Jasper Jams: Nu Disco Meets Old Disco

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For those of you who didn’t get the memo, the sounds of the 70s are back. With funk and nu disco revivals by Robin Thicke, Bruno Mars, Daft Punk and Pharrell, disco has came roaring back to the music scene. As many critics have duly noted, this resurgence of disco-esque beats and grooves has not just been limited to pop and dance. Even rock and indie bands such as Arcade Fire and Foster the People have gotten in on the act with funk bass-lines underlying some of their recent songs (“Reflektor” and “Best Friend” respectively). Hope you packed your dancing shoes for this week’s Jasper Jams as we look at some classic disco standards, as well as a few modern takes on the genre.

1) “Turn the Beat Around” by Vicki Sue Robinson

1976 brought us this gem from Robinson that showcases the signature rich instrumentation of disco music. Strings, horns, tons of percussion and even a flute make an appearance in a song that demonstrates how dance music can be complex and not just catchy.

2) “Don’t Leave Me This Way” by Thelma Houston

Beginning with probably some of the most soulful humming ever recorded, Houston brings pure grooves in this quintessential track. If you want a laugh, also give a listen to “Yes Sir, I Can Boogie” by Baccara. The Spanish group’s song (a record I have had the pleasure of hearing on original vinyl) is a blatant but fun European copy of the American dance hit.

 3) “I Feel Love” by Donna Summer

“American Hustle” was a great movie with arguably an even better soundtrack. If you saw the film, you might recognize this song that is often referred to as a musical game-changer. Ethereal and otherworldly, it heavily influenced the subgenre of trance music that is still around today. With some versions lasting over 8 minutes long, this track is not for the faint of heart. It was also produced by EDM pioneer Giorgio Moroder, but as fans of Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories” know, you can call him Giorgio.

4) “I’m Your Boogie Man” by KC & The Sunshine Band

And you thought today’s pop music had overly suggestive lyrics.

5) “Night Fever” by The Bee Gees

“Saturday Night Fever” is one of the most iconic pop-culture items of the disco era. If this record by the famous trio of brothers doesn’t make you want to watch it, nothing will.

6) “One of These Nights” by The Eagles

The Eagles are clearly not your standard disco fare, but this song shows how elements of the dance craze influenced seemingly the entire music business in its heyday. However, not everyone was infatuated with the disco domination. By the late 1970s, there was a huge backlash that was led primarily by rock fans (Google “Disco Sucks!” for a quick history lesson). While the critique of the genre certainly had musical basis, some scholars claim the vehemence came in part from underlying racism and homophobia towards the disco culture.

7) “Holidays (Feat. Alan Palomo)” by Miami Horror

Fast-forward to 2010 and the fundamentals of disco still live on in today’s dance music. Miami Horror is a group from Australia that knows how to get people moving with their retro beats.

8) “Sweetness Alive (Feat. Say Lou Lou)” by Goldroom

Just one example of the many nu disco songs that feature a bouncy tropical vibe. Can you dig it?

9) “Radio Stereo” by Duck Sauce

You might recognize the DJ duo Duck Sauce from their quirky but infectious hit “Barbra Streisand.” Duck Sauce blatantly claims to make modern disco music and does it well. “Radio Stereo” is a hit off of their upcoming album that debuts April 15.

10) “Last Dance” by Donna Summer

We can’t limit the late Queen of Disco to only one song. Finish your foray into disco appreciation in timeless style.