • Empire of the Sun – Alive
  • Gali – I’m Alive
  • Kamaliya – I’m Alive
  • Nicole Kerrigan – Feel so Alive
  • Krewella – Alive
  • Lasgo – Feeling Alive
  • Alex Sonata – Alive
  • Timo & Dicca – Keep This Love Alive

There is also Justin Bieber singing repeatedly “I’m alive” on will.i.am’s “#thatPOWER.”

Musical Roundup Updates [July 2013]

Thanks to the Cedric Gervais remix, Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness” is officially her first mainstream radio hit.  She has made the national Hot 100 before with “Video Games” (No. 91) and “Young and Beautiful” (No. 22), but neither was a crossover hit.  It should be interesting to see if this remix can lift “Summertime” all the way to the top 10 as Todd Terry’s remix did for “Missing” by Everything but the Girl in 1996.

You may recall we made a conservative prediction that Avicii’s “Wake Me Up!” would outperform “Levels” stateside.  Well, four weeks after its U.S. release, “Wake” has almost reached the top 50—not bad for a song with little mainstream radio support to date by someone who is not a rapper or Disney star.  Avicii must have a much bigger fan base in America than Empire of the Sun or Kaskade.  U.S. dance radio has embraced the latest singles from all three artists, yet only the Avicii track has sold enough downloads to make the Hot 100.  “Wake” also debuted in the U.K. at No. 1—becoming the fastest selling single of the year so far in that country (the official singles chart there is based on sales alone).

For years until the late 2000s, mainstream top 40 radio played mostly hip-hop and pop songs, with the occasional dance or alternative tracks thrown into the mix now and then.  Today’s top 40 format is more comfortable putting multiple dance tracks in heavy rotation concurrently.  You can follow the progress of Avicii and Lana Del Rey at Crossover Hits.

You Win Some, You Lose Some

It’s quite a coincidence that the dance and alternative genres are both doing better at top 40 radio at the same time.  We’re pleased alternative EDM duo Capital Cities successfully crossed over.  Unfortunately, Atlas Genius did not.  It doesn’t look like Family of the Year (“Hero”) will make it; there’s still hope for Fitz and The Tantrums (“Out of My League”).

Musical Roundup [June 2013]

Quick thoughts on a few songs.

Daft Punk Featuring Pharrell Williams – Get Lucky

- If you had correctly predicted that this song would be a huge hit for Daft Punk, you should try your luck in Las Vegas.  Sure, the French duo has enjoyed a string of club hits stateside, starting with “Da Funk” in 1997.  But until now, none of their singles had reached higher than No. 61 on the national Hot 100.  In fact, the last time Daft Punk appeared on the Hot 100 was in 2001; the duo did return as writers in 2007 when “Harder Better Faster Stronger” was sampled by Kanye West.  Who knew their breakthrough hit would turn out be a retro-sounding number that’s the furthest thing from trendy EDM?  Granted, it is a collaboration with dance music legend Nile Rodgers, and Pharrell Williams, a singer with a limited range, has never sounded better.

Lana Del Rey – Summertime Sadness

- It’s not everyday a dance remix breathes new life into a song at top 40 radio.  Released last year as the fourth single from Lana Del Rey’s slightly over-hyped album, “Summertime Sadness” failed to gain much traction.  Then her label started promoting the deliciously frantic remix by Cedric Gervais, and the timing was fortunate in light of her high profile on “The Great Gatsby” soundtrack.  So the singer with the distinctive voice and glamorous stage name may end up with her first mainstream radio hit.  This should be good news to her fans who felt she was snubbed by the Grammy committee.  The last time a dance remix rescued a song from obscurity was Todd Terry’s rework of “Missing” by Everything but the Girl in 1996.

Armin van Buuren Featuring Trevor Guthrie – This Is What It Feels Like

- Now that Swedish House Mafia is no more, what are top 40 radio program directors to do?  Well, they could play this song, which is the next best thing to an SHM record (complete with similar vocalizing).  Or they could go back and pull out 2011’s “Save the World,” an earlier SHM single featuring the same “Don’t You Worry Child” vocalist.  And if they want to be topical, they could play 2010’s “One (Your Name)” featuring the suddenly ubiquitous Williams (also appearing on Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”).

Avicii Featuring Aloe Blacc – Wake Me Up!

- Just as Daft Punk delivered something unexpected (see above), the lead single from Avicii’s first non-compilation album is also a little bit unusual.  (For a primer on the state of EDM, check out the clever “Phat Ass Drop [How to Produce a Club Track Today]” by DJs From Mars.)  Since the commercial success of Daft Punk’s latest album and single took us by surprise, we won’t try to predict the fate of Avicii’s new song.  With a major record company promoting it in America, it should do better than the No. 60 peak of “Levels.”  And watch how it performs in one key European market.  SHM’s “Child” debuted at No. 1 in the U.K. last October and eventually went top 10 in the U.S.

