Let's Dance (2018 Remaster)

Let's Dance (2018 Remaster)

Following 1980’s Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps), it would take David Bowie three years to release another album—the longest gap in his career up to that point. But between hit-single collaborations with Queen (1981’s “Under Pressure”) and Giorgio Moroder (the theme song to the 1982 horror flick Cat People), not to mention a starring role in a Broadway production of The Elephant Man, he was never far from the spotlight. And all those extracurricular activities were effectively warming us up for his pop-cultural takeover in 1983: On top of appearing in three major films that year, Bowie dropped Let’s Dance, the album that signified his transformation from the world’s strangest rock star into its most dashing A-list celebrity. There’s a good reason why a buff and blonde Bowie appears on the cover with boxing gloves—this album delivers hit after hit after hit after hit. From a musical standpoint, Let’s Dance is a testament to Bowie’s unique status as both a classic-rock icon and post-punk pioneer that could bridge genre and generational divides. With “Modern Love,” he updates Motown motion with New Wave moxie and comes up with an eternal wedding dance-floor-filler in the process. For the truth-in-advertising funk of the title track, he fuses the mirror-ball-twirling sensibility of producer Nile Rodgers with the virtuoso blues licks of a then-unknown Stevie Ray Vaughan, as if to single-handely peace-broker the rockers-vs.-disco war once and for all. Ironically, the greatest measure of the album’s pop-savvy is the one track that dates back to Bowie’s left-field late-1970s Euro phase: originally a strung-out dirge that appeared on Iggy Pop’s 1977 solo debut The Idiot, “China Girl” is reborn as a peppy sing-along thanks to the addition of a swooning chorus hook and enchanting Asian instrumental motif. With the album’s unimpeachable opening string of instant MTV classics, it’s easy to overlook everything that comes after, but Let’s Dance never relents in its mission to provide maximal pleasure for the widest possible audience. Bowie gives British post-glam band Metro’s seductive 1977 signature “Criminal World” a 1980s sophisti-pop makeover that should’ve sent it to the top of the charts alongside the album’s aforementioned mega-singles, while a Moroder-less remake of “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” excises the original’s slow-building intro to thrust us right into the hot ’n’ bothered action, as Vaughan’s molten licks crank up the temperature. And the closing “Shake It” is effectively a remix of “Let’s Dance” that keeps the party going with a perky, Prince-like synth riff and cheeky vocal interplay that captures Bowie at his most lighthearted. As an artist, Bowie always thrived by plugging himself into the zeitgeist and reinventing himself accordingly, but with Let’s Dance he was the zeitgeist, the platonic ideal of a mass-appealing 1980s pop star—good looks, great taste, and timeless tunes.

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