Take a look this summer’s new music and two names will have you wondering what decade you’re in:
Chic and Giorgio Moroder.
The disco legends of the 1970s were reintroduced to American audiences two years ago with the Grammy-winning work “Random Access Memories” from Daft Punk, the electronic dance group. The smash from Daft Punk featured Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers of Chic, one of disco’s greatest bands. If their new singles (Moroder’s album, “Deja Vu” is out) are anything to go by, the men have taken a time machine back 40 years or so to a time of polyester flares and glitter balls.
Consider the success of Robin Thicke and Pharrell’s “Blurred Lines,” which interpolated Marvin Gaye’s disco classic “Got to Give It Up,” and Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk,” featuring Bruno Mars, which bites from Prince/The Time and Rick James, and recently had to add The Gap Band to its list of songwriters. It seems that to be guaranteed chart-topping success today, songwriters need disco producers.
“I want to show people that music is something that invades your life regardless of your lifestyle,” Rodgers said during a frantic day of promotion for the FOLD Festival coming Aug. 4-5 to Riverhead, Long Island. “I like The Clash just as much as I like Public Enemy, Donna Summer and Miles Davis. It’s all good music to me. I brought it to Riverhead two years ago with Avicii, Adam Lambert, Chromeo, Chic, Prince Paul and some other DJs. People loved it.”
There was a time when disco was a source of ridicule — a staple of fancy-dress costumes and drunken karaoke parties. So why its seeming rebirth and massive popularity? Disco is the grandchild of EDM, electronic dance music, which has been hugely popular in the last few years with multiplatinum albums from Avicii, David Guetta and Calvin Harris featuring many modern-day pop stars such as Usher, Nicki Minaj and Flo Rida. All it needed was for someone to make the connection, and that someone was Daft Punk, which not only used a popular current pop star in Pharrell but also sought out disco originators Rodgers and Moroder.
There was a lot about disco that was good. It was musical, melodic and fun. Once Pharrell and Mars gave it the thumbs-up, it was easy for tweens and millennials, unaware of disco’s stigma, to get a one-way ticket to “Funkytown.” Music is, of course, cyclical. Disco is fun-loving, feel-good party music, as is EDM. And during a shaky economy and fears about terrorism, people want an escape in the same way they did in the ’70s after Vietnam and a bankrupt economy.
The influential dance music website beatport.com has a new category of music titled “Nu Disco.” A quick listen of the chart reveals samples and reworkings from old songs by Prince, Michael Jackson and Blondie.
Those who are taken in by the lure of hipster-produced “Nu Disco” are missing the boat. They remind me of the hapless computer programmer, Caleb Smith, who falls in love with a humanistic robot in the sci-fi film “Ex Machina.” It’s only a recreation of something that existed in an original, more distilled form.
If you want to know where it all started and show a little respect at the same time, there is that new music by Chic and Giorgio Moroder.
Jeff Vasishta lives in Crown Heights.