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Virgin Gets the Dance Music Right On Virgin Records’ Dance Hits

This compilation is the subject of an interesting marketing campaign by Virgin Records. Virgin has joined with Bally Total Fitness to push this collection as an outstanding accompaniment to workouts in Bally clubs and at home. Virgin is also doing its usual marketing to dance radio stations as well. So, look for cuts from Virgin Records’ Dance Hits to be blasting from your car radio and juicing your workout on that step machine or while you’re pumping iron. The main question for me, however, is whether this is simply a paint-by-numbers derivative view of current dance music or a high-quality compilation. My inclination, happily, is toward the latter.

First, Virgin Records chose to sign on Jason Nevins to mix the overall collection as well as include a few remixes of his own. Nevins has always shown a true affection for a wide range of music that can be played on the dancefloor and this trait shows through here. He was not limited to releases from the Virgin label which allows for a wider scope of music. Nevins’ own mixes blend well with the surroundings but are not used in a way to advