LWE 2Q Reports: Top 5 Overrated Singles

For our fourth report, LWE’s editor in chief Steve Mizek picks his top five overrated singles from the first half of 2008.

The number of dance music singles released each year is absolutely mind-boggling, likely well into six digits and rising each year as production software becomes more accessible. So how does a track stand apart from the multitudes of would-be hits? Unlike rock or pop, many techno and house artists rely on other artists to give their tracks exposure in their DJ sets/charts. Or, if producers are of a sizable stature and credibility, they can cane their own work to massive crowds of receptive fans (and consumers as well, though the correlation between underground popularity and sales is quickly ripping at the seams). So if John Digweed loves your newest, you may receive a deluge of new fans through his DJ sets, mix CDs, radio show and even word of mouth between $uper$tar$.

But this formula for exposure can also lead to the over inflation of some otherwise underwhelming tracks. Because there are more DJs than producers, and DJs want to get popular too, many opt to follow in their heroes’ footsteps and crib relentlessly from their playlists and charts — Beatport and Juno make this exceptionally easy. Because a DJ’s success also depends largely on the happiness of the audience, some may select low-hanging people-pleasers (or at least familiar tunes) over less obvious gems. And of course the print and online press are complicit to a degree in all of this, as well.

With that in mind, I’ve cobbled together a list of five tracks I believe have grown far more popular than their characteristics warrant. Not all these songs are crap, per se, though many of them rely on rather base, lowest-common denominator tactics to get crowds worked up, remembering the track and clamoring for more. And so the circle continues.

01. Hugo, “The Sloop” [Tuning Spork Records] (buy)
I suppose it makes sense to sound the foghorn for a nautically themed track, but it’s an increasingly common way to spice up otherwise ho-hum arrangements, especially one so typically Tuning Spork in execution. Combined with its tonally static build, “The Sloop” hardly strikes me as novel so much as a cheap shot in the arm for DJs with flagging dance floors. Try Âme, “Enoi” instead.

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02. Radio Slave, “Grindhouse Tool” (Dubfire Terror Planet Mix) [REKIDS] (buy)
That Dubfire is a massive prog-house to “minimal” convert is less troubling to me than how awful everything he touches comes out. His vast reworking of Radio Slave’s perfectly balanced gloom tool, replete with bug-eyed, de-pitched vocals and generic chromatic scale progressions, lets loose Dubfire’s “scary” indulgences to reverse the original’s haunting restraint. What surprises me is not Dubfire’s poor taste, but that so many DJs are willing to punish their audiences with this “Terrible Planet” tripe. Try Raudive, “Here” (Len’s Podium Remix) or Sasha, “Park It In the Shade” (Audion Ain’t Got No Friends Mix) instead.

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03. Patrice Bäumel, “Roar” [Get Physical] (buy)
Credit is due to Mr. Bäumel for his relative bravery in omitting a requisite kick drum, but one bold decision cannot save “Roar” from his meeker ones. The rubber band plucks and claps are a good start, but are run off the road by an oppressively tight and overdriven loop which revs like a motorcycle. It seems every other year someone imitates this sound, if for no other reason than to make dancers rev their invisible choppers like metalhead tykes. Taken in a different and more complex direction, “Roar” could’ve lived up to it’s “tool of the summer” tag; instead, creativity whimpers in the corner as clubbers mount their big wheels. Try Stephan Bodzin, “Liebe Ist…” or STL’s carefully reduced tracks instead.

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04. Laurent Garnier, “Back to My Roots” [Innervisions] (buy)
LG’s so-called return to form is a poignant reminder of why he had moved to less floor-driven electronica in the first place. The drawn out and searching tones at “Afrodiziac” mix’s core are promising, but soon find themselves buried under every organic percussion sound Garnier could fit without freezing his Mac. The fact was made even more evident as Henrik Schwarz, Âme and Dixon’s “D.P.O.M.B.,” which vastly improved the mold, upstaged the tune only one release later. I sense many DJs played and charted this one out of devotion to Garnier’s legacy, but would have done better to stick with his prime cuts.