Miley Cyrus – We Can’t Stop

- We always say not everything on dance radio must be 120 BPM.  Miley Cyrus’ second party anthem clocks in at 80 BPM, which is even slower than the 96-BPM “Party in the U.S.A.” from 2009.  The producer and co-writer is coy about the lyrics—only the song publisher knows if it’s “dancing with Miley” or “dancing with Molly.”

Anna Kendrick – Cups (Pitch Perfect’s When I’m Gone)

- When record companies want an instrumental to get maximum airplay, they usually add some vocals.  The same strategy works for a cappella songs.  Sales of the “Cups” track from the “Pitch Perfect” soundtrack were brisk for months without any radio airplay.  So its record label decided to add an instrumental track and, voila, radio stations started playing it.  The commissioned musical arrangement is perfect for this song—down to the percussion of real cups.  It is thankfully not a rock instrumental or some hip-hop arrangement.  That said, we would welcome a tasteful dance remix.

PSY – Gentleman

- Oops, PSY did it again.  When “Gangnam Style” was just starting to break in the U.S. market, we wanted very much to add it to our Megamix page.  As a big supporter of imports, we thought it would be cool to include something from South Korea for the first time.  But we decided to pass because the instrumental track is just a pastiche of generic beats.  It reminded us of 2 Unlimited’s “Get Ready for This”—and not in a good way.  In the end, it didn’t matter what we thought because dance radio (and top 40 radio in general) jumped on the “Gangnam” bandwagon.  The musical arrangement of “Gentleman” is an improvement.  But once again PSY’s follow-up single sounds oh-so familiar.  The instrumental track calls to mind TJR’s “Ode to Oi.”  U.S. radio has so far ignored “Gentleman,” which is just as well.

No Politics Allowed (Part Three) [April 2013]

Editor’s note:  We don’t like to talk politics on our music site.  But when politics is injected into the music world, let’s talk about it.

More Hot-Button Issues

After we wrote about a country song on race recently, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention two more political songs from another unlikely format:  hip-hop.  The hottest hip-hop act right now is the duo of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.  “Same Love,” possibly re-released after the success of “Thrift Shop” and “Can’t Hold Us,” is an ambitious song that takes on the issue of gay rights, covering everything from stereotypes and those seemingly insignificant Net postings to hip-hop soul searching and gay marriage.

Snoop Lion, formerly Snoop Dogg, has been busy performing “No Guns Allowed” on TV from morning (“Live With Kelly and Michael”) to night (“Conan” and “Late Show With David Letterman”).  Featuring his daughter on vocals, this song from his reggae-flavored album is particularly jarring to his longtime fans.  Isn’t he one of the original gansta rappers?  Well, if Ice Cube could star in family comedies, anything’s possible.

No Politics Allowed (Part Two) [April 2013]

Editor’s note:  We don’t like to talk politics on our music site.  But when politics is injected into the music world, let’s talk about it.

Back to Their Roots

We choose the word “roots” to refer to the history of pop music as well as Alex Haley’s book of the same name.  You may have noticed an unusual amount of news coverage of country star Brad Paisley’s new album last week—all because of the cut “Accidental Racist,” an eyebrow-raising duet with LL Cool J.

Pop music has a long tradition of songs about war (Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction” and Edwin Starr’s “War”) and other social issues (Janice Ian’s “Society’s Child” and Diana Ross & The Supremes’ “Love Child”), especially during the 1960s.  So we welcome Paisley’s take on race, if only to break up the usual records about love, party, sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

The quibble we have with a song like Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” is that it bashes the listener over the head with its message.  While no more subtle than “Born,” “Racist” somehow sounds less preachy.  Some people have dismissed Paisley’s song as an oversimplification of the issue of race.  Well, it’s impossible to provide an in-depth discussion of any serious topic in a six-minute song.  All things considered, this song is a lot easier to listen to than, say, the singing of Eminem.

We do wonder—since no reporter has asked—if Paisley flies the Confederate flag over his house.  Just curious.

No Politics Allowed (Part One) [April 2013]

Editor’s note:  We don’t like to talk politics on our music site.  But when politics is injected into the music world, let’s talk about it.

Those Zany Brits

By now, you may have heard about the recent Web campaign in the U.K. to send “Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead” to the top of the charts.  Why the sudden interest in a song from “The Wizard of Oz” soundtrack?  Well, someone thought it would be a great idea to mark the passing of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

Now as then—when we discussed the 2010 “Storm the Charts” campaign—we frown on these overt attempts to manipulate the charts.  This has turned out to be one of the more successful campaigns; “Witch” entered the official U.K. chart at No. 2 as a result.

