Here is something I wrote in 2003 when Electroclash was declared the next big thing. I’m not sure why I wrote it but I got a kick out of reading it. It is a parody of “the next big dance music genre” articles that often appeared in Mixmag, URB, BPM Culture, and other DJ magazines (and the type of article that would appear on Resident Advisor today). The funny thing is if some of the references were changed it could have been something I have written yesterday. Really dance music culture really haven’t changed that much. So here’s the first part of this article about the latest sound hitting the dance floor, Freebreak.
Saturday night, February 22, 2003, at the Nu Funhouse in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a small group of twentysomethings, who looked like they just stepped off the set of the 80’s television show Fame, is lounging around to the sound of melodic breakbeats that is straining the power of the sound system of this local lounge. This is the release party for the URB article, “Freebreak: the Breakthru Sound of Today.” The men are either in colorful buttoned down shirts with suspenders or they are wearing sleeveless shirts that show off their lanky physiques. The women are feeling secure in their stretch pants, their colorful blouses buttoned at the bottom over cleaveage bearing shirts. Some of the women looked like they stepped out of a cotillion — similar to how Madonna looked in the Like a Virgin video — but in a more casual manner. As far as hairstyles go, it is big Jersey hair everywhere, along with mullets fashioned after Patrick Swazye — or George Clooney during his Facts of Life days — at the peak of his popularity.
The corwd gathered at the Nu Funhouse os slowly starting to bob their heads to the songs. The DJ seamlessly drops the early 80’s classic “One More Shot” into his concoction of breakbeats and the crowd starts politely clapping in approval. One reveler, Tina, 29, a journalist says, “Now this is fun. You don’t see people in Manhattan enjoying themselves like this.” The DJ spends a good amount of time dropping the breakbeats behind songs like “Let the Music Play,” “I.O.U.,” “Show Me,” “Bad of the Heart,” “Temptation, “Dreamboy/Dreamgirl,” etc. but tell any of these revelers that Freestyle is back and they won’t hesitate to tell you that “This is not Freestyle, but a new style called Freebreak that takes the best parts of Freestyle and gets rid of its ‘cheesier’ aspects to create something that works for today’s dancefloors! Didn’t you check out the article in the latest URB, which incidentially I wrote? Freebreak is going to free the club scene from the monotony of House, Techno, Trance, and Drum & Bass. It is obvious the current sounds of clubland cannot sustain the club scene, so this new sound is going to kick those sounds in the arse,” yells Tina over the barely audible music.
Freebreak, like other dance music genres, did not come fully formed overnight, it has developed over the past year in underground New York and London clubs. It takes its cues from Freestyle, the sound of such Manhattan clubs like the Funhouse, Devil’s Nest, Inferno, and The Palladium, and Florida clubs including Merci Mercy, Pretty Pretty, and Falcon. The Freestyle sound consisted of Electro beats mixed in with Salsa flavor backed by melodic vocals about young love and heartbreak. Freestyle was the sound of Latino and Italian youth and during its peak from the mid-80’s to the early-90’s became a staple of radio. The choppy beats and the simple, yet elegant, melodies of those bygone days almost get the crowds of The Nu Funhouse shimmying. The DJ, Jesus Martinez, is pleased with the warm reaction. Who would have thought that the Freebreak sound he spearheaded would become so big.
In 1994, Jesus had the massive club hit, “Be My Love” under the moniker Love Shack. That song with its “Planet Rock” styled Electro beats and its primitive, slightly off-key, but engaging vocal was Freestyle’s last big hit before the sound evaporated under its lack of innovation. He eventually moved on to the Trance wave and became a world renowned DJ as a result, achieving even greater success as a DJ/producer, collecting the frequent flyer miles commuting between Europe and his adopted New York — he was originally from Great Britain and changed his name for greater street credibility — every weekend to prove it. Yet he wasn’t satisfied with his success as a World Renowned DJ. Martinez explains, “Trance lost its appeal. After a while, Trance became predictable and lost all its meaning. Trance wasn’t cutting edge anymore. It was time to move on to the next level, to the sound that was going to bring the excitement back into the clubs. I knew it was over when, about a year and a half ago, I was spinning some Trance in Miami’s hottest club and only twenty people showed up. A week later, my press agent sent me twenty reviews from twenty different Miami publications dogging me for playing the same records I was playing six months before. I realized then that I was losing my edge and decided to revamp my sound.”
One night, a friend dragged him to hear Freestyle oldies act, the Glamour Girls. “My first thought was, ‘they’re still around,’ but I went to see them and I was inspired. I realized that there was some potential in the Freestyle sound but it needed to be updated for 21st century audience. With some attitude it’s going to kick the club scene in the arse!” Martinez went over to the Glamour Girls and they gave him a demo. He took the demo into the studio, added a more prominent Breakbeat, played around with the vocals by minimizing them to the “oohs” to make them sexier, increased the Freestyle effects already there and added that “Martinez touch.” “Today’s crowds like ole’ school sounds mixed in with some new school flavor. While the sound is reminiscent of 1986, it has that edge for 21st century audiences. I also felt that the Glamour Girls had the potential to be a touring group but today’s clubbers don’t want performers who just sing over tracks, so I created a live audiovisual performance experience full of dancers, hi-definition video projection, performance artists, the works. I even revamped the Glamour Girls to give them a sexier image because clubbers are obsessed with sexy, glamorous images, so we brought in some new girls that represented what’s currently chic in the club scene. I mean, the audience doesn’t relate to a Lydia Mendosa, so I replaced her with the beautiful Marilyn. These new girls are beautiful, in shape, and have no blemishes whatsoever.
Realizing the commercial potential in this sound, Martinez realized that “this could potentially be fucking huge.” He searched for the best representatives for this sound. He found K-fem in a London lounge crooning about Lime and Coke over minimal breakbeats. He heard about German singer, Jesus Luna, after seeing his name on the cover of The Face. Acquaintances were raving about Exotic Ecstasy from New York. Although he was approached by a few of the old Freestyle acts like TKA, George Lamond, and Lil’ Suzy, he didn’t feel that they accurately represented the 21st century sounds of Freebreak. “All that shit about young love just doesn’t cut it these days. Besides who wants to see pre-fab acts when they could see artists who truly care about their work.”
Over the past few years dance music has mutated into an increasingly more arcane collection of sounds. 2 Step, Tech House, Electronica, Dub Step, Nu Jazz, Electroclash, Speed Garage are among the sounds that came and went in the last five years. It has gotten to the point that the only people into these sounds were journalists and record collectors who spend all their time cataloging them. As dance music became further divided into ever-growing subcategories of barely distinguishable sounds, clubgoers moved on to more relevant music like Hip-Hop, boy bands, and Britney Spears. Upon discovering, the fashionable performers at the forefront of the Freebreak Movement, Martinez knew that “Hip-Hop, boy bands, and Britney were obsolete!”
To be continued…