Sunday, August 30, 2009

My Favorite Disco Songs

I’ve never been to a dance club; I don’t particularly like dancing, and I’m too young. However, over the last year or two, I’ve grown particularly fond of dance music, and, specifically, disco. I may come from the town that killed disco, but Chicago’s hatred towards the genre is one of the few feelings I don’t share with my city. Disco’s demographic may not include my age or the place I’m from, but some of the music from the period (and from subsequent revivals of the period) is truly brilliant, and, of course, loads of fun.

Disco is kind of a tricky categorization. After all, it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between disco and funk or disco and house. (For me, at least.) But I think every track here makes a strong case for being a disco track. So here are my 20 favorite disco songs. Enjoy.

20. The Bee Gees—Stayin’ Alive

19. Thelma Houston—Don’t Leave Me This Way

18. ABBA—Take A Chance On Me

17. Instant Funk—I Got My Mind Made Up

16. Klein & MBO—Dirty Talk

15. Aeroplane (feat. Kathy Diamond)—Whispers

14. Dinosaur—Kiss Me Again

13. Donna Summer—Love To Love You Baby

12. Grace Jones—Pull Up To The Bumper

11. Giorgio Moroder—The Chase

10. Hercules and Love Affair--Blind: One of only two songs on this list from the current decade, “Blind” holds up against any classic from the actual disco era. It’s relentlessly funky and groovy, and it sounds extremely modern despite recalling decades-old sounds, which is certainly a tough and often ill-fated task.

9. Gloria Gaynor--I Will Survive: This was a favorite of mine before I knew what disco was. It’s catchy, it’s funky, and it’s timeless. Gloria Gaynor sings the relatively smart and meaningful (compared to other disco tracks) lyrics with feeling to spare, and the music glides nicely and sharply behind her big, emotional voice.

8. The Bee Gees--You Should Be Dancing: My favorite song by what is probably the most popular disco group of all time, “You Should Be Dancing” is definitely the Bee Gees’ funkiest and least cheesy sounding disco hit. It boasts some pretty awesome percussion and lots of vocal echo to create a more unique and refreshing Bee Gees sound.

7. Michael Jackson--Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough: Potentially my favorite song by who is probably the most popular pop/disco/soul singer of all time, “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” is Michael (rest in peace)’s best dance track. It started adult Michael’s career off with a swirling, funky bang, and set up a template for part 2 of the greatest career ever in pop music.

6. Dinosaur--Go Bang!: Arthur Russell veered away from the mainstream when it came to all music, including disco. But his tracks under the Dinosaur moniker were still undeniably funky and danceable, even if they were a little weirder than most. And “Go Bang!” is his best—his funkiest, his most danceable, and certainly one of his weirdest.

5. Gino Soccio--Dancer: A master of Italo Disco (even though he was from Canada), Gino Soccio created his masterpiece with “Dancer.” It provides eight and a half minutes of smooth, intricate, and funky disco grooves that just keep layering and layering until the mix is bursting with spastic, jittery energy. It has several of disco’s finest basslines and riffs, all in one song.

4. Candido--Jingo: Candido’s cover of a Santana song (I had no idea it was a cover until recently) turns a Spanish-y rock song into an intense Spanish-y space disco track. It contains a piano line that invented house music and enough congas and other percussion to fill a fifteen minute song. (It's nine and a half.) Add some Spanish group vocals, and you have a disco masterpiece.

3. Giorgio Moroder--I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone: Admittedly, this may not be the best Giorgio Moroder song, but it’s my favorite. It’s not the most danceable either, but it’s still my favorite. This is because it is unbelievably catchy. The catchiness of this song is not to be believed. A melody introduced by a vocoder repeats and transforms over the course of the song above an array of deeply funky electronics to perfect effect.

2. Chic--Good Times: Not much to say about this one. By now, it has deeply rooted itself into the American psyche through not only its original greatness, but by its prevalence in pop culture and hip-hop culture through the extensive sampling of it. “Good Times” contains the greatest bassline in the history of modern music. (Or at least dance music. But I’d say music in general.) It has extremely funky guitars over that bass, great percussion, and a fun vocal to finish off the deal. The “deal” being the second finest disco track ever.

1. Donna Summer--I Feel Love: What could be better than “Good Times”, you might find yourself asking. If you are indeed asking that, it’s a reasonable question. “Good Times” is pretty spectacular. However, “I Feel Love” is more spectacular. This song was the sound of the future when it was released. (After hearing this song, Brian Eno supposedly told David Bowie, “This is the sound of the future,” or some very bold remark like that that only Brian Eno could make.) Now, it still sounds like the future—an incredible feat for a track that was released in 1977. (I think. I should look these things up, but I’m lazy.) Produced by Giorgio Moroder, the music is heavy and funky at the same time. It is based around a highly intricate and unique synth line that has been copied countless times in the years since. The vocals are expertly airy and desperate and sensual. “I Feel Love” not only pushed disco ahead, it influenced most of all modern dance music as well.

That’s what I think. Please suggest ones I missed. And throw an mp3 in the comment box, too, if you want.

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