Friday, June 29, 2012

The Way To Think.

"It's like football, really. You American actors refuse to run unless you have this 'ball of truth' tucked firmly within your arms, whereas we Brits run as fast as we can and hope to God someone throws us the ball."

- Laurence Olivier to Anthony Quinn during the stage version of BECKET.

[© MMXII MD TOTAL all rights reserved]

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Great EDM Tracks to start off your summer!

I don't know about you guys, but I LOVE electronic dance music - or EDM as we've been calling it lately. There's something about EDM in comparison to other types of dance music that just feels transcendant. And that feeling is exactly what we need on the dancefloor - and in life - I'm telling you. Now, there's a couple of things to say about EDM before we get to the tracks. Remember how Disco died? Well, it didn't. We just renamed it. And if you really look back, you can see how we've always brought it along since the 70s.

One of the coolest things about Donna Summer's music is that it was far more groundbreaking than most give credit for. Her hit "I Feel Love," is the beginning of EDM. You can hear immediately that it's different from other disco music of the time. Give it a spin while you read this to get your head in the right space. After disco "died," the same techniques and song structures were being used in other genres. Two of the best examples of this are David Bowie's "Let's Dance," (note the latin percussion, the horns and the bass line) and INXS' "New Sensation," (I mean that guitar riff is nothing if it ain't DISCO). As we moved through the 80s, a new genre called house music began to take over underground clubs. And it never left. Thank god.

Now, EDM is beginning to take over pop radio and with good reason. It feels AWESOME. It's also worth mentioning that the way the American mainstream is discovering EDM right now is the way it's been in Europe for quite some time. Rave culture started in Europe in the 80s and never really left. America has flirted with it here and there (Daft Punk, Kylie, and Madonna in general), but we've arrived at a tipping point. I can't say where we're going to go, but I hope America stays in love with EDM. Not as the only genre we listen to, but as something we always listen to. EDM deserves to be here because we will always need to DANCE.

I've made a list of some tracks that I'm feeling right now, and if you wanna hear me talk about the tracks, I go into further detail after that. Have fun. Eat candy. And for the love of all that's holy, play them LOUD. EDM is meant to be heard LOUD.

1. "Raise Your Weapon [Madeon Extended Remix]" Deadmau5, Raise Your Weapon Remixes
2. "I'm Addicted" Madonna, MDNA
3. "Where Have You Been?" Rihanna, Talk That Talk
4. "Titanium" David Guetta ft. Sia, Nothing But the Beat
5. "Levels" Avicii, Levels single
6. "Save the World" Swedish House Mafia, Save The World single
7. "Take Over Control" Afrojack ft. Eva Simons, Take Over Control single
8. "Timebomb" Kylie Minogue, Timebomb single
9. "In the Air" Mogan Page + Sultan + Ned Shepard + BT, In the Air single

"Raise Your Weapon [Madeon Extended remix]" Deadmau5, Raise Your Weapon single
It's important to recognize here this remix is very different from production of the original track, which is dubstep. Madeon's softened grooves are quite literally the opposite of dubstep's staccato. Madeon, being 17 years old and French, counts Daft Punk as serious influences, and it's audible. For some reason, it sounds they way I expected nightclubs to feel like when I was a little kid in the 80s. It's massively uplifting and extremely danceable. Listen to it and see if you immediately want to hear it again. Pay attention to the playoff. It's the producer saying "I know you're loving this song and you don't want it to end so I'm going to give you a minute of me killing it instrumentally to get you used to the idea that it's almost over."

Madeon deserves to be mentioned again here, just because of this live mashup he played, which is called Pop Culture. It's inspiring, to say the least. He plays that damn Launchpad like an instrument! I also love how so many other tracks I love are presented in high relief - there's 39 songs mashed up in three short minutes.

"I'm Addicted" Madonna, MDNA.
This song sounds like drugs. There's just no way around that - I swear it gets my brain to release dopamine, which is exactly what MDMA does. It nails what the beginning of a crush feels like; that period when you just can't stop thinking about that someone. From the aggressive opening riff, you just know you're about to throw down on the dance floor in a serious way. Madonna has said this was the most difficult song to write on the album, and it's no surprise. The song's structure isn't reinventing the wheel, but it is the rare pop song that continues to feel new as it develops yet you're still able to sing along. This song is something else. It should come as no surprise to anyone who's paid even the slightest attention to music in the last thirty years, electronic dance music is what Madonna has excelled at for her entire career. Yet - this happens to be one of the best dance tracks she's ever recorded. Period.