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05. Johnny D, “Orbitalife” [Oslo] (buy)
Last year if you asked me who Johnny D was I would probably have half-heartedly guessed an old NYC cat. This year his “Orbitalife” is the most charted track on RA ever. Unlike the rest of my list, however, “Orbitalife” deserves some of the buzz it’s received. His smooth and soulful voice rises from the nagging beat without disturbing the flow as the perfect compliment to subtle adornments. Still, I can’t help but feel this is a weak choice for the year’s biggest track, its immense popularity smacking of a bid for hipness more than a vote of confidence in a stunning tune. But much worse could top this list, and therein lies some hope not all overrated tracks are complete dreck.

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chrisdisco  on August 21, 2008 at 1:30 AM

completely agreed on the johnny d track. it has been driving me nuts. i dont even know if it is good or not anymore. i am just so bloody sick of it. but i tend to agree – it is certainly not a bad track, but definitely not good enough to have gotten the amount of play that it has.

Joe  on August 21, 2008 at 2:09 AM

I think I’ve heard ‘Orbitalife’ out about 5 times, but obviously many many many more times in mixes. Funny thing, each time I hear it out I enjoy it more – volume definitely adds something, and in Fabric room 1 it killed me…twice in 3 hours.
I’m not sure I’d go out of my way to put it on again at home though.

I’ve really enjoyed the Hugo track when I’ve been out and about – maybe it’s a cheap shot, but I’m not sure that lessens its usefulness. There may be more expert ways of getting people dancing, but if I was a DJ and knew that playing it would bring more people on to the floor for the less obvious stuff I’d got lined up…

bishyb  on August 21, 2008 at 4:23 AM

Definately agree with ‘Roar’ and ‘Back To My Roots’, never liked either track to begin with 😉

Still enjoying playing ‘Orbitalife’ though…

Heartbeat  on August 21, 2008 at 4:43 AM

Orbitalife Orbitalife….

First time I heard it was in Watergate (Berlin) I think, and I remember saying to myself “why the hell is everyone going nuts on that ???”

Coming from DeepHouse and having some consequent soulful inclinations, I just didn’t understand why this song that looks like 100 others that would just haved emptied dancefloors had such an amazing effect on the crowd, and on me…

0verrated? As you said Steve, I wouldn’t say so… But a big big surprise coming from nowhere? Hell yeah!

I guess people are looking for something more than hypnosis and adrenalin now, they need to find some comfort too, maybe to heal their souls, something like that.
Orbitalife just came out at the perfect moment, giving out the proper amount of magic in the clubs with this special crowd… because, yeah, Orbitalife doesn’t work at all in headphones, only in a club with the right sound system… That’s why it seems overrated perhaps?

Anyway…
Strange success isn’t it? I find it very interesting to think about it and try to explain why it happened.

hutlock  on August 21, 2008 at 7:08 AM

I’m with you on the Dubfire “conversion” thing, Steve, but I have to say, I really enjoyed his remix of Minilogue’s “Jamaica.” I fully expected to hate it, but I was sold. Check it out when you can and tell me if I’m crazy.

But, yeah, that Radio Slave mix is junk.

me  on August 21, 2008 at 7:46 AM

if this is the kind of junk your editor writes i wont be back. just a bunch of track bashing with some recommendations at the end.

littlewhiteearbuds  on August 21, 2008 at 7:51 AM

You obviously haven’t been reading the site much if this is your first time encountering less than flattering reviews.

Instead of getting huffy and hiding behind anonymity, why not defend the tracks you like (or produced, that’d be something) and we’ll have a discussion.

james kartsaklis  on August 21, 2008 at 9:55 AM

i didn’t even know a dubfire remix of “grindhouse tool” existed until reading this. shame, really.

hutlock  on August 21, 2008 at 10:04 AM

That you didn’t know of it, or that it exists? :-)

charlie  on August 21, 2008 at 10:12 AM

completely agree with Joe on this. and with everyone on the fact that the radioslave remix is awful -pointless trash. don’t mind his spastik remix though.

james kartsaklis  on August 21, 2008 at 10:28 AM

@hutlock: that it exists :)

Will Lynch  on August 21, 2008 at 11:05 AM

I gotta say, I’m just as dubious of dubfire as the next pretentious techno journalist, but the first time I heard his grindhouse remix was during Radio Slave’s set at Mutek, and it was a total show stopper. I recognize how cheesy it is, but any track that gets people going like that is kind of hard to deny. And for better or worse, hearing it without knowing whose remix it was probably put it in a more flattering light for me…

krul  on August 21, 2008 at 11:29 AM

completely agree on the sloop, that tune needs to die fast, I liked it the first time (although even then I thought it was pretty cheap), but it gets annoying so fast and it gets played so much.