Every country has its share of polarizing politicians.  This campaign just seems rather crass and childish.  Leave the barbs to political cartoonists and columnists.  It kind of reminds us of that fringe church group whose members demonstrate in front of funerals of U.S. soldiers.  Just because you have the right to do something doesn’t mean you should do it.  If the people of Britain want to do something truly subversive and meaningful, try abolishing monarchy.  The whole nobility business is anathema to the notion of democracy. 

2012

 

2012

 

Musical Roundup [July 2012]

Quick thoughts on a few songs.

Avicii Featuring Salem Al Fakir – Silhouettes

Polina Griffith & Miami Kidz – Feeling This Way

- Two cases of cross singing—it’s the best term we can come up with since we don’t know the word for a singer who sounds like the opposite sex (vocal equivalent of androgyny).  Not all that unusual except when you listen to Swedish singer Salem Al Fakir’s past records, he sounds like a male singer.  And when you play “S.O.S.” by A-Studio, the Russian group’s biggest international hit, Polina Griffith sounds like a woman.

Havana Brown Featuring Pitbull – We Run the Night

- Some of the Jamaican-like ad-libs seem to recall the 1994 classic “In de Ghetto” by David Morales & The Bad Yard Club.

Alexandra Burke Featuring Erick Morillo – Elephant

- Maybe it’s her particular British accent, but when Alexandra Burke sings “You wanna talk,” it sounds more like “You wanna tuck,” which rhymes with you-know-what.  We say that’s the real elephant in the room.  While we find this very distracting, dance radio loves it.

Fun. Featuring Janelle Monae – We Are Youn
Gotye Featuring Kimbra – Somebody That I Used to Know

- A lot has been written about the similarities between these two hits of 2012:  both crossed over from the alternative format and both are debut singles that benefited from TV exposure early on, for instance.  We’d like to point out one more thing they have in common:  a kind of musical dialog between a man and a woman  This kind of structure is rare for alternative radio, but it has a long history in pop music.  One example that comes to mind is the Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me.”  We don’t usually think of these songs as classic duets like “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” or “Endless Love.”

Carly Rae Jepsen – Call Me Maybe

- The strings have it.  It’s interesting the violin, an instrument closely associated with classical music, plays such an important role in pop music still  Dance music from the 1970s just wouldn’t sound the same without the string section.  The most prominent feature of the Carly Rae Jepsen smash is the sound of the violin (we say sound because it’s likely violin produced on a synthesizer).  According to Jepsen, the string idea was inspired by Annie Lennox’s “Walking on Broken Glass,” which was released in 1992 when she was seven.  So to all the teenage listeners out there, do your homework and listen to music that came out before your time.  You won’t regret it.

Brazen – Wishing Heart

- We suppose Madonna might call the Fonzerelli remix of this song “reductive”—as she did Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” in an interview—because it sounds like “Holiday” in disguise.  Released on Fonzerelli’s own record label in the U.K., Brazen is founder Aaron McClelland’s alter ego as far as we can tell.  Fonzerelli’s best song remains “Moonlight Party” from 2006.

Changing Their Tune [June 2012]

Do musical rebels grow old and join the establishment?  Paul McCartney performed at another royal concert the other day, this time for Queen Elizabeth’s diamond jubilee.  He didn’t sound like a royalist when he released Wings’ debut single in 1972.  That song, “Give Ireland Back to the Irish,” was promptly banned in Britain; it reached No. 21 in the U.S.

An American artist who’s made a 180-degree turn is Ice Cube.  There is something unsettling when you see him in a family comedy like “Are We There Yet?” in 2005.  After all, this is someone who was a member of N.W.A, the seminal and controversial hip-hop group.

2011

 

2011

 

The Line That Got Away [December 2011]

Katy Perry’s latest album has just set another record as it becomes the seventh album in history to send at least six singles to the top 10.  And if “The One That Got Away” goes all the way to the top, “Teenage Dream” will become the only album to spawn six No. 1 singles.  But what we want to talk about is the reference to Radiohead in Perry’s latest single.  It’s the line “We make out in your Mustang to Radiohead.”  The seminal U.K. band’s music may be many things, but make-out music?  Well, if “Creep” doesn’t get you in the mood, try “Fake Plastic Trees.”  Who needs Barry White when you can have Radiohead?  Right.

Penguin Lust [July 2011]

After listening to Leona Lewis’ “Collide” recently, we were puzzled Avicii/Tim Berg/Tom Hangs would give permission to her producers to sample his “Penguin” instrumental.  This is a strange move because he has just released a vocal version of “Penguin” himself.  While “Penguin” remains the best of the three versions, we’re starting to get into “Fade Into Darkness.”  Now we hear Avicii is claiming Lewis’ people never got permission to sample.

