Fantastic first back-and-forth volley. Portends well for where this can go.
First, responses and comments on some of your initial notes, and then we’ll get to tha’ tunez.
- This isn’t intended to be a critical consensus on “the best” dance tunes of all time. Just a definitive list of the tunes WE love. So yeah, “Jamie loves this tune and it makes him dance” is a rock solid grading rubric.
- Genre – look, I’m not intending for “electronic” to eliminate GREAT dance music tunes. It’s more of a productive provocation. The magic will come both from tunes that are right in the middle of the bullseye AND the tracks that sit on the fringes and for which we have to make a case. Your Sylvester nomination is a perfect example – without this track, you wouldn’t have a HUGE part of the dance music canon through the 80’s, including House (and yeah, Hi-NRG)
- Rod Stewart. Wow. You do know that the Rolling Stones had their “disco moment”, too, right? Emotional Rescue. It’s basically the spiritual twin tune to “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy.”
- Also, I love your frame of “The Peak Hour Playlist”: make this the playlist we’d groove to at the best house part every, starting after the drugs hit and riding it through peak and into the wee hours (you’ll just have to trust me on this one.) There’s a magic period from about midnight to 3AM that is just on fire. You definitely can go later, and we often do, but it’s a different energy. Not the high energy dance vibes. By 4AM, it’s a more visceral, dark vibe. The “cute and sparkly” has worn off. You feel like you survived the night and are committed to seeing the sunrise, not out of any sense of joy, but of a deep sense of duty and obligation. But from midnight to 3AM, its pure dance energy. Let’s build the playlist that captures THAT!
- Side note on substances – I’ve always found it fascinating how the “weapons of choice” for ingestion align closely to the music/crowd/cultural context (again, trust me on this one) (also, for fun, this NSFW Reddit thread where a guy describes every drug he’s ever taken as a person…absolutely spot on and hilar.)
- Alcohol – pretty universal. Just your every day go-to.
- Cocaine – perfect for disco/1970’s and clubs in the 80’s.
- MDMA – Ideal when the BPM went up to 120+. Like, it was made for 4-on-the-floor beats. It’s not so much “people love to combine EDM with MDMA,” it’s more like “I can’t imagine disentangling EDM and MDMA.” Also: Doesn’t mix well with rock, country, anything with guitars. Nails on a chalkboard.
- LSD – Raves and psychedelic rock.
- Ketamine – late, late into the night, combo’d with something else or it’s just a lonely experience. Some people can deal with it and guitars at the same time but it can get dark.
- Mushrooms – Just, no.
- Your point about Hi-NRG is well taken – something’s gotta fuel the ride.
Ok, on to the pick.
First off, AMAZING bounceback with Sylvester, “You Make Me Feel.” Absolutely perfect. You cannot not dance to that track. And did you know that his two backing vocalists (“Two Tons of Fun”) became “The Weathergirls” who knocked out “It’s Raining Men“? And one of the women is Martha Wash, who sang the female vocals on Black Box’s album (maybe a future entry into this list?!?!) as well as C + C Music Factory’s album, and was part of a big lawsuit claiming she was denied royalties on the “Gonna Make You Sweat” tune!
What a first couple of entries. Pressure is on. I was tempted to go with something apparent, a direct, straight line evolution from Disco to a proto-house track, or a late-80’s club banger. But I wanted to challenge us both to find the gems on the edges.
So, with my “build the playlist” hat on, pivoting us in a new direction inspired by Hi-NRG, a tune that feels like the natural descendent of disco, run through the filters of U.K new wavers…
Definitely a tune that I remember from middle school when we were all into new wave and dance music, but were blissfully unaware of the radical political and gay liberation vibes of the groups original members, particularly lead singer Jimmy Somerville who had left the band when this tune was made. We just thought the track was bangin’! (compare to their openly gay coming out anthem, “Smalltown Boy“, full of the angst and yearning of The Smiths but with dance club sensibilities.)
You can tell how the pace has picked up, artists have figured out how to use their synths and vocals to drill it to an almost aerobic-class level pace. Nothing deep or fancy. Just straightforward club dance heat.
Excited to see where this leads us, what it opens up. Or even better, what unexpected left hook you pull out next!