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GOTTA DANCE

POP MUSIC : Extended Families of Beat-Crazed Singles : Gotta Dance is a new feature that will present a periodic look at current popular dance-oriented singles. Seven of this month's singles--including Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy" and B.G. the Prince of Rap's "Take Control of the Party"--are in Billboard magazine's Feb. 1 ranking of the nation's 10 most popular dance tracks.

February 09, 1992|ELENA OUMANO | Elena Oumano is a Los Angeles-based writer who specializes in music. and

Dance music isn't all alike. There are so many lively strains in dance music that outsiders would be well advised to consult a glossary before venturing into clubland.

Among the essential if sometimes overlapping styles these days:

- Acid house: a psychedelic cousin to disco.

- Hip-house: the syncopated merger of house and rap.

- Techno-rave: heavy metal set to a mechanical hyper-beat.

- Dub style: sparse rhythm tracks dotted with echoing spaces and fragments of keyboards and vocals.

If trying to figure out precisely where a particular new record fits is one challenge, another is attempting to determine which of the many mixes of the same song is the most appealing.

Taking a tip from Jamaican studio wizards who view economic restraints as creative opportunities, U.S. remixers are now spinning off multiple hits from one promising single.

With the studio mixing board as their instrument, remixers strip the song of its choruses, hooks, lead vocals--all the sweeteners--working their way down to the bare bones of drum and bass. Then they rebuild, restoring certain elements--the subdued echo of a chorus, a bar of lead vocals, a buzzing keyboard chord--boosting and extending others, as they lay in raps, samples and sound effects.

An extended single release on CD or 12-inch vinyl can spawn up to 10 mixes of the same song, with each beat-crazed progeny vying for the prize--to drive you to the dance floor and keep you jamming for as long as possible.

Here's a guide to some of the singles that are attracting the most commercial and/or critical attention, rated on a scale of 0-100.

Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy" (Charisma)--A left-field entry sparked by a sexy and hilarious poke at disco-model narcissism ( see accompanying interview ) . "Too sexy for my hat (my car, your party, etc.)," Fred growls, moans and preens as sweet bursting chords, swooning keyboards, feverish wails and brisk claps all pay homage to the great Beat God. There are seven steadily throbbing, super-bombastic mixes, all bearing suitably gimmicky names. The 37-second "Tushapella" mix lists the "too sexy" litany in its entirety, and for the Spanish Mix, Fred does it en Espanol . 95

B.G. the Prince of Rap's "Take Control of the Party" (Epic)--An agile speed-rap over hard, aggressive beats. "Take control of the party," the Prince commands, abetted by honeyed choral hooks. But just what party is he talking about? A discordant synthesized organ, a trilling flute and ominous metallic riffs add just enough threat to broaden the meaning of the title phrase. Check the latest techno-rave version, the Demonic Mix, for a sonic portrait of a city gone berserk. 90

L.A. Style's "James Brown Is Dead" (RCA)--This has to be the most audacious, slamming funeral dirge ever. The nine raving mixes would be pure glorious noise if they weren't shaped into pure glorious rhythm, sweetened slightly by a chaotic and weirdly visceral organ riff. Martial drum patterns, Wagnerian choruses and sterling funk sampled from the Master himself lift James B. straight to boogie heaven. 90

Clubland's "Hold On" (Great Jones/Island)--A classy house stomp that recently held the No. 1 slot by wrapping tight around deep sex-beats with an edgy, stop-and-start break pattern. The best of the six mixes flesh out the instrumentals with spicy Latin polyrhythms, siren strings, catchy choruses and a mellow wailing sax. 84

N-Joi's "Mindflux" (RCA)--Ear-splitting tweets, air-shredding synthesized organ and tambourine and a cybernetic cheering squad power speeding Dionysian funk. 80

Reese Project's "Direct Me" (Giant/Warner Bros.)--Arresting vocal work takes the weight in the best of the five mixes. Sultry leads slither up and down the scale, then slide into beautifully nuanced background choruses. The pumping rhythm track never breaks stride, and this outfit resists the urge to throw everything into the mixing pot. The final result is discreet, but it swings with a heavy ax. 80

Charm's "Butt Naked" (Turnstyle/Atlantic)--Another confident newcomer harnesses fresh keyboard drop-ins to a cocky rapper's command to dancing cuties: "Get naked!" A raw male chorus seconds that emotion over a bruising rhythm track full of savvy mixing-board tricks. 80

Desiya's "Comin' on Strong" (Mute/Elektra)--Intriguing, deadpan lead vocals reflect another harmonic sensibility. The non-melodic voice spirals off a propulsive, deep molasses mix with the compelling force of a muezzin's summons to the faithful, but this lady calls for heat and motion. 75

St. Etienne's "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" (Warner Bros.)--Adolescent innocence, not the usual flaming passion, permeates this romantic plaint. The artless, off-the-wall vocals, reminiscent of '60s Marianne Faithfull, are counterpoint to a steady hammering beat and a dangerous brew of hacked-up keyboards and darkly melodious strings on this remake of Neil Young's song. 75

Susan Clark's "Deeper" (FFRR/London)--Clark steps front and center to hurl her church-schooled shouts and ululations off incantatory choral samples. Glittering vibraphone action, softly percussive keyboards and faint rhythmic panting make for a pleasingly light touch over the requisite thudding dance beats. 72

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