Don’t ask why you need to get clearance if you want to sample something while you are free to record a remake of any song.  Suffice it to say the music industry established some rules years ago once sampling became widespread.  Clearance entails consent, writing credit, and upfront fee.  By contrast, a remake only requires that the original writer be credited.

Avicii’s “Penguin” is a remake of “Perpetuum Mobile” (musical term for perpetual motion) by the Penguin Cafe Orchestra, an experimental classical ensemble co-founded by the late Simon Jeffes in the early 1970s.  “Mobile” is a track off 1987’s “Signs of Life,” the group’s fourth and only album to make the U.K. charts.  PCO is kind of like the U.K. version of Kronos Quartet.  Jeffes’ son has revived the once-defunct group as Penguin Cafe.

Note that one of the writers of “Collide” also worked on Alexis Jordan’s “Happiness,” which sampled Deadmau5.  Did Deadmau5 give his blessing?  The bottom line:  Radio programmers who are playing “Collide” but have ignored “Penguin” and “Darkness” should be ashamed of themselves.

WTF LMFAO [July 2011]

We don’t know which fact about LMFAO is more surprising.  We just found out those two guys are uncle and nephew—the age difference is only about 11 years.  They are also the son and grandson of Barry Gordy, Jr., the founder of Motown Records.  All we’re saying is the 30-something uncle is not acting his age.

Nayer Sayer [May 2011]

The female voice you hear on Pitbull’s “Give Me Everything” belongs to Nayer, not some studio backup singer.  She had a dance radio hit in 2002, “First Kiss (Primer Beso).”  []  She was also featured on Pitbull’s “Pearly Gates” from last year.

Guilty As Charged? [March 2011]

Everything moves at warp speed on the Internet.  Right after Lady Gaga’s Grammy performance and just three days after radio started playing “Born This Way,” the consensus seemed to be that this song is a copy of Madonna’s “Express Yourself.”  The chatter on the Net was so heated that Lady Gaga had to address it on a morning talk show a few days later.  Well, her high ponytail on stage that night made her look like Madonna.  But “Born” is no more of a copycat than Avril Lavigne’s “What the Hell” is reminiscent of Toni Basil’s “Mickey.”

As long as we’re talking about imitation, Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro” recalls “Don’t Turn Around” by Ace of Base.  As we pointed out earlier, Milk & Sugar’s “Hey (Nah Neh Nah)” has a similar arrangement as “We No Speak Americano” by Yolanda Be Cool & DCUP.  A few notes on Alexis Jordan’s “Happiness” sound like “Brazil” by Deadmau5.  Somtimes just two notes are enough to raise eyebrows--Muse’s “Uprising” and Blondie’s “Call Me.”  But none of these cases would hold up in a court of law.

Let this be a lesson to songwriters, producers, and artists.  Before releasing a record, what they should do is test it with one of those song ID software programs.  If your song’s “fingerprint” is judged to be similar to something else, it’s time to do a little rewriting.  To examine cases that would make lawyers salivate, check out our Musical Déjà Vu list.

2010

 

2010

 

Eureka [September 2010]

In our continuing quest to compile the best remixes for our Megamix page, we’re pleased to report we’ve identified the “Bulletproof” remix heard on KMVQ-2.  It’s by none other than Razor and Guido.

So let’s hear it for the veteran duo, who first charted in 1998 with “Do It Again.”  Their remix of “Bulletproof” is a bit of a throwback (think 1998’s Jacksons-sampling “Feel It” by the Tamperer) but feels like a breath of fresh air among today’s ubiquitous electro mixes and Deadmau5 copycats.  By comparison, the more familiar remixes by Dave Aude and Manhattan Clique stay closer to La Roux’s original.

Another Web Campaign [July 2010]

The Brits do seem to have an obsession with charts, which might explain Americans’ fondness for lists. We recently came across the June 27 chart campaign called “Storm the Charts.” The goal is to help 40 artists crack the U.K. charts for the first time. This is reminiscent of the old days when an artist’s relatives and record label employees would go to record stores en masse, which was not the most effective way to create a hit song in a large market like the U.S. (guess record companies figured payola was simpler).

Of course, buying a digital track today is a lot easier than going to a store. So this kind of overt chart manipulation may prove to be effective in a smaller market like the U.K. Since this is a grassroots campaign, it seems not all that different from an artist asking fans to request a song or buy a record. And yet we don’t feel entirely comfortable with the idea.

If you’re curious who’s on the campaign’s target list, go to stormthecharts.com and click on The Facebook group link. The Facebook page doesn’t have the dreaded black background and the list there is in alphabetical order. Most, if not all, of the artists are either British or Australian. Some of the songs are more than a year old. You won’t find any R&B or country artists on the list—the campaign’s British origin may have something to do with that. The majority of the songs are either pop or rock with a few representing hip-hop (one or two) and dance/electronic (three or four). We have added one of these artists to our Megamix page.

