Joey Beltram Stands His Ground (Dance Party 1990)

Last month Tom Ewing ran a World Cup Of 1990 on Twitter and nearing the end asked, "For voters here, I'm interested — has the relatively deep dive of this poll changed your opinion of 1990 at all? (assuming you had one!)" My basic response is too long for 280 characters, or even 2800, so I'm blogging it here, also referring to and embedding a YouTube playlist I created, " Dance Party 1990," made up mostly of tracks I heard (and in many cases discovered) through his tournament or that I found or recalled while seeing what 1990 tracks I myself wanted to nominate. Not exactly a best-of (my pool included another 8 or so tracks including Masta Ace and Happy Mondays that never quite fit the flow). I thought of the "Dance Party" moniker after finishing the playlist, so dance wasn't the intent but what I discovered I had: not all tracks in "dance" genres but all inspiringly danceable.

My answer to Tom's question:

I tend to be a More Is More kind of guy, but — in this poll at least, in the general super area of House-Rave-Dance (but not freestyle & hip hop & r&b & hair metal) — Joey Beltram and ilk clean everybody's clock. By "ilk" I don't mean "rave" or any particular genre or style but a tendency within any genre or style to HOLD YOUR OWN, to concentrate on a crucial sound or path or problem, some bone you're chewing, and there you stand your ground rather than synthesize or mash together or collide with or incorporate neighboring styles.*

And of course there's one towering exception, uncleaned and unclocked, Clivillés & Cole's remix of Denise Lopez's "Don't You Want To Be Mine," the only freestyle-house amalgam I've ever heard. Freestyle is basically dead by 1990, the poll's George Lamond track ("Bad Of The Heart") being touching but totally average, a snapshot of a genre that has no forward motion (though there's an unexpected glorious freestyle last gasp the next year from Lisette Melendez and Corina). But now there's an alternate universe in my mind where, instead of stopping dead, freestyle like an alien leaps atop of and claws its way into passing genres like house and techno and New Jack Swing and propagates from there. This kinda sorta DOES happen in 1992 and 1993 in Korea, and for all I know is happening throughout the late '80s and '90s in Japan, the Land Where Italo Lives, but anyway *I* don't find out about any of that for another 17 years.

Speaking of Korea — or Los Angeles — I say in passing, in my kind of in-passing "Legend Of The Glockeater," that the lesson that Drunken Tiger learned from the Wu-Tang Clan is that less is more and more is more, too. In another piece (mostly about rock) I call this Recombinant Dub, to give Jamaica pride of place: My basic attempt is to identify a kind of double direction of contrary motion, which can exist between genres or within a genre or within a person or even within a day: Like, you subdue the thoughts inside your head, taking everything down to a main thing, your breath, say, but then with the inner chatter stilled, sounds around you — crickets, passing cars, tinnitus, a distant jackhammer — come rushing in.

In mid-'70s Bronx you have hip-hop DJs clearing out the rest of a track — taking out the vocals, the flourishes — to bring everything down to the breakbeat, and with 2 turntables and 2 copies of a record you can potentially play that breakbeat forever; but being DJs they use the never-ending breakbeat as a frame for adding sounds and cuts and riffs and melodies and scrapes and flourishes from other records, a whole memory of funk but also Monkees and Kraftwerk, and then tags and shoutouts and rap battles from your crew — potentially anything — and hip-hop is born. And then closing in on the '90s maybe you can hear this within house, acid house being both this singular corrosive 303 sound but also the tendency to sample soundbites. Or think of the house beats added to Denise Lopez. For a related submerged and perhaps otherwise imaginary unknown continent, listen to the second half of Liz Torres's "I Hear Voices (Voices In My Head)" on my playlist; geysers of salsa suddenly emerging from beneath the house beats.

In New Jack Swing ex-boyband New Edition guys find their way into the adventure of hip-hop, in one sense it's all down to a rhythm that sweeps away everything in its path, but it also manages to sweep in a lot: harmonies, black vocal history (a year later: "Motown Philly"). There's a social depth, since New Jack Swing doesn't just put different musics together, it potentially throws different audiences and different musicians together, finds a way for different social streams to coalesce.** (But you can almost feel the need for a pushback, a fight, elements determined to resist.)

