By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
Donna Summer is special. You are not Donna Summer. All them other divas who flirted with paganism before discovering Jesus are just pretenders: Donna doesnt even need to mention them by name. As the chant of ever-circling overdubbed Donnas surrounds you on the self-explanatory The Queen Is Back, one of the more memorable tracks on her first album since the first Bush administration, you feel sorry for Mary J. Blige and the other narcissistic infidels who continued Lady Summers practice of conceiving albums as installments in the life of someone better than us.
And she was. Blessed by the company she keptincluding Harold Faltermeyer, Springsteen, Jeff Skunk Baxter, Stock-Aiken-Waterman, and someone named Giorgio Morodershe essayed every popular genre of the day, her only discernible motif being that multi-octave bazooka of a voice whose buoyancy signified her sheer joy at being a star, singing these songs, and working with these people (the undimmed power of Summers voice scrubs lines like The more you reject me/The more I want from you of celebrity vampirism). We dont identify with the famousthey bring us to them, inviting us to share their magnificence as we sit in our rooms gawking at the cover of Live and More. On Crayons, its like no time has passed at all, and of course it hasnt: As Lloyd Richards says to Margo Channing in All About Eve, the stars never die and never change.
Fans who might balk at the T-Pain chirp in Science of Love or the ghetto demotic of Stamp Your Feet (make a big-ass sound, you got game) forget what an avid chart-follower she was back in the day. Summers enthusiasm for the big-ass arena-rock dynamics of Stamp Your Feet is thrilling to hear in a fiftysomething. Also hear the commitment: Tina Turners professionalism looks cynical in comparison. As if to remind us that her weird streak remains intact, Summer attempts the faux Tropicália of Drivin Down Brazil or the updated blues (complete with slide guitar and harmonica!) of Slide Over Backwards, the latter an attempt at Summers own Nutbush City Limits or something. Once Upon a Time and Bad Girls fans will both agree that Crayons second half is a victory lap with no Summer in sightshes already past us. She still rides paradoxes as adeptly as she rode Moroders sequencers; shes human because she believes in staying superhuman.
Donna Summer plays the PNC Bank Arts Center June 18 and the Nikon at Jones Beach theater July 19, livenation.com