So how did we stumble across this campaign? We were looking for the song featured in the U.K. version of “Wallander,” a mystery series that was broadcast on PBS in 2009. It turns out the theme song is really a custom version of “Nostalgia” by Emily Barker & the Red Clay Halo (Australian references were removed to fit the series’ Swedish setting). Barker’s Web site mentions the “Storm the Charts” campaign because “Nostalgia” is on the list. We suspect the TV series is the main reason the song made the cut. You can read our thoughts on “Wallander” on our Random Notes page.

The Romanians Are Coming [July 2010]

So the latest musical invasion may not be a stampede like the 1960s British invasion and we’re only talking about dance radio. Still, it is surprising because the current hit wave is coming from behind the old Iron Curtain. We typically get our dance imports from France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and, of course, Britain.

After Inna’s “Hot” hit No. 1 last January, Edward Maya & Vika Jigulina followed suit with “Stereo Love” five months later. At least three other Inna tracks have also received airplay so far. The last time a Romanian artist enjoyed this much exposure stateside was in 2004 when O-Zone’s international smash “Mai Ai Hee (Dragostea Din Tei)” reached the top 15 (and who can forget that homemade video from New Jersey?).

If you want to get a jump on the next potential hit from the land of the Count, check out “Pearls of Summer” by Bentu de Soli.

Hard-to-Find Songs and Remixes [Updates] [June 2010]

The Yolanda Adams remix is now on YouTube. So you all can hear why this synth-driven track caught the ear of everyone who heard it back in 2002. You can also read our comments when it was played on KPTI in our neck of the woods:

KPTI Remembered (click on Shake the Vote)

Original Facebook Note in April

After YouTube took off in 2005-06, there’s a very good chance one can find just about everything heard on the radio since on that site. But for records released before that, well, that’s another story. From time to time we get questions about certain songs played on dance radio during the early 2000s. One of those tracks is the Lake and Rizzo Late Night Radio Remix of Yolanda Adams’ “Never Give Up,” easily one of the best dance remixes of a gospel song (it doesn’t hurt that Adams is a great singer).

Some of the other contemporaneous standouts include Casero’s “Shimauta,” Lucas Prata’s “Let’s Get It On,” Sir Ivan’s “San Francisco,” and Zero’s “Bania u Cygana.” The difference is these songs were released commercially on compilation CDs or as CD singles. Adams’ remix, on the other hand, was only included on a promotional CD serviced to dance/rhythmic top 40 stations and subscribers in 2002. So unless a record company gets the bright idea to release a CD of hard-to-find dance tracks—don’t hold your breath—we hope someone will put this remix of “Never Give Up” on YouTube.

‘Bulletproof’ With a Bullet [June 2010]

“Bulletproof” by La Roux (not to be confused with the 1970s group Le Roux) is the little song that could. Released in 2009, this sparse, electronic-sounding single was surprisingly embraced by top 40 radio last March. Since then it’s been climbing the U.S. national charts, and this week it enters the top 10 with a bullet. A bullet on the chart represents those songs with the biggest increase in airplay and/or sales.

When the U.K. duo appeared on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” last year, the audience sat stone-faced, not knowing what to make of the androgynous, albino lead singer with the funny hairdo. Well, a hit song changes everything. Last month on “Dancing With the Stars,” Olympic gold medalist Evan Lysacek danced to a cover of “Bulletproof” (his hair was even styled to look like the “Bulletproof” video). You should be able to find these performances on the Internet.

If top 40 program directors are looking for something similar to play once “Bulletproof” has run its course—though we doubt they take our advice—try “Remedy” by Little Boots.

There aren’t that many hit songs with the word “bullet” in the title. We can think of Elton John’s “I Feel Like a Bullet (In the Gun of Robert Ford)” from 1976. But the most interesting case is Pete Wingfield’s “Eighteen With a Bullet,” which—wait for it—hit No. 18 with a bullet before peaking at No. 15 in 1975 (you can’t make these things up).

Toot Toot [March 2010]

We don’t like to toot our own horn, but as Taio Cruz scores his first No. 1 hit in America, we must remind everyone that we recommended “Moving On” back in 2007, the first of four Cruz songs on our Megamix page before any radio station started playing “Break Your Heart.”

2009

 

2009

 

Shut Your Mouth! [December 2009]

There's no shortage of songs about men and women behaving badly--"Wasted," "I Love College," and "Just Dance," just to name a few.  According to a report from the Boston Public Health Commission, a panel of teens rated recent lyrics for their "nutritional content."  They focused on songs that promote healthy or unhealthy relationships.  Obsession is a popular theme in music, film, and literature.  For every "I Will Survive," there is another "Don't Leave Me This Way."  After all, "Every Breath You Take" by The Police is a stalker song.  Go to bphc.org and look for nutrition label for rating music.

