Saturday, January 23, 2010

Back in the Day #9: N-Trance

I haven't done a Back in the Day bit since last July, it's true. How about if I rectify that situation with a slew of posts inspired by my annual winter pop music hoard?

Good? Good.

See, in the dead of the Midwestern winter, people begin to pick up strange routines and afflictions. Personally, I'm not one for seasonal affective disorder. Instead, I suddenly get the urge to build up a massive reserve playlist of pop music. Bad pop music, mostly. Why? Because it sounds like summer, and in my car with the heat blasting it's very easy to pretend it is summer. I keep a special file marked "other music" and fill it with everything from Robbie Williams to Lil Mama to obscure Y2K girl groups like Innosense. The special file, you see, makes it easy to re-add them when necessary and delete when my desperate need for a special brand of synth beat passes.

Which brings us to our first re-discovered pop song. See, a couple weeks ago I went into the basement and recovered my VHS copy of Romy & Michele's High School Reunion (you should revisit that, by the way, it's still quite hilarious). In a club scene early in the film, I was reminded of N-Trance and their various hip hop editions of beloved disco tracks. Then, I promptly forgot. The other day, though, I ventured back into the basement to search for my massive (numbered) stack of high school mix cds (as well as my embarrassing stash of unfortunate teen pop albums) and, well, there it was: N-Trance. "Stayin Alive". Mix CD number 13. Um, score?

N-Trance was great. Not literally. I mean, as rappers go, they're on the novelty side and as music goes they tend towards Jock Jams anthems. Ironically great. You see, as I've likely explained before, I have long had a disco habit, and that habit was not so popular in my teen years. Only a few people seemed to really understand the appeal of disco's basic rhythms and the late 70's culture surrounding them. I wanted to go to Studio 54, but instead I was stuck in a high school gymnasium. Let me tell you, it's hard to be the kid who has an absurd dance prepared in the event that Chic is played at Homecoming. I mean, I loved (loved) the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever beginning at age 12. That's inexcusable in middle school. Middle schoolers have no sense of irony. Life was hard. Hard and full of Spice Girls and Freddie Prinze Jr.. Where am I going with this? Oh. N-Trance's version of "Stayin' Alive" offered a socially acceptable alternative to the falsetto of the brothers Gibb. Their variation on "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy" was another out (thanks, Night at the Roxbury soundtrack). Where other rap artists were splicing up disco tracks to create loops (see: "I'm Coming Out" in "Mo' Money Mo' Problems"), N-Trance basically just cleared out some of the lyrics, left the refrain, and added some gunshots. For this, we are thankful. Also, you know, it's just really catchy.

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