"Where Have You Been" Rihanna, Talk That Talk.
I'll admit to not loving this song when it was first released, but I feel it's a good example of a song that needed a context for it to find its way into my heart. In this case, it's the song's video. The way the guys kill the choreography stayed with me. A few days later, I heard it in the car and the last dance break kinda stuck out. It was that moment where you're driving and your mind is thinking about something then a portion of the song gets through and you hear it - really hear it - for the first time. And I've loved it ever since. This song has a serious journey - it's a workout. The opening chords are so sweet and soft, but Rihanna's vocal has an urgency that betrays where the song is really going to go. She's a siren; in heat. Then the beat drops in and you know she's serious. From then on, the song goes on like it's driving through a storm and does not let up until the cool down. For me, it's all about that last dance break, through the bridge and the outro. But it wouldn't feel so good if everything that preceded it wasn't awesome.

"Titanium" David Guetta ft. Sia, Nothing But The Beat
David Guetta. Talk about someone who's taken over the genre! I find this track to be more interesting than others of his, it also features vocals by Sia. Is there any artist she's worked with whose work wasn't elevated by her presence? I also love hearing her sing this kind of music, her voice has a quality that is exciting and really fits the drive of the track. It opens with just that guitar riff, similar to the Rihanna track I mentioned, and similarly, it betrays its real motive: a beat. Everything that follows is a throw down JAM OF CELEBRATION. And in case you missed the train during the first verse and chorus, it starts over before the second verse to catch any listeners who might have been lazy. Get on board, it says. Ride.

"Levels" Avicii, Levels single.
This was the first Avicii track I heard, and I first heard it in an episode of the underrated and now cancelled "How to Make it in America." The only lyrics happen to be the same sample that Flo Rida used in his track, "Good Feeling." It's used brilliantly here as well. I mean, in just two phrases you understand the entire song. It's about lifting yourself - whether it be your career or something more personal - to another level. See what I did there? At least that's what I think of. It's funny how just some hand claps can drive a beat, isn't it? It's definitely worth mentioning that Skrillex did a remix...

"Save the World" Swedish House Mafia, Save the World single
Any list that talks about EDM has to include Swedish House Mafia - they are HUGE. This song is actually from last summer, but it still rocks. I love this song's simplicity, there's not really a whole lot of instruments going on. That simplicity is what gives it such a soaring feeling - it's refreshing. Imagine hearing this at a music festival on a hot summer night and having the band use one of those fancy machines that spits tiny ice chips into the air! This song is just meant to be played for a huge crowd, you can feel it. There's also an awesome remix of this song that definitely deserves to be mentioned, but it's best understood once you already know the original.

"Take Over Control" Afrojack, ft. Eva Simons. Take Over Control Single
This track touches on a subject that EDM often touches upon - transcendance. It's easy to guess what the lyrics are referring to when they talk about "taking over control," but there's always what Nile Rodgers calls the deeper hidden meaning. For me, this song is about meditation, or connecting to the universe, or connecting to spirit. It's about taking control over your life, and not just waiting for things to happen to you. And by taking control, by connecting to something larger than yourself, you can finally be all of who you really are. Now, I can see how some would feel like that's a bit of a stretch if there weren't SO MANY dance songs that touch upon this subject. Then when you combine the transcendant chord progressions with the idea of actual transcendance, it's ecstatic. Plug it in and turn me on, indeed!

"Timebomb" Kylie Minogue, Timebomb Single
Now Kylie is just coming off an amazing EDM album, Aphrodite. And since she just finished touring that record last year, I was surprised to find out there was new music. Buit it's just a lead single for a greatest hits. We'll have to be patient, but it's okay - this will tide us over. This track is a POP SONG, and it lets you know it means business from the moment it starts, there's no "let's take it slow and then ramp up" thing goin on here. It gets going. I will admit that when I first heard it, I wasn't sold but I found it fun enough to download for my gym mix. After a couple of listens, I was bumping it ALL THE TIME. Part of that is because it's catchy, but hey - I ain't exactly playing the bad shit that's catchy, now am I? I said earlier that this is a pop song, and I mean it in the best way. It's the best piece of candy I've heard in a while, and it talks about everyone's favorite feeling: meeting someone and becoming interested in them. "It's not the end of the world, it's just the start of me and you." I mean, come ON! Just enjoy the ride, suck on a lollipop and dance around your living room to this tonight.

"In the Air" Mogan Page + Sultan + Ned Shepard + BT, In the Air
This is another track that as soon as it starts, you know they mean bizness. The breathy vocals seem to call to the listener as if they were across a long distance. This track is a great example of a staple of EDM - lyrics that speak of feeling that something is about to change, something so palpable you can feel it. And this gets to the heart of what dance music is about in general, to raise people up. That's what dance is about, letting go of all that's holding you back in your life so you can move forward. And on those magical nights at the club or even in your living room, as you're dancing you are physically getting that tension out of your body and it feels good. That feeling of change is so powerful that you can feel it, In The Air.

[© MMXII MD TOTAL all rights reserved]