On my 1990 Pazz & Jop ballot I put both a Snap! and a Chill Rob G version of "The Power" near the top, behind "Justify My Love," but ahead of LL and Michel'le and "Vogue" and "Roam" and "Ice Ice Baby." Didn't include the New Jack Editions but mentioned Ralph Tresvant and Johnny Gill in my comments. Anyway by 1991 I decided "The Power" didn't hold up, the whole International House thing and its forced raps and diva samples now seeming tiresome and shallow and who cares. No reason in principle that this should be so, but it was.*** I'm glad the Denise Lopez remix showed up in this poll to remind me I don't have to hate C&C. Actually, as far as the sonic feel, Beltram and C&C-Lopez are hardly opposites. Each sounds as solid and obdurate as the other.**** In the Dance Party I've interspersed these blocks of thundering rave but I'll have one of 'em (e.g.) emerging naturally from a dance ditty that precedes it and leading logically to a hard rock song that follows, the raver seemingly giving birth to the rocker.

So, again, both impulses at once: push it altogether, but also, hey STOP, what's that sound, listen, take account of THIS! So, take account of Joey Beltram's pulsating boulders, V.I.M. taking the piss in "Maggie's Last Party," LFO's dark harm, Marina Van-Rooy's sly "Sly One" (okay, I don't have an adjective for this — who is she? — but I like it), Renegade Soundwave's "Thunder" which is a haunted house that they emptied of all its furniture! Rising High's "Magic Roundabout" is like a bunch of STOP moments strung together, a necklace of boulders, both impulses again. All this stuff I mostly missed in 1990, my not having an ongoing story for house, rave, techno. For all I knew, these tracks could've appeared anytime from '86 to '07, me saying "Hello, where are you from?" with no sense of chronological before or after and no feel of "1990" as they loomed into earshot.*****

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It is the beginning of 'sister unit' (excerpt from Lee Sun-hee's Wikipedia page)

I'm preserving this long excerpt from Lee Sun-hee's Wikipedia writeup in case some dutiful Wikipedian discovers the entry and takes out all the good stuff:

In 1984, she participated in the 5th MBC Riverside Song Festival as a team named '4막 5장' with Im Sung-kyun, senior of the same department of university, and made her debut earning great attention to win the Grand Prize with a song "To J". At that time, she had a perm in a hurry because she was afraid that she might be caught the fact that she competed in the festival without any permission by her parents. That's why she seems so out of place.

When Lee Sun-hee visited the music office of Jang Wook-jo, a South Korean songwriter, in the second year of high school to find a song to sing, a composer named Lee Se-geon was throwing bunch of sheet music away in the garbage can. Sun-hee asked him watching that scene, "Can I use this?", and picked music with his permission. Surprisingly, the song in that music was "To J", her debut and signature song which gave her grand prize of festival. There was a joke that Jeon Doo-hwan, South Korean president at that time, would ban "To J" in radio because the song reminded the nation of the president because his family named starts with 'J'. In fact, this song was used when satirizing the news that always report their president at first.

She was famous for having female fans more than male fans even though she is a woman because of her explosive singing ability and the charm of her boyish attire. It is the beginning of 'sister unit'. At that time, video of her stage performance shows screaming sound of female fans like the sound coming out in the male idol's stage performance by yelling fans nowadays. The size of her sister unit of Lee Sun-hee was so huge, and the power of her sister unit was so great that there was a rumor that the company gave money and mobilized people.

Lee Sun-hee's round glasses and curt hair caused so-called 'Lee Sun-hee syndrome', which was popular among female students at that time. The unique image making that sticks to a course wearing pantsuit costume and her appearance like a shy boy attracted not only male fans but also female fans in 'Lee Sunhee syndrome'. Social atmosphere that rejects the decadent trend set up the environment that singers with healthy image like her can succeed and stretch their wings. Additionally, Lee Sun-hee was able to make herself popular with her unique vocal ability expressing strong power at high notes and songs that stimulate emotions of young women.
"Ah! The Good Old Days"

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    Lee Sun-hee "Ah! The Good Old Days"

A Disquisition On Hyphens



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Paperback Writer

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March Madness

Tom Ewing has created a new tournament, on Twitter:

The World Cup Of UK Number 1s

(Gave me the opportunity to quote Bob Dylan in the comments saying that Roy Orbison sang like a professional criminal.)

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Toy Story War (reblog)

Dave posted this on his Tumblr:

Everyone is talking about the last Star Wars movie, a film I will probably see about two years from now (if that), and it’s preemptively disappointing to hear how the one good thing about The Last Jedi (its scorched-earth boldness re: brand hagiography) gets retconned. But there is already a Disney property that figured this out — Toy Story!

