By Jena Ardell
By Brian McManus
By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
By Katherine Turman
By Chris Kornelis
By Brian McManus
We've heard all about DJs being the new pop stars, but aside from Fatboy Slim and the occasional housed-up ballad, DJ-created grooves have for years been kept far away from American pop radio, relegated to the late-night mix-show ghetto. So it's a bit of a shock that two genuine club records now simultaneously adorn Top 40 airwaves.
Sonique once sang for S'Express, one of England's first home-baked house acts to go pop in the isle of Ecstasy and flop in the U.S. of Bud. When she and DJ-turned-pop-star Mark Moore went separate ways, this pop star turned DJ: She actually learned to spin and sing at the same time, and made a name for herself in London by spicing up other folks' records with her own live vocals. Sonique's diva-ish ad-libs over house dubs and trance tracks on her double-CD mix set Serious Sound of SoniqueIn the Mix & on the Mic point the way to a new hybrid entertainer who can remix a track via the stamp of her voice.
But on SSS, as well as on her all-too-conventional debut long-player, Hear My Cry, it's the hit that counts. Shifting and layering Miami bass beats, jungle booms 'n' bleeps, Sonique's growling-then-sweet soul vocal, and classical-minded synth-string stabs suggesting Foreigner's "Cold as Ice," "It Feels So Good" is the rare dance record whose diverse influences have been so thoroughly integrated that new pleasures emerge each time it jumps out of the radio.
"Better Off Alone," from the Dutch DJ collective known as Alice Deejay, is far less sophisticated, yet equally addictive. With its peak-and-valley dynamics, fragmented girlie vocal, and melancholic melody repeated until it becomes oddly uplifting, this tasty cheeseball condenses trance's sprawling tactics into user-friendly pop that absorbs any daydream of desire you project onto it. Although the initially faceless Alice Deejay concept is now fronted by a Judy who apparently once played a record or two, the single's Zen-like beauty is its own enigma. "Do you think you're better off alone?" asks the chorus. "Talk to me," pleads the verse. And that's it.