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Sunday, June 21, 2009

 

ModMusic: Kristine W "The Power Of Music"

In the life span of dance divas, thirteen years is an eternity. So who can blame Kristine W, after seven releases, thirteen Billboard #1 dance hits, a life-threatening battle with leukemia and a vastly changed industry, for changing up the formula on her new CD, The Power of Music? How long can a dance artist keep the bass and beats going?

To claim that The Power of Music is "new" is itself a reinvention; four of the album's sixteen tracks -- "Walk Away," "Never," a cover of Diana Ross' disco confection "The Boss," and "Love Is The Look" -- have been previously released in the last two years, all to massive club success...with a fifth single, "Be Alright," poised to join them. Like all dance artists in these uncertain times, Kristine is experimenting with formats (EPs, CDs, web releases, etc.), release dates, delivery mechanisms, and styles (the era of Timbaland-style production having mercifully come to an end...now if we can only get rid of Auto-Tune).

But a funny thing happened to Kristine on the way to her fourth full-length recording...she dipped her toe, ever so gently, into nostalgia. "Be Alright" isn't a dance floor stomper, but a midtempo pop-rock riff (courtesy of guitar legend George Lynch) that wouldn't be out of place on a Celine Dion or Shania Twain disc from the 90's. (I confess to vastly preferring the remixes, including the Boris Blind Faith Mix, which you can download for free here.) Snatched from the 1980's, iconic rapper Big Daddy Kane offers up an overblown guest appearance in the album's title track. To top it off, Kristine cribs from her own back catalog with a re-recorded version of her 1994 single "Feel What U Want."

In fact, it isn't until one reaches "Never," a quarter of the way through The Power of Music, that Kristine's signature house-disco asserts itself and the disc begins to soar. "Never" is a phenomenal work of thundering energy, featuring fierce wails over an insistent pulsing beat. A superb new bootie-shaker called "Window To You World" is the obvious follow-up single, and "Groove's Inside" recalls underground legends like Alison Limerick and Shawn Christopher.

Kristine's one Achilles Heel, balladry, has occasionally thrown off the flow of previous recordings; neither her powerful voice, nor her disposition for synths and drums, suit the form well. Luckily, The Power of Music sees only two of them, and only one is truly misguided ("Not So Merry Go Round"). Experiments with guitars and retro stylings aside, The Power of Music keeps a dancefloor legend in the currents of modern pop without sacrificing what put her there in the first place.

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