Toy Story 4 is very good as a movie, not quite as good as a movie as at least two of the other Toy Story movies. (Specifically 2 and 3 — I've now seen the first one several times because it is very much my son's speed, and I'm struck not only by how long ago 1995 was from a technology standpoint, but how long ago it was from a plotting and basic "what can you do in a children's movie" standpoint — the movie straight up cheats by the logic it established for itself to resolve its conflict, at least twice!)

But Toy Story 4 also has a throughline argument that is the most convincing I've seen in the series, and takes very seriously the problems and paradoxes that its premise introduces, and follows it to strange places. We see the birth of a toy, the nightmare of being ushered into this weird conceit, a kind of commentary on how the loose fit of analogy to reality creates a gap that you really don't want to look down into. Some folks have talked about Forky and the film more existentially, but I found that a little harder to buy into, even if it's not a huge stretch — to me it's just a kind of stubborn reminder that toys aren't actually real, more of a destabilizing of premise than trying to go all in on the analogy and imagine this has something to do with people who are actually, you know, alive. (I'm reminded of Roger Ebert's apoplectic response to A.I. because, like, robots aren't people, which is totally right, even though I think it kind of misses the point of the movie, whatever that is.)

To me it's more of a parable about creativity, characters and situations as "property" to be developed, etc. What do you do when the thing you built just doesn't really make a lot of sense anymore, and the logic that you established doesn't work — a logic that was shaky even in the initial premise (toys are real! But not exactly! Except yes exactly, and they could totally traumatize kids if they wanted to! Except lol no, they can't really do that, just kidding, forget that happened, can you imagine if we let that happen again it would be a horror movie! Also btw there is actual magic! Except no, it's not magic-magic, we still have to obey the laws of physics, that's a bridge too far!)?

What I really liked about Toy Story 4 is how ruthlessly it undermines its own logic, how Forky especially brings out the feeling you get trying to think through that logic for even a minute outside the suspension of your disbelief, but also manages, in making Forky a valuable addition to the movie, in dancing around suspension of disbelief, toying with it, and sticking the landing so that you still want to see the thing resolve. That's an incredibly difficult dance that even masters of meta ambiguity who do it on purpose mess up sometimes, so to see a Pixar movie, the first one after Disney's behemoth of behemoths status was fully secured (I once called Disney an "ever-metastasizing Death Star" and this was like a decade before they bought Star Wars!) not only broach the subject but do something interesting with it was a meta-thrill. (And again, the film's non-meta-thrills aren't quite as thrilling as the last two films.)

I haven't read as much about how (spoiler alerts!) the broader plot and resolution do more audaciously and more confidently what The Last Jedi did in the broadstrokes even though it was a bit too gummily plotted and clunky to get it across beyond conceptually. Woody just straight up abandons his life's purpose, the toy raison d'etre that motivated the action of every other film. He just leaves! And he not only leaves, but he opens up a universe in which there is a teeming subterranean world of abandoned toys who live a life of roiling conflict and earthly pleasure in a precarious nomadic existence! Like, where did that come from!

So the whole universe not only opens up, but sheds its confines completely — Toy Story is now a universe that is only about the toys, with humans as a kind of fringe aristocracy whose role seems to be to subjugate and in some cases literally imprison toys. Had it not been cheating and a conceit quickly abandoned (though flirted with a few times, like in Toy Story 4 when the non-speaker-boxed voice of a toy imitates the GPS navigation voiceover), the Sid resolution of the first film presents a bloody struggle against occasionally benevolent but more often cruel overlords that only a proletarian uprising could address, toys in guerrilla warfare against humans, perhaps a civil war of house toys against street toys.

This is not only an utterly different story but an utterly different universe than the one that the first two (and most of three) films sketch out as being possible. And I would doubt they ever follow up on any of these strands, but if you wanted to start a Toy Story extended universe, there would be worse origin stories to launch another gaggle of intellectual property extenders.

And I responded:

Dave – I'm curious. Did Peter, Paul & Mary's "Puff The Magic Dragon"* ever matter to you? It came at me as a pop song/top 40 song when I was nine, which is to say after I was too old for its plot to mean anything personal to me — so, after I'd lost any personal relationship to any of my childhood toys, teddy bears, etc. I still had elaborate fantasy narratives with toys: matchbox cars, itsy bitsy's,** etc. My friend Jimmy and I would run these fantasy plots where the toys (or matchbox car drivers) would converse with one another and engage in intricate comedic or action adventures. But these were all ad-hoc, weren't based on long-term characters or personalities we'd given to specific toys — though I do recall that when we used the itsy bitsy's I would choose a particular rubber squirrel as my lead character for which I'd do the voice and Jimmy would use a different particular itsy bitsy, a little bear or owl, I think. But it might not have the same character that it had had during a previous afternoon's play, or engage in the same type of adventure.

