(July 29, 2022). The late Queen of Disco Donna Summer was highly prolific, especially during the second half of the 1970s when she released one disco classic after another, including eleven million-selling top-10 pop chart hits from 1975-80.
But no song of hers was as transcendent as the futuristic, synth-driven phenomenon “I Feel Love,” the 1977 smash that has been credited by many as having shifted the direction of not only dance music, but many other genres and sub-genres as well (including punk, new wave, techno, trance and others).
With its innovative use of the Moog synthesizer, “I Feel Love,” under the direction of producers Georgio Moroder and Pete Belotte, was a technological breakthrough, with only the kick drum and Donna’s vocals not being played by a machine. The song had a futuristic feel, with a complex synthesizer arrangement that gave it a flickering strobe-like effect. There are very few songs that are better to listen to with a good set of headphones than “I Feel Love,” with its precise machine-driven syncopation and its various elements weaving in and out of the left or right channels but still working together to give it that otherworldly vibe.
You wouldn’t be completely inaccurate in proclaiming “I Feel Love” the ultimate psychedelic jam of the ‘70s.
This past week, that iconic 45-year-old tune received its flowers in two significant acknowledgments, just as it reaches several Billboard chart milestone anniversaries.
First, in a generations-spanning, 200-song ranking published by Rolling Stone magazine on July 22, “I Feel Love” was named the No. 1 dance tune of all time!
It’s perhaps the most comprehensive ranking of modern dance music spanning the last 50 years that you’ll find anywhere. And having Donna’s entrancing bop at the top of that list is an ultimate tribute to its timelessness and its influence on nearly every dance form that’s come since it’s release. Fans of the late Queen of Disco and lovers of irony will note that Summer also anchors the Rolling Stone ranking at No. 200 with her classic “Last Dance.”
Then, in a totally unrelated and unexpected development, Beyoncé’s Renaissance album dropped exactly one week later (Friday, July 29). The album’s closing track is the titular “Summer Renaissance,” a nod to none other than Donna Summer and her ethereal “I Feel Love,” with that song’s memorable synth melody being interpolated throughout Bey’s new jam.
Beyoncé’s whole Renaissance album—her first solo studio release in six years—pays homage to decades-worth of dance music, including disco, house, trance, and electronic, so it’s only fitting that the album’s closer pay tribute to the woman and the song that influenced all of them.
I’ll save my full review of Renaissance (I’m still trying to digest it) for another article, but Bey’s new songs, with loads of sexually suggestive lyrics to go along with common themes of self-affirmation and stress-relief, don’t tread much in the way of new ground as seemingly every other female artist today flaunts some form of self-affirming sexuality or another.
Suffice it to say that Yoncé, 40, has more sexiness in her new album than in any she’s made before. But she’s only taking us today where very few women even dared to go during Donna Summer’s heyday 45 years ago.
Summer, on the other hand, broke into that uncharted territory with seemingly every ‘70s release, beginning with her orgasmic “Love To Love You Baby”—when orgasming on records wasn’t cool—and continuing with her suggestive cooing on “I Feel Love,” which came out a year and a half after “Love To Love You Baby” and elevated her to another level in pop transcendence.
It was 45 years ago this month when “I Feel Love” relinquished its grip of the No. 1 position of Billboard’s disco chart. It was during the week beginning July 31 (charts dated August 6) when the single officially became a crossover smash by making its entry on both the Billboard Soul and Hot 100 charts. Who could’ve predicted that the song would be topping a Rolling Stone magazine all-time dance compilation nearly exactly 45 years later? Or that it would be interpolated on a new album by the baddest woman on the planet who wasn’t even born when the original was released?
As for Beyoncé and Renaissance, she gets a Rolling Stone dance nod as well. The album’s lead-off single, “BREAK MY SOUL,” is listed as the 108th greatest dance tune of all time, making it the newest entry to populate that list.
I’ll reserve any reaction to that development for Bey’s album’s review.
In the meantime, enjoy this video clip of Donna Summer’s futuristic classic, which even today makes subsequent dance hits sound passé, followed by Beyoncé’s redux.
DJRob (he/him/his) is a freelance music blogger from somewhere on the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter at @djrobblog.
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