In 1977, Donna Summer -- the first no-bullshit soul singer to have an icy, businesslike edge to her voice -- delivered "I Feel Love," one of the greatest, unalloyed disco songs ever. Two years later, Summer transcended her disco origins and stormed the old rock-pop traditions with Bad Girls. The album was more concise and scorching than Summer's earlier work -- particularly the title jam and the Rolling Stones-worthy "Hot Stuff." The general impression at the time was that Summer was assuming a place within the line of red-hot rock-soul belters, but the truth was much more important: Along with her brilliant producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, she was creating a new idea of international pop. Madonna's career without Summer and "Bad Girls"? Unthinkable.
Bad Girls is the first major album to use synthesizer-based disco studio techniques in the service of pop-rock songs. Much of it is played on live instruments; the guitar solo in "Hot Stuff" is as universal as, say, the Lindsey Buckingham riff on Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way." But on uncannily biting and hook-y tunes such as "Can't Get to Sleep at Night," Summer and Moroder showed how dance music could kick like the meanest real-time rock & roll. For years after, an entire commercial strain of rock and pop would obsess about technology in ways that would revolutionize the sound of music, for both good (Duran Duran) and ill (Kajagoogoo).
This reissue contains a companion disc that collects Summer's previous and subsequent hits: the minimalist masterwork "I Feel Love" and the sweet, soaring "On the Radio." Like Bad Girls itself, it's just about unimproveable.
(RS 929, August 21, 2003)
It was time to flip the groove, strip it down and build it up again. In 1979 and 1980, black music, which has always dictated what's next in pop, broke free of disco's velvety excess and polyester pretensions. The melodramatic strings and relentless 4/4 beats of the music had grown tired as Afros across the country shrunk into tight, greasy Jheri Curls. And blacks and Latinos in the South Bronx - folks who couldn't afford the admission into the posh discos of Manhattan - planted the seeds of hip-hop, a movement that would eventually flower into a billion-dollar industry.
But before rap arrested pop and urban airwaves, there was a transition, a bridge, so to speak. Donna Summer, disco's queen, and Diana Ross, the diva supreme, helped listeners cross over to the next phase. Summer's Bad Girls (1979) and Ross' Diana (1980) glittered with disco glory as they revealed hints of how pop would mutate during the Reagan era. The two masterpieces - just reissued as part of Universal Records' Deluxe Edition series - took us into the '80s and beyond with sass, class, innovation and sophistication. The albums burned with uncut "girl power" years before the Spice Girls knew what it was, years before Salt-n-Pepa, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera flaunted their so-called independence.
Summer had already given us a glimpse into pop's future in 1977. Her hit "I Feel Love" - with its hypnotic, entirely electronic track and cool, steely vocals - is a classic piece in minimalism and paved the way for techno. On Bad Girls, she extended disco's let-it-all-go party vibe but laced it with dark, overtly sexual lyrics and generous doses of rock, funk and horn-fueled R&B. It is Summer's most aggressive, most focused set, clearing the path for such brazen hotties as Pat Benatar, Madonna, even Pink and Shania Twain. Although disco's thumping beat anchors the monster hits off the album - the title cut, "Hot Stuff" and "Dim All the Lights" - shades of slick country ("On My Honor") and raw electronica ("Lucky" and
"Sunset People") also swirl through Bad Girls.
The LP was Summer's third double-disc set in two years, but unlike the others (Once Upon a Time from '77 and Live and More from '78) it was far more consistent, teeming with stories about "bad girls/sad girls" looking for some "hot stuff." But lust and seediness gave way to romance and tenderness as the rock ballad "My Baby Understands"
and the gospel-spiced "All Through the Night" showcased Summer's vocal prowess in vastly different settings.
Throughout Bad Girls, the disco temptress let us know that she wasn't just a hot-tailed sex fiend who could moan "love to love you baby" for 16 orgasmic minutes, which is how she ignited her career in '75. Summer was, in fact, one of the most versatile soul singers to emerge in the '70s, an artist who could give us Broadway-style belting (remember "MacArthur Park"?) or smoldering eroticism ("Love to Love You Baby," of course, and "Try Me, I Know We Can Make It") on high- concept albums.
Speaking of erotic soul, Ross' 1976 smash "Love Hangover" rivaled Summer's early, slightly pornographic hits with its marriage of steamy vocals and seething instrumentation. But in 1980, Ross, like Summer, was looking for a new direction, something edgier. With Diana, she joined forces with Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, the beat kingpins behind the disco-pop ensemble Chic.
Motown chief (and former Ross lover) Berry Gordy had shaped the ex- Supreme into an unapproachable, grand-style diva. At the dawn of the '80s, however, Ross took out the hair extensions, hung up the sequin gown and poured herself into a pair of washed-out jeans for the cover of Diana, the biggest album of her 40-year career. (The look, as we all know, was only a one-shot thing. Ross the Boss would quickly return to the colossal hair and Bob Mackie get-ups.)
The cover photo reflects the sound of the album: lean and stylish. It is also highly polished (it's Motown, so that's no surprise), but, at times, Diana comes off as funky and earthy. The album's biggest hits were "Upside Down," which stayed at No. 1 for a month in the summer of 1980, and the gay anthem "I'm Coming Out." The LP's street-but- sweet pop serves as a blueprint for such current acts as Beyonce, Ashanti and Tamia. Janet Jackson, who was 14 when Diana dropped, surely owned a copy of the record, because you hear echoes of Ross throughout her best work.
