It’s not very often when the remix outshines the original. On one hand, I am very pro remixes of things that weren’t meant to be remixed, like jazz classics. On the other, there’s nothing more annoying like gratuitous remixes of pop songs being tacked on to the end of albums, as if they were a very special bonus that people are supposed to be excited about instead of the exact same song with a slightly different tempo. And as for songs that were electronic dance songs in the first place already, the point just escapes me completely. It’s mostly just a cynical attempt by no-name DJ’s to ride on the coattails of artists who do have name recognition. But there’s exceptions to every rule, and sometimes the remix outshines the original. Two examples of remix albums that that more than hold their own against the original production are Kraftwerk’s The Mix and Goldfrapp’s We Are Glitter. Obviously, these are two artists who know their way around with production trickery. In Goldfrapp’s case, the songs all benefit from an up-temped more aggressively dancefloor ready mix, since Goldfrapp is sometimes given to put atmosphere over beats.
Goldfrapp really set the standard for modern-day disco music. They’ve made albums that aren’t nightclub material, but it’s all about the dance records. It’s a deliberate bit of time-travel, an attempt to create a happy, woozy atmosphere and a feeling of optimism. That was eight years ago, and now more than ever we definitely need all the cheering up we can get. You can’t escape into the disco clouds all the time, but you should at least have that option.
I’ll never not love songs that provide pure escapism. I want dancing and glamour and feather boas. Goldfrapp provides that in amplitude. Not all of her records are direct rockets back to the days of disco and glam rock, but the best ones are. The remix album We Are Glitter pretty much makes it a mission statement. It’s music for dancing at the club, but more than that it’s music for dancing alone in your bathroom while you’re putting on your lipstick. That’s a very specific mindframe that often goes underserved, as much as it’s a cliche of teen movie makeover montage sequences.
The best disco songs are fueled by not-very-double entendres. Goldfrapp has dabbled with success in various styles of music, but they’re at their best when they’re time traveling us back to the era of spandex on the dancefloor. That kind of unabashed sleazy fun may go out of style, but it never stays out of style for very long. People just want to dance to songs about rockets. Rockets are sexy, you see. They represent the unbridled libido. The promise of going to metaphorical outer space on a metaphorical rocket is why people go to the disco. The music that takes them there doesn’t get a lot of credit for its cultural value, but it does its job. A purveyor of really good dance music will always be in demand, and artists like Goldfrapp, who take those vintage four-to-the-floor grooves into the 21st century, deserve acclaim.
Remember Bianca Jagger’s 1977 birthday party that found her riding into Studio 54 astride a white horse led by naked male dancers? You were there, yes? That was probably the single most iconic moment of the disco era. It was also, of course, the jet-setting celebrity demimonde making a not-subtle in-joke about their own lifestyle. We all know what white horses are a symbol of. These were people for whom cocaine formed the basis of a food pyramid that included not much else. That kind of flagrancy wouldn’t be possible today, because today’s glamorous stars like to pretend that they become svelte through holistic means and not by blood-money amphetamines. (Also, that poor horse!) Cocaine’s good name has been dragged by its trashy cousin crack, the next-generation cool party kids have their own cool party drugs. But the disco mystique of the 70’s lingers, for a variety of complex reasons, as the halcyon ideal of libertine living, and we can’t stop paying tribute to it for its glamour and its hedonism, and from our post-war-on-drugs post-AIDS-epidemic vantage point, its comparative optimism and innocence. Hence, neo-disco musicians like Goldfrapp, whose take may be post-modern but not entirely ironic in its admiration.
Not all of Alison Goldfrapp’s music is dance music, but oh, she’s ever so good at it when it is. Goldfrapp has a love for glam rock and disco in all of their feathered, sequin-bomb extravagance. The video here is just about a perfect facsimile of the 70’s glam aesthetic, and the song could be the love child of T.Rex and Giorgio Moroder. If you don’t think the world needs that, then I just don’t know if we can be friends. It’s pure escapism, complete with a disco ball horse. Glitter represents the redemptive power of frivolity. You put on your feather boa and your platform boots, and you’re riding your disco horse into the sunrise.
Upscale dance music. Something to put you in the mood when you’re up all night doing unspeakable things. Goldfrapp’s music is sexy; you can dance to it or sit back. I also like her sexy/surreal aesthetic. Glittery but yet artsy, with a queer interest in dogs. There’s atmosphere, and there’s even sometimes emotion. Why isn’t Goldfrapp more popular? Too cool? Too smart? Well, that’s its own niche right there. File her in the new army of smart ladies reclaiming the pop sensibility. If that doesn’t make sense, I’m sorry; my brain is lit with neon.