So "Puff" was just another story amidst the love and lost-love and surf stories and car-crash tragedies that occupied the top 40 during the first half of 1963. But I'm wondering whether, as a viewer of the Toy Stories,*** you found "Puff"'s plot echoing or informing or being informed by the movies — assuming you've heard the song in the first place.

*[I recently posted a "folky" YouTube playlist that I intend to write about someday, but "Puff" didn't make the cut — maybe, in part, because I'd first absorbed it, and PPM's "Blowing In The Wind," on the radio, prior to my conversion to folk music in the summer of 1963, but probably because the PPM track that did make it, "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" (also a single but its airplay came after I'd abandoned radio, so I absorbed it as an album track, which somehow was a whole different context) strikes me, and struck me even at the time, as deeper and more emotional. If I ever become a diabolical kid-movie animator, though, maybe I'll have Puff sing "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" to Jackie!]

**[Itsy Bitsy's (or Itzy Bitzy's or -ies) were little rubber animals about an inch-and-a-half high. Jimmy had these wooden blocks with holes and connectors and axles and wheel attachments that we could build into impressive giant ramshackle vehicles. The Itsy Bitsy's would ride atop them, as their drivers/commanders. Incidentally, what I find online while searching "itsy bitsy 1960s rubber toys" are too cute to be the toys I remember; no rubber squirrel, and the bears aren't the bear or owl I remember. EDIT: Ah! When I search "itty bitty 1960s rubber toys" (not "itsy bitsy") I get them: Diener's Itty Bittys Rubber Eraser Toys — though I still don't see no squirrel. Jimmy and I called them Itsy Bitsys — a much better name — though I remember Jimmy telling me once that their official names were Itty Bittys.]

***[I've only seen the Toy Stories — the first three — as a teacher's aide in elementary-school classrooms, which means I've seen bits and pieces but never an entire movie consecutively, so in my mind their plot points and characters intermix.]

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Dripping With Gemstones? (Very Very Preliminary Top Singles List For 2019)

Not remotely ready with my list, and faithful readers will note that I still haven't posted my list for 2018 either. But here we are, 2019, 82 or so, needs to be reordered, many more will be added and some of these will drop off. I'm trying to keep up with Cameroonian hip-hop and Korean pop and I'm six months behind with each. I checked the ILM nomination thread yesterday and only two of these songs were on it. No one's nominated Old Town Road yet, what the fuck? There's nobody like me. Or like you, no doubt.

Commentary after the list.

Here's the playlist:

1. Heavy-K x Moonchild Sanelly "Yebo Mama"
2. Bhad Bhabie ft. Tory Lanez "Babyface Savage"
3. Jvcki Wai, Young B, Osshun Gum, Han Yo Han "Dding"
4. Hong Jinyoung "Love Tonight"
5. Lil Pump "Butterfly Doors"
6. A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie "Look Back At Me"
7. Tory Lanez ft. Quavo & Tyga "Broke Leg"
8. Gasmilla ft. Mr Eazi "K33SHI"
9. Lil Pump ft. Lil Wayne "Be Like Me"
10. Ski Mask The Slump God "Faucet Failure"
11. Loopy&nafla "Ice King"
12. DALsooobin "Katchup"

13. Rich The Kid "4 Phones"
14. Gunna "Big Shot"
15. Gasmilla ft. Kwamz & Flava "Charle Man"
16. Rocket Girls 101 "Galaxy Disco"
17. Blueface ft. YG "Thotiana (Remix)"
18. Robyn "Ever Again"
19. Sofi Tukker "Fantasy"
20. YG ft. Tyga, Jon Z "Go Loko"
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Tory Lanez ft. Quavo & Tyga, "Broke Leg": I don't know how to take the video, whether it's funny or just gross; or maybe I do know how to take it, like it's saying "Look who we can afford!" The lyrics and the rapping, though, are less acquisitive and more good-humored than that — are about taking pleasure in how sexy a woman is, basically. Appreciating sexiness without the usual hip-hop boasting about how you don't care about her and without the usual resenting that you keep giving her money.