I love the grindhouse tool, great to give another piece of wax some more “oomph” (ooh and tantakatan, shit, now thats a groove), but I honestly don’t know what went through matt’s head when he allowed dubfire to remix it. foghorn, pitched down vocals, and just about every other cliché in the book.. and damn, that part around 6min makes me cringe.

I don’t really have any problems with roar, sure its overplayed, but it is a really useful tool and much of the songs power depends on what you mix it with.

“The drawn out and searching tones at “Afrodiziac” mix’s core are promising, but soon find themselves buried under every organic percussion sound Garnier could fit without freezing his Mac.” – nuff said 😛

And then there’s orbitalife :). Well, it doesn’t get my vote as track of the year (yet), but you have to admit months after its release it still gets played a lot and this one has the lasting power my young padawan. Hypnotic, subtle, so much details.. perfectly mixable, and one lovely long breakdown = one hell of a track, gotta disagree with you there :). And the other two tracks are just as good, if maybe a bit more straightforward.

looking forward to the next top 5

Simon  on August 22, 2008 at 8:59 AM

Dubfire’s new stuff bores me to tears, it just all sounds the same to me yet all the Beatport Top 10 whores don’t seem to notice. I’m not saying it’s a bad sound, I’m just saying he’s becoming almost as bad as Deadmau5 for relying on the same, fairly limiting, sound on all his remixes. The guy’s clearly got some talent, why can’t he push the boat out a wee bit?

Phillip  on August 25, 2008 at 12:21 PM

I vouch for “Roar.” I played it on top of Dettman’s “Lattice” at my club night last Wednesday and it sounded incredible. This drunk hair stylist was like, “Bring back the farty sounds!” I’m all for dance tracks that briefly, and tactfully, go overboard into noise territory… like Poni Hoax’s “Budapest.”

Onirik  on August 26, 2008 at 11:54 AM

I agree for Garnier and Hugo, they’re not essentials for me.

Roar is more of a tool for me, I wouldn’t play it more that 2mins or so….However I would have suggested Bodzin’s “Puck” track as a substite.

About Orbitalife, at the very beginning I didn’t get it. It didn’t impress me that much, however since I heard in a club I’ve been enjoying it more and more. It’s such a pleasure to mix (try with Onandon from Audio Werner) and that little voice…hmmm…it’s gotta be an hypnotic anthem.

Am I gonna be the only one to defend GrindhouseFire ?!?! I think it’s a very powerful track. You should have seen the effect it had on a normally very quiet parisian crowd, people were almost jumping on top of each other . I’m not usually a fan of Dubfire’s prods/rmxs but I got hooked on this one.

hutlock  on August 26, 2008 at 12:23 PM

Oooooh! I was just playing Audio Werner’s Onandon the other night! He needs to put out some new music!

Joe  on August 26, 2008 at 3:20 PM

‘Onandon’ makes an appearance in this incredible Mark-Henning mix if you fancy it:

http://www.mark-henning.net/barca_set/mark-henning_becool_barcelona_20012007.mp3

I can’t get enough of this mix at the moment.
And what a great track from Audio Werner regardless!

Onirik  on August 26, 2008 at 4:31 PM

it is a great track! love it :)

Le K  on August 31, 2008 at 10:25 AM

I’m so glad to read that!

Rod  on September 21, 2008 at 11:16 AM

Can’t help it but I love Dubfires Grindhouse remix. I guess it’s one of the best songs in 2008. I didn’t know what song it was till I read/listened it here. Heard it at Green & Blue, Frankfurt and it really rocked the floor. It made the floor go mad. Nice voice, stomping beat and when you heard it once, you’ll recon it again. great.
Great thread by the way. Much better than the always same charts.

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