Wednesday, January 6, 2010

David Bowie 19: Let’s Dance

After what seemed like an eternity, Bowie resurfaced with his wackiest image to date: he was just a normal guy! Let’s Dance seemed to be designed to get people to do just that, with a slick production courtesy of Nile Rodgers and a commercial sound spiced up with horns and a new hot guitarist named Stevie Ray Vaughan.
“Modern Love” is the rousing opener, complete with honking sax. It still holds up today as one of his best, even though the whole “church on time” thing doesn’t make much sense. “China Girl” is a remake of an Iggy Pop song from The Idiot, and was a surprising hit single. The title track was the world’s first introduction to his new sound, and it was better absorbed in the single edit. (However, you do get a bit more Stevie Ray on the album version, if you like that sort of thing.) “Without You” ends the side on a low-key note.
Side two isn’t as strong, unfortunately. The impenetrable “Ricochet” is about as experimental as this album gets, and it’s much too long. “Criminal World” is a cover of an older New Wave song that sounds very much like him, while “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” is an inferior remake of the movie theme. The album ends with “Shake It”, which is just dumb. You’ll want to go back to the hit singles on side one.
In addition to the sound, Let’s Dance was something of a gamble in that only five of the eight songs were “new”; this would prove to be a trend. When it appeared, it seemed a little too mainstream than what we’d expect, and he was rewarded with his biggest sales ever, along with stadiums of new screaming fans. Today it seems a little silly, giving diehards something to argue about. (A mid-‘90s reissue upped the ante by including the classic “Under Pressure” collaboration with Queen as a bonus track; this has since been replaced with the standard eight-song program.)

David Bowie Let’s Dance (1983)—3
1995 CD reissue: same as 1983, plus 1 extra track

1 comment:

  1. Bowie to me in 1993: “I gave Nile pretty much his own head on it apart from suggesting things like using a heavyweight rock-blues guitarist – Stevie (Ray Vaughan) – against the R&B patterns that he was putting down, which was really quite an interesting idea at the time. But other than that it was pretty much Nile’s arrangements on Let’s Dance.”

    “The lyric of ‘Let’s Dance’ is incredibly dark. It’s probably one of the darkest dance songs that you've ever heard. It’s written in the minor, there’s not a major chord in it, which is also traditionally the key to writing when you're writing a darker piece.”