Gasmilla ft. Mr Eazi "K33SHI": Flows forward, with blips throwing darts across the flow. Right balance of gravity and nonchalance in the voice. I don't know what he's saying, but I'm guessing from the video that he's not dismissing the human body.

DALsooobin "Katchup": "I will catch up with you" seems to mean that she'll surpass him emotionally, socially, will stalk, maybe leave blood on the floor — the singing reminds me of the typical Lillian Gish tour-de-force where Lillian'd go through all emotions in 5 seconds, glee, despair, hope, resignation. This is the first time Subin's reached me like this.

Rich The Kid "4 Phones": He's braggin' that he doesn't have to brag anymore; his voice seems to have pang and uncertainty (anyway?). "I made 100 thousand in the same clothes" — I have no idea what the significance of that statement is. The instruments are the usual sad and pretty haze.

Gunna "Big Shot": Drawls confidently and confidentially with a sound that stays wary. "If killing was dripping, Gunna, I had a case closed." And I don't know what that means. has no opinion. Dripping with gemstones? Now that he's got money he can afford lawyers? He's going from poor to not-so-poor.

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The Britney-Sounding One (Top 10 Singles of the 2010s)

Here's a top 10 of the '10s. My desired number one, Brown Eyed Girls' Nivea lip care ad "Smile Chock Chock," turns out to be 2009, too bad. In the category Cheesy Eastern European Dance Tracks, "Money Maker" isn't as outrageously ridiculous as "Mi Mi Mi" — it's very normal by comparison and wasn't even the version of the song that got pushed (instead, a tiresomely sexy, heavily electro version w/out Raluka) — but has more feeling.

1. T-ara "Lovey-Dovey"
2. T-ara "You Drive Me Crazy"
3. Sheck Wes "Do That"
4. Orange Caramel "Lipstick"
5. Playboi Carti "Magnolia"
6. Baauer "Harlem Shake"
7. Heavy-K x Moonchild Sanelly "Yebo Mama"
8. DJ Sava ft. Raluka "Money Maker"
9. Wassup "Jingle Bell"
10. Serebro "Mi Mi Mi"


13 runner-ups: Silentó "Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)," Lil Pump and Carnage "i Shyne," Lil Debbie "F That," The Chainsmokers "#Selfie," HyunA "Red," 2NE1 "I Am The Best," HyunA "How's This?" Grimes "Kill v. Maim," Jovi "Ou Même," Crayon Pop "Bar Bar Bar," Bali Baby "Do Da Dash," Roach Gigz "Pop Off," Fat Cat "My Love Bad Boy."

A difference between this and my '00s list is that the '00s tracks were all high-impact songs on the order of "Get Low" and "In Da Club" and "Since You Been Gone," high in my world and the outer world too. Whereas probably the biggest impact item here is "Lipstick," which is mainly having a subterranean effect as it and various Crayon Pop tracks provide the template for Momoland et al. to create light diversions amidst the K-pop heavies. "Magnolia" ought to be a crown jewel in the land of mumble and Soundcloud rap, but I don't know enough about hip-hop to know if it is. "Harlem Shake" and "Mi Mi Mi" flashed by as "what's that?" dance novelties. "You Drive Me Crazy" actually reached number one on the Gaon chart but I doubt that when people think of 2010 in K-pop it's the song that'll come to mind (except maybe as "the Britney-sounding one"). "Lovey-Dovey" was outshouted by "Roly-Poly" before it and by the insane "scandal" after. "Yebo Mama" probably registers as just another in a stream of good house from South Africa — and that's a pretty accurate description of it, though Sanelly has star potential. "Do That" got lost amidst better-known tracks by Sheck Wes, though it's the one that snaked into my nervous system. Wassup got lost altogether. And the version of "Money Maker" that got attention wasn't this one.

As for what these songs mean to me, in their different ways "Harlem Shake" and "Mi Mi Mi" shake my teeth, "Magnolia" shakes me up but with an undertow that provides balm to its own agitation. "Do That" crawls the streets, "Lipstick"'s a spray of sweet, "Jingle Bell" is a gentler sweet, and "Money Maker" and "Yebo Mama" are a smooth talker and a midnight stalker, each a kind of relief, though "Yebo Mama" has an apology in the lyrics that the sexy performance doesn't seem to acknowledge.

And T-ara. Do I have anything more to say about T-ara? "You Drive Me Crazy" is a smooth "Slave 4 U" or a jagged "Baby One More Time..." "Lovey-Dovey," my number one, is just a warm little shuffle knock-off.

The Britney Sounding One:

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