Playing Hide and Seek Again [October 2009]

When artists and producers look for something to borrow, it's usually some top 40 hit that's at least 10 years old.  Jason Derulo's top 10 hit "Whatcha Say" is a partial remake of Imogen Heap's 2005 song "Hide and Seek," not exactly a mainstream choice.  "Hide" was used in episodes of "The O.C." and "CSI" and XM's BPM did play Tiesto's remix by late 2007.  BPM is spinning this remix again because of Derulo's song.  Other dance stations should play Heap's a cappella original or some remix--better late than never.  For more information on this song, go to Audio Effects.  Heap was one half of the U.K. duo Frou Frou ("Breathe In").

Ella...Ella...A Mash-Up Waiting to Happen? [October 2009]

Rihanna's "Umbrella" and Kate Ryan's "Ella Elle L'a."  Ryan is the latest European artist to cover the 1987 song by French singer France Gall, who was the 1965 Eurovision Song Contest winner.  "Ella Elle L'a" ("Ella She's Got It") was written as a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald (hence the reference to black people in the lyrics).  Thanks to the Internet, you can watch Gall's 1987 music video.

'Poker Face' Folds After Long Stay at the Top [May 2009]

After spending a record-breaking 15 weeks at No. 1, Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" is dethroned by a surprising hit on dance radio.  Here are the longest-running No. 1s since August 2003.

15 weeks: Lady Gaga – Poker Face (2009)
11 weeks: Deborah Cox – Something Happened on the Way to Heaven (2003)
8 weeks: Madonna – Hung Up (2005)
8 weeks: Rihanna – SOS (2006)
8 weeks: Justin Timberlake Featuring T.I. – My Love (2006)

Familiar Sax Reigns [May 2009]

The song that replaces "Poker Face" as the No. 1 track on dance radio is quite an underdog.  First picked up by XM's BPM as an import last October--the same time when we added it as a Bonus Track on our Dance Radio Megamix page--Klaas' remix of Guru Josh's 1990 club hit, "Infinity," was eventually added to KNHC Seattle's playlist in January.  And for a while it looked like that would be the end of the story.  Then other stations jumped on board starting in April.

So what happened?  "Infinity 2008" was finally licensed to New York's Ultra Records and included in a key music promoter's monthly compilation.  Sometimes you just can't keep a good song down.  Note that Klaas' remix of DJ Antoine's "This Time" gave that record a boost at radio last year.

Lyrical Gibberish [April 2009]

Have you tried to decipher the lyrics for a song by Flanders ("Behind," "By My Side")?  Don't bother.  Accent or no accent, their English lyrics are nonsensical to begin with.  Here's a sample from the Italian group's MySpace page (myspace.com/flanders2).

Will be sunshine in me I can't stand off it

Surely the songwriters can find an English speaker in all of Italy to look over their lyrics.  People who loved the Bulgarian "Ken Lee" video on YouTube should get a kick out of Flanders.

Laws of Dance Remix [April 2009]

1. The bigger the star, the more average the remixes.

Exhibit A: Kelly Clarkson

Except for Jason Nevins' remix of "Since U Been Gone," all her remixes have been lacking.

2. The bigger the top 40 hit, the worse the remixes.

Have you heard any great remixes of these top 40 hits?

  • Nelly Furtado Featuring Timbaland – Promiscuous
  • Alicia Keys – No One
  • Shakira Featuring Wyclef Jean – Hips Don't Lie
  • Timbaland Featuring OneRepublic – Apologize

It's an uphill battle since the listeners--and remixers--are quite familiar with the original already.

2007

 

2007

 

Another Hit out of the Left Field [2007]

Amy Winehouse (amywinehouse.com) is this year’s Gnarls Barkley, another multiformat success story.  “You Know I’m No Good,” the first single from the U.K. singer’s second album, didn’t receive any significant airplay until after the top 10 debut of the album.  Then it started building at triple-A rock, eventually peaking at No. 2.  In the meantime, dance radio began playing the album’s second single, “Rehab,” which was also added to modern rock and later adult top 40.  Once “Rehab” proved to be a favorite digital song, mainstream top 40 and rhythmic top 40 radio jumped on board as well.  Triple-A added “Rehab” while “No Good” was still near the top of that format’s playlist.

 

Radio in Rehab
Format Peak Pos.
Dance 3
Triple-A rock 7
Mainstream top 40 13
Adult top 40 14
Modern rock 32
Rhythmic top 40 34

 

Her 2004 debut album “Frank” earned a few prestigious award nominations in the U.K.  Maybe it’s the Winehouse effect, but Mark Ronson (markronson.co.uk, allidorecords.com), the producer of most of the tracks on her latest album, is getting airplay of his own.  “Stop Me,” the first single off his second album, is moving up the dance chart.  He had a minor R&B/hip-hop hit back in 2003.

