The Just Rights and So Many Wrongs of “Love to Love You Donna”

Image via Verve
Image via Verve

Somewhere in the bloated (yet arguably absolutely deserved) nine-plus minute Giorgio Moroder retelling of the making of 1977′s “I Feel Love” that was “Giorgio by Moroder” on Daft Punk‘s album Random Access Memories, there exists the final impetus for the bloated, thirteen-track Donna Summer love-fest that is the brand new Love to Love You Donna remix collection. Yes, the divine disco diva’s 2012 demise certainly played a role in the gestation of this project, but the Daft Punk production takes it over the top. Fast forward 35 years and what was once unique and worth nine minutes of lauding is now commonplace, which bogs down the execution of what should be – with names as diverse as legends Moroder and Frankie Knuckles, as well as big room giants Laidback Luke and Afrojack, plus nu disco kings like Jacques Greene and Duke Dumont – an incredible project. However, instead of creating tracks that reach the legendary status of the originals, these remixes actually sound like echoes in the vast void of non-original material in the YouTube and SoundCloud-dominated era of EDM. That being said, in dance music’s newest audacious era, moments like releasing remixed Donna Summer tracks should be treated like an incredible thing. In both the production on the album and the recording’s marketing push both underwhelming, this entire project feels empty and vapid – a thing that is, but in existing as constituted, probably should not be.

The retroactive nature of remixing tracks by a disco artist whose original tracks in many ways influenced those who remixed them on the project is intriguing. Ideally, one would think that given the nature of such a project at dance’s most mainstream time would lend itself to better executed fanfare. I mean, Daft Punk put out Random Access Memories and Columbia Records treated it as though the sun, moon, Earth and stars had perfectly aligned. Instead here we were yet another spate of 2013 interviews of Giorgio Moroder, and the same old PR roll out of exclusive first listens of tracks to blogs [Ed Note: which does include DAD]. What if instead of blowing whatever budget was used for PR and marketing to use traditional channels, Universal Music Group’s Verve Records imprint decided to say, team with a global brand, (let’s say Red Bull), rent out a garage in Brooklyn, and feature Chromeo and Oliver doing an opening set, with say Laidback Luke and Afrojack tag teaming and Giorgio Moroder and Frankie Knuckles to close out the night with vocalists covering Donna Summer tracks live all night long. In a year wherein brands are showing an increased willingness to align themselves with EDM, this should have been treated as a destination event and not just another release on the schedule.

Yes, the remixes here are oftentimes sub-standard. If I never have to hear Giorgio Moroder having a dalliance with dub (and speaking of, the less said about Benga‘s gravitation away from dubstep for his remix, the better) or Dutch house ever again, I’m totally okay with that. The sonic journey of EDM attempting to reclaim pieces of disco’s soul starts with Moroder remixing “Love to Love You Baby.” Yes, you read that right. It wasn’t enough that 38 years ago that he took a five-minute song and cut three-minute and 18-minute versions of the same track. No, somewhere a man or woman in a suit decided to okay the idea of Moroder modernizing a song which, to best of my knowledge, floored a room at the Red Bull Music Academy Sessions in New York City this year, disco fans hollering and jumping for joy when the simmering seducer dropped during a Giorgio Moroder DJ set. I would have rather heard something new made with the same hook, say with Emeli Sande or Jessie Ware on the vocal of a new Moroder track that had brief samples connecting the new track to the original.

Speaking again to the point of remixes in the SoundCloud and YouTube era, there’s something that feels really absurd about Duke Dumont, Gigamesh, Holy Ghost!, Hot Chip, and Jacques Greene doing Donna Summer bootlegs for money. Anybody who follows nu disco or indie dance as a scene will tell you that 99% of the fun of following the scene is hearing slo-mo versions of either every song from the ’80s that is ironically adored, or the chopped-up vocals of zombie Aaliyah available FOR FREE. Yes, these remixes are cool for what they are, but a far better execution for the purposes of this project would be if the remixers and bands were allowed to use stems of Donna Summer tracks to bolster their own unique work, to be then followed by releasing the same stems available for sale that the artists used on the album, which could then be looped into a contest where the winner would get access to creating official remixes for Verve Records releases. In this idea situation, everyone wins.

The true winners of the entire compilation are both Afrojack and Laidback Luke. Afrojack doesn’t reinvent the wheel with “I Feel Love,” he basically does what Dutch house producers have been doing for the past five years now: turn up the bass. It’s morphed into a heavier production, and the biggest win for Afrojack here is that he now gets to say that he’s remixed “Bad” by Michael Jackson and “I Feel Love” by Donna Summer, which – say what you will about Afrojack (as being one of the contributing factors to Paris Hilton being a DJ, for starters) – is an incredible accomplishment.

Laidback Luke’s work on “MacArthur Park” is nothing short of stunning. On a lyrical level, “MacArthur Park” may arguably be one of the most nonsensical and worst written songs of all time. In the hands of Giorgio Moroder he turned it on a production level into a perfect bed upon which Donna Summer lays down a disco torch song, probably one of the strongest of the era. Laidback Luke somehow weaves his way into the brain of the track and re-wires it for the modern era as a peak-hour banging beast. The Laidback Luke remix of “MacArthur Park” is the kind of track big enough to swallow the white isle in one gulp and hard enough to pound the Las Vegas Motor Speedway into the ground.

When EDM falls into the fans of people who appear to have a less-than-aware understanding of the potential size and scope of dance as a ubiquitous force, things like Love to Love You Donna happen. While on the surface a perfect compilation, its flaws lie in misunderstanding the lay of the land of not just dance, but modern music overall.

The Love to Love You Donna remix compilation is out now.

  • maxy

    frankie knuckles remix is dope