On the Deluxe Edition of Diana and Bad Girls, listeners get a bonus disc of extended dance mixes and alternate takes. On Ross' set, you get the much-talked-about-but-never-before-heard Chic mix of the album. When Rodgers and Edwards turned in the original Diana, Ross and Motown, displeased with the dense sound, remixed the entire album. The version that came out in 1980 sported a cleaner sound with Ross' vocals pushed to the front. Summer's deluxe reissue features extended mixes of "MacArthur Park" and "I Feel Love," plus an airy, funk-splashed demo of "Bad Girls," a song initially intended for Cher.
Upon original release, Diana and Bad Girls hit immediately, selling more than 2 million copies apiece. But it's ironic that Ross and Summer, at the start of the '80s, whistled in such a fresh, progressive approach to pop but struggled throughout the decade. Neither diva ever repeated the artistic highs of her masterstroke album. But what they cemented in style, attitude and sound rocketed us into today.
The greatest album of disco, from its greatest diva, has been expanded with 12-inch singles and rarities as well as digitally remastered for a special reissue. Originally one of the great double LPs of all time, even more has now been added for the two-CD DELUXE EDITION of Donna Summer's BAD GIRLS (Mercury/UME), released July 22, 2003.
Disc One features the entire remastered 1979 album, which reached double platinum and #1 pop/R&B, including the classic hits "Hot Stuff" (#1 pop/dance, platinum and Grammy winner for Best Rock Female Vocal Performance), "Bad Girls" (#1 pop/dance/R&B, platinum) and "Dim All The Lights" (#2 pop, gold). The added bonus track is the demo of "Bad Girls."
Disc Two boasts nine extended versions of not only BAD GIRLS tracks but of Summer's other hits during the period. Released prior to BAD GIRLS were the 12-inch versions of the 1977 techno breakthrough "I Feel Love" (#6 pop/#1 dance, gold); the Grammy- and Oscar-winning "Last Dance," a Top 5 pop/R&B gold hit written for Summer's role in the 1978 film Thank God It's Friday, and "MacArthur Park Suite," the medley which included her first #1 pop single, her gold 1978 cover of Jimmy Webb's epic "MacArthur Park" which drove Live And More to her first #1 album charting, and the gold Top 10 pop/R&B "Heaven Knows." Spun off from BAD GIRLS were the 12-inchers "Hot Stuff," "Bad Girls," "Dim All The Lights" and "Walk Away" (Top 40 pop/R&B). With "Hot Stuff," "Bad Girls" and "MacArthur Park," Summer became the first woman to chart three solo #1s during one year.
The post-BAD GIRLS tracks are "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)," a duet with Barbra Streisand which went gold and #1 pop/dance, and, opening the '80s, the long version of the gold Top 10 pop/dance/R&B "On The Radio," cut for the Foxes soundtrack, which titled her greatest hits package, her third consecutive #1 double album, marking her as the only artist in history with that distinction.
But BAD GIRLS was a landmark in more than mere popularity and commercial success. The album was more soulfully sung, with more R&B horns and fewer strings, than previous disco discs. Its definitive production style (from the celebrated Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte), vision of a truly global pop music, and expression of a woman's outspoken, emotional and observant sides (the busiest co-writer is Summer, who wrote three songs solo and co-wrote five others) signaled a new era in music.
Though disco's days would end, the inevitable and eventual resurgence of dance music as a cornerstone of global pop would return Summer to dance floor triumphs over and over. Every young diva who has followed, whether from R&B, pop or country, has been influenced by the BAD GIRLS of Summer.
Album Title: Bad Girls—Deluxe Edition
Producer(s): REISSUE Bill Levenson ORIGINAL various
Label/Catalog Number: Chronicles/Mercury/UME B00000683
Release Date: July 29
Source: Billboard Magazine
Originally Reviewed: August 16, 2003
Many forget that Donna Summer's 1979 "Bad Girls" album earned five Grammy Award nominations, including album of the year. It is fitting then that the diva's epic set, primarily produced by Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, receives Universal's Deluxe Edition treatment. The two-CD reissue includes the remastered double-album on disc one, with the second CD housing extended 12-inch mixes. Hardcore fans may gripe that most of the remixes were previously issued on the artist's 1987 album "The Dance Collection." Those fans will be thrilled, however, by the inclusion of the demo version of the "Bad Girls" single, as well as 12-inch versions of such non-"Bad Girls" tracks as "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)" and "I Feel Love." - KC
54 years old and apparently still beautiful, Donna's a good girl now. A devout Born Again Christian, it would be interesting to gauge the former disco diva's opinion on this album, especially the artwork, which depicts the singer as a hooker standing under a red street lamp. Bad Girls is undoubtedly Summer's magnum opus, a 15-track career defining masterpiece that originally came out a a double album on Casablanca in 1979. This lavishly packaged two-disc deluxe version comprises a remastered version of the titular album plus an unreleased demo of the title track and a slew of 12-inch mixes of other classic Summer material (including the ground breaking I Feel Love, Last Dance, On The Radio and a dazzling disco deconstruction of Jimmy Webb's MacArthur Park). Although the bonus material is as tantalising as the numerous shots of Summer attired in scanty clothing, the most impressive part of the package is the Bad Girls album itself, which stands up well to contemporary scrutiny. Giorgio Moroder and Pete Belotte's glossy production with its robotic dance beats prove the perfect vehicle for Summer's voice, which is more soulful and expressive than many give it credit for. In contrast to the seismic dance smashes (exemplified by the rock-tinged Hot Stuff and the perky title track), Summer stretches out impressively on luxurious ballads like There Will Always Be A You. Another highlight is the propulsive electro-groove, Sunset People, which closes the album and perfectly encapsulates the glamour and hedonism of the disco epoch. Excellent. (CW)