2006

 

2006

 

The Mouse That Roared and Don’t Cha Love It? [2006]

Danger Mouse (dangermousesite.com) first gained notoriety with his mash-up album “The Grey Album” in 2003 (see below).  He then went legit and co-produced the Gorillaz (gorillaz.com) album from last year, for which he received a Grammy nomination for producer of the year.  He’s back with an unlikely hit single, the blues-recalling “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley (gnarlsbarkley.com).

The other half of Gnarls Barkley, Cee-Lo (jrecords.com), has also been on a roll.  The former member of Goodie Mob (kochrecords.com) produced and co-wrote a catchy song called “Don’t Cha” by Tori Alamaze (torialamazemusic.com, universalrecords.com), who provided backing vocals on OutKast’s “Hey Ya!” in 2003.  After it became a minor hit at rhythmic top 40 radio and later at R&B/hip-hop radio, he made the unusual move to immediately rerecord “Don’t Cha” with The Pussycat Dolls (pussycatdolls.com), a novelty group based on the Los Angeles burlesque show.  This cover version wound up as one of the biggest hits of 2005, and The Dolls now have four consecutive top 40 hits under their garter belts.

As a singer, Cee-Lo has a high-pitched voice that seems to have clicked with listeners.  His solo work (two albums since 2002) and his Goodie Mob recordings never enjoyed this much commercial success and attention.  With “Crazy” doing well stateside and all over Europe, Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo have formed a promising musical collaboration.  The inkblot-style music video should net the duo some awards as well.

“Crazy” is one of those few multiformat success stories.  It was first played at modern rock radio and then followed by adult top 40, triple-A rock, mainstream top 40, dance, rhythmic top 40, and R&B/hip-hop.  Even adult contemporary and contemporary jazz radio eventually added this track to their playlists; the only format that didn’t go “crazy” is country.  And Gnarls Barkley did it without servicing special remixes to different radio formats (maybe they should consider a bluegrass remix).  With this much multiformat support, it has easily become the biggest dance-oriented crossover hit since 2000.

 

Radio Crazy for Gnarls Barkley
Format Peak Pos.
Adult top 40 1
Triple-A rock 1
Dance 2
Mainstream top 40 6
Adult contemporary 7
Modern rock 7
Rhythmic top 40 16
Contemporary jazz 27
R&B/hip-hop 39

 

Early Mash-Up [2006]

As we speculated before (see below), 1996’s “I’m Gonna Luv U” by Summer Junkies might have been the first mash-up to achieve some kind of club or radio success.  This distinction should perhaps go to The Source’s “You Got the Love” from 1991.  It layers Candi Staton’s “You Got the Love” (1986) vocals over the instrumental track of Jamie Principle’s “Your Love.”  The Source hit the U.K. charts a second time in 1997 with new remixes, including the Now Voyager mix that was later featured in the series finale of HBO’s “Sex and the City” in February 2004.  Another batch of remixes was released early this year, and U.S. radio finally took notice.

Olympic Dance [2006]

It seems dance music takes center stage on a global scale every two years.  At this year’s Olympics, the parade of nations marched in to a mostly 1970s disco soundtrack.  And two years ago in Athens, Tiesto’s music played a similar role during the opening ceremonies.

2005

 

2005

 

Instrumental + Vocals = Radio Hit? [2005]

If you like instrumentals, “Can’t Stop Playing” by Dr. Kucho! & Gregor Salto is just what the doctor ordered.  Though not in the same class as Darude’s “Sandstorm” (2001) or ATB’s “9 PM (Till I Come)” (1999), this track by Spanish DJ Dr. Kucho! (drkucho.com, discdoctor.es) will do the trick.  Since radio prefers vocals to instrumentals, there is now a version that features male vocals in addition to the few female spoken words in the original.

This is not the first time a dance instrumental got the vocal treatment.  After “Strings of Life” by Soul Central (ultrarecords.com, defected.com) garnered some buzz early this year, the British duo added a vocal track and renamed the song “Strings of Life (Stronger on My Own).”  “Lola’s Theme” by Shape:UK (ultrarecords.com, positivarecords.com, nocturnalgroove.co.uk) had received some radio airplay stateside in 2004 even before a vocal version was released.  London gospel singer Cookie’s vocals helped propel “Lola’s Theme” to the top of dance radio and club charts.

DJ Spiller’s “Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love)” (2001) was an instrumental track originally; Sophie Ellis Bextor’s vocals took that song to another level.  Riva’s “Stringer” became “Who Do You Love Now?” in 2002 after Dannii Minogue’s vocals were added to the mix.  The most interesting case is “77 Strings” by Kurtis Mantronik Presents Chamonix (deeveemusic.com), a top 10 club hit in 2003.  Then the vocal version became a No. 1 club hit—re-titled “How Did You Know”—the following year.  But it was a timely remake by Mynt Featuring Kim Sozzi (neutonerecordings.com) that became a favorite at dance radio.

2004

 

2004

 

The Art of Sampling [2004]

Sampling was an integral part of rap music from the beginning and remains part of hip-hop’s repertoire today.  While there’s no reason why sampling couldn’t be put to good use in other musical genres, the fact remains that only dance artists have dabbled in this technique.  When it comes to sampling music, less is more (memo to Will Smith).  Take “Take Me to the Clouds Above” by LMC vs. U2 (ultrarecords.com) as an example.  The British trio’s subtle use of U2’s 1987 classic “With or Without You” is just right:  A sample should complement or enhance the song—not overwhelm or dominate it.

No discussion of sampling would be complete without mentioning Moby’s ingenious use of blues samples on his 1999 album “Play” (moby.com).  Perhaps he was inspired by Primitive Radio Gods’ “Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth With Money in My Hand” from 1996 with its memorable B.B. King sample.

And the master of sampling in the world of dance music is probably Norman Cook, better known as Fatboy Slim (fatboyslim.net).  His 1998/2000 single, “The Rockafeller Skank,” is a classic even if it comprises recycled parts—the end result is much greater than the sum of its parts.  The man goes through bins of vinyl records like an archaeologist unearthing some fossil.  Cook was a member of The Housemartins and had also released records under the names Mighty Dub Katz, Pizzaman, Freak Power, and Beats International.

With so many people in the sampling business, EMI/Virgin began releasing in Britain a series of compilation albums featuring some of the original sources that have inspired a generation of sample-happy artists.  Since 2000, it has issued four volumes of “Sampled” and one “Best of Sampled.”

2003

 

2003

 

Foreign Exchange [2003]

You did the polka to “Bania u Cygana” by Zero in 2001.  You caught “island fever” when you heard Casero’s “Shimauta” in 2002.  Now get ready for Belgian singer Kate Ryan’s “Desenchantee” (kate-ryan.com, robbinsent.com).

It’s as catchy as her last U.S. single, “Scream for More”—but in a totally different way.  “Desenchantee” (the French word for “disenchanted” or “disillusioned”) and “Shimauta” share this in common:  they’re both remakes.  You may recall the original version of “Shimauta” was a Japanese hit by The Boom in 1993.  Argentina’s Alfredo Casero covered it in 2002, and the rest, as they say, is history (see below).  Mylene Farmer, a French singer and actress, co-wrote and recorded “Desenchantee” in 1991.  Ryan’s faithful remake of this sing-along anthem belies the pessimistic lyrics.

If we’re done renaming French fries and boycotting French toast, how about one more French song?  “Tu Es Foutu (Tu M’as Promis)” by In-Grid is another European hit that may catch on stateside in 2003 (the title roughly translates as “You’re Screwed [You Promised Me]”).  A mostly English version of the song was a recent hit in Australia under the more genteel title, “You Promised Me (Tu M’as Promis).”  The official U.S. release is called “You Promised Me (Tu Es Foutu)” (zyxmusic.com, waakorecords.com).  A visitor to our site first reported this accordion-driven, Gallic-sounding song to us after watching its video at a San Francisco club.  It just goes to show we must always keep our eyes and ears open.

2002

 

2002

 

Island Fever [2002]

The Japanese track that has created such a buzz is called “Shimauta” (pronounced she-ma-yoo-ta).  It means island (shima) song (uta), a reference to Okinawa and its neighboring islands.  The original version was a Japanese hit by the male group The Boom in 1993.  A remake by Argentina’s Alfredo Casero (singing in Japanese, no less) became a big hit in parts of Latin America this year under the title “Shimauta (Cancion de la Isla).”  A female singer named Izzy covered the song in a duet with The Boom—in English.

The dance remix that’s been getting airplay in the U.S. is credited to “Shimauta (DJ Fluid’s Remix)” by Casero.  It may possibly feature the vocals of Chitose Hajime, a folk singer trained in the vocal tradition of the islands.  It’s unclear whether she ever recorded a remake of the song.  In our humble opinion, this singing style sounds like typical Japanese phrasing with a little more “yodeling” involved.  If you do a search on the Internet, you’ll get to hear the original version of “Shimauta,” read about how Casero came to record the song, and learn the meaning of the lyrics.

Caveat emptor:  Before you pick up a copy, make sure it’s not the version sung by Alfredo Casero.  We don’t mean to imply there’s anything wrong with his recording—it won four Gardel Awards (Argentina’s Grammys).

 

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