In the horror that was 2020, we had to find escape in music. In dance. In letting the body move unfettered along with music that brought us back to an earlier time of our life, when we could go into the dance clubs and have a few drinks and dress in our velvet best.
A ton of great nostalgic, retro, dance music came out in 2020, music that harkened back to the disco sounds of late 70s and early 80s. Granted, this is the sound that I grew up with, so I’m more likely to gravitate to it, but its been a long time since I can recall so many fantastic dance albums that capture that long-ago spirit more than in 2020. Guess the year wasn’t all bad.
1. Dua Lipa – Levitating
I know Dua Lipa has gotten enough publicity, she doesn’t need more from me (not that this blog is any form of actual publicity), but sometimes the hype is deserved, and like Lizzo in 2019, 2020 was the year of Dua Lipa. I am not comparing the two artists other than to say that both albums are filled with some of the catchiest, smartly-arranged pop-dance songs of the year. I’ve listened to Levitating at least 50 times this year and have yet to get sick of it. It’s stripped-down, funky, with a booty-shaking bass-line, a chorus that is super sing-a-longy, and just makes me happy when it’s on, no matter how I was feeling prior.
2. Kylie Minogue – Supernova
I really have not cared one bit about Kylie Minogue before 2020. I probably had heard a few songs from her but I can’t name a single one. And then she puts out an album titled, Disco, and it’s pretty much exactly that. It takes the groove-oriented elements of 70s disco but places it in the early 80s more electronic dance world. There’s some nicely placed vocoder, some keyboards that might actually be keytar, lyrics that never delve deeper than “I can’t believe I love you like this,” and “tomorrow don’t matter,” and it couldn’t be more opposite of the energy and message that 2020 has been expressing all damn year. Which is exactly what makes it so needed.
3. Jessie Ware – Soul Control
On the heels of Kylie Minogue, Jessie Ware dropped another 1980s disco-dance album entitled, What’s Your Pleasure? And to write a sentence with the words 2020 and pleasure in it seems like an oxymoron. Ware’s album I would say is more mid-80s to late-80s dance, with a bit of Jody Watley or Jellybean Benitez. Very synthesized but with a thick groove, reminiscent of Giorgio Morodor in the production. This album isn’t as slick as Kylie’s Disco album, but the two of them channel that long-ago sound (of my youth) so well, I feel like I’m a teenager again.
4. Haiku Hands – Jupiter
Haiku Hands do dabble in the old-school dance sounds of the 80s, especially in the song “Jupiter,” but I hear a bit of Bananarama in their sound too. Where Bananarama were too cool for school, taking classic songs from the 50s and 60s and updating them for the 80s, Haiku Hands is more playful and silly. These Australian ladies do get a bit more modern (by modern, I mean then take their sound into the 90s and early aughts in terms of their techno-dance sound) on the collaboration with Sofi Tucker “Fashion Model Art,” which I almost chose here, but thought I’d keep it more retro. I laugh every time they sing out, “what do I do with my hands?” on that song. You know what? Fuck it. Here’s the video for that song, which I just think is exactly how this video should be.
5. Adam Lambert – Velvet
Yes, I did include an American Idol finalist in my list. For those not aware of the AI universe, you probably have heard of Adam Lambert, as he has filled in as the most recent vocalist for Queen, admirably taking on the iconic Freddie Mercury. It’s a thankless job, I am sure, but I can’t see anyone else pulling it off better than Adam. But after listening to his most recent solo album, Velvet, it is clear that Adam Lambert is a disco king deep down. It’s tough to get past his hair-style on this video, but the outfits and costumes in this video are fabulous and the song is super catchy and keeps the retro-70s/80s dance vibe of this list going strong to the end.