Moroder DJ’ing last year.
As he explains on the Daft Punk track “Giorgio by Moroder,” he cut his teeth in German discothèques as the 1970s were just getting started. As the decade progressed and disco shifted from European dance clubs to American Bandstand, Moroder became a pioneer of the genre by experimenting with synthesizers and vocoders to robotic effect. This sound would go on to influence entire generations of house music producers, but in the late ‘70s, Moroder’s electronic techniques were paired with Summer, one of disco’s most talented vocalists. Together they created songs that even rock’n’roll fans could get behind: the sexual odyssey “Love to Love You Baby,” the rock crossover hit “Hot Stuff,” and of course, the immortal call from the future, “I Feel Love.”
Moroder produced a number of other disco singers aiming to be the next Summer for Oasis/Casablanca Records during this era (my personal favorite is Suzi Lane’s “Ooh, La La”). Minor dance hits at the time, Moroder’s non-Summer collaborations weren’t exactly game-changers, but oftentimes rather, one- or two-hit wonders. All the while he continued releasing his own albums. Some, like 1977’s From Here to Eternity, established the sci-fi electronic style still imitated today — and for good reason: who thinks to run a hi-hat through a vocoder?
From 1978 to 1990, Moroder composed and/or produced 14 soundtracks, which ranged from the 1980s’ most iconic films (Flashdance, Top Gun, Scarface) to the Golden Raspberry-nominated Stallone action flick Over the Top. He won three Oscars in this time and mounted the long-attempted restoration of the classic German dystopian film Metropolis with a soundtrack featuring Freddie Mercury and Loverboy. Blondie wrote “Call Me” after Moroder called them with an instrumental, which he intended as the theme for American Gigolo. Even by ‘70s and ‘80s standards, Moroder was prolific — but not all of it was exactly good. It seems that problem plagues him still today.
By working with just anyone, Moroder does himself a disservice. Déjà Vu is a fun listen throughout, but its most tasteless moments weigh down buoyant hits and bonafide camp from Sia, Charli, Minogue, and most notably, Britney. Giorgio makes Spears sounds as human as she has in years by making her sound like a fembot on purpose, for a cover of Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner.” Not only is this vocoder-heavy rendition among the best covers of anything heard this decade, it proves that the solution to Britney’s deadpan is to turn her into a hook girl for EDM bangers.
Déjà Vu would justify its existence even if the “Tom’s Diner” cover were its sole highlight, but Charli and Sia offer up what should be huge signature hits in the attitude-filled “Diamonds” and the catchy midtempo title track, respectively. Minogue’s “Right Here, Right Now” turns up the funk on her usual thing for one of her best vocal performances in recent history. When Kylie takes her falsetto out for a spin on the chorus, it’s not hard to hear a touch of Summer’s soft moans on “I Feel Love” — but really, is that any surprise? With modern-day Giorgio Moroder, you’re always going back to the future.