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rave diva feature - 1.24.2014

Disclosure cop a lot of hate, don’t they? It’s only natural, of course – tall poppy syndrome and all that – but it’s still surprising that people have a problem with underground dance music being made into pop.

The whole point of club music, going back to the birth of disco, never mind the rave era, was that it’s about pleasure – and pleasure is popular. Underground and mainstream have never been separate entities: the same people, the same riffs, the same ideas have always moved back and forth between them. Some of the greatest club records of all time have been the ones that topped the charts, and the rush of hearing a track you’ve lost your shit to in a club on pop radio is a potent one. For every deep underground track that relies on subtle electronic production and that “you have to hear on a big system, yeah?”, there has always been an up-front, in your face anthem that taps into the pleasure centres wherever it’s played, and that has equal musical and cultural value.

That’s why Disclosure’s Mary J Blige collaboration is a stroke of stone-cold, right-between-the-eyes genius – because it’s aware of this history. While their contemporaries are still tastefully sampling the velvety voices of Aaliyah and Cassie, they’ve gone right for the one R&B star closest to the style of the greatest house/rave divas. She’s gutsy, she’s churchy, she’s raw, and the track slots beautifully into the long and noble tradition of tunes featuring tough ladies hollering their hearts out over a four-to-the-floor, which work just as well whether you’re drenched in sweat in an insalubrious dive or doing the washing up with Heart FM on.

This tradition of diva dance isn’t facile or “just” pop – it takes in the most revered names of Chicago and Detroit, decades of gay club culture and the collective mental meltdown of the UK’s hardcore years, and reminds us that dance music exists in a wider continuum of soul as much as it’s part of electronic or soundsystem traditions. So from Underground Resistance to the Top Of The Pops, here are 21 belters for anyone who’s ever had a “podium moment”…

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01. BIZARRE INC
‘I’m Gonna Get You’ (feat. Angie Brown), 1992

Picture the scene: Wild Fruit, Brighton Paradox, a good four years after the track came out – so already a hoary old school classic – surrounded by 1,200 roaring homosexuals all peaking on poppers, and this comes on. Could you deny its power?

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02. BARBARA TUCKER
‘Stop Playing With my Mind’, 1999

Look: a Top Of The Pops presenter talking about “New York house” and referencing Tucker’s last single. And for all the wacky outfits and camp prancing, this is very serious NYC club music in a deep and rich tradition – and that’s how popular it was.

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03. ADEVA
‘Respect’, 1989

Again: a monumental hit single, for underground music. Yes, 1989 was the summer of love for thousands of people dancing in fields – but if you’re telling the story of how house music propagated across the UK and beyond, the charts are just as vital.

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04. BLACK BOX
‘Ride on Time’, 1989

Some people see this as a guilty pleasure now. Those people are fools. Banging piano + Loleatta Holloway = world changing greatness.

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05. ARETHA FRANKLIN
‘Pride (A Deeper Love)’ (feat. C&C Music Factory), 1989

Great in its original version, and doubly great with the Queen of Soul. If the a cappella bits don’t give you tingles, you should probably have some tests done or something.

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06. DR ROBERT
‘Wait’ (feat. Kym Mazelle), 1989

Again: 1989, pop charts, proper house music, belting diva, sorted. The Juan Atkins mix is banging too.

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07. FARLEY JACKMASTER FUNK
‘Love Can’t Turn Around’, 1986

1986. NINETEEN EIGHTY SIX, before acid, rave or any of that, and house music was putting lunatic soul singing – and lunatic behaviour – onto Top Of The Pops.

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08. ROBIN S
‘Show Me Love’, 1990

This is played to death on radio even now, but there’s a reason for that. For all its poppiness, this is a dark, fierce, attitude-filled beast of a record.

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09. KARIYA
‘Let Me Love You For Tonight’, 1988

When house music could sound like Belgian new beat meets Latin freestyle with a belting soul vocal…

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10. UNDERGROUND RESISTANCE
‘Living for the Night’ (feat. Yolanda), 1990

Every techno bore should be forced to listen to this on a loop for the rest of their lives.

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11. COLDCUT
‘People Hold On’ (feat. Lisa Stansfield), 1989

Yeah it’s cheesy and loved up and utopian – and what? It really hit the spot back then, find yourself in the right situation now and it still does. Also the a cappella has found its way over so many different beats in bootlegs and DJ sets over the years, this track is woven into the very fabric of things.

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12. JOMANDA
‘Make my Body Rock’, 1988

“Please Mr DJ get heavy on the bass…” No wonder this New Jersey classic got sampled to death in the rave era and beyond.

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13. RHYTHM FOUNDATION
‘Let The Whole World Know’, 1991

The sound of a thousand saucer-eyed northerners turning into raging animals.

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14. BFI
‘Why Not Jazz’, 1992

You could easily make a list of 20 absolutely belting Italian records with stolen vocals just from 1991-2. This is one of them, ripping off Kym Mazelle’s ‘Useless’.

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15. LOVE REVOLUTION
‘Give it to me Baby’, 1991

1 min 21 seconds: LET’S FACKIN’ AVE IT!

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16. RALPHI ROSARIO
‘You Used to Hold Me’, 1987

Foundational!

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17. CONTROL
‘Dance With Me (I’m Your Ecstasy)’, 1991

There are no words in the world better than this YouTube comment: “haha i was at wigan pier white t-shirt wrote on with illumiose markers whistles in gob on iuminous laseys lol omg then was the days woohooo xxx”

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18. MASTERS AT WORK
Can’t Get No Sleep (feat. India), 1993

All about India’s tougher-than-leather Latina pronunciation on this one. Actually does anyone play this one these days? It’s got to be ripe for a revival…

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19. DAJAE
‘U Got me Up (Danny Tenaglia Mix)’, 1994

Arguably the original Cajmere version is better – this one is very ‘shiny shoes’, and there are plenty of people who’ll argue for ‘Brighter Days’ as the big Dajae tune – but this one goes in just for that intro. Catch the crowd at the peak of the night, stop the music, turn up the lights, drop that intro, job done.

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20. ROZALLA
‘Faith (in the Power of Love)’, 1991

Never a massive pop hit like ‘Everybody’s Free’ (though it did make it to number 11), and yeah alright, this one is pretty high in sugar – but go on, give yourself up to it and revel in the fact there was a period of pop culture when these lyrics were not only acceptable but normal.

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21. TODD TERRY
‘Something Goin On’ (feat. Martha Walsh & Jocelyn Brown), 1997

A) If Jocelyn Brown didn’t appear in this list we’d have to shut up shop and go home in shame B) There is DEFINITELY something wrong with you if you don’t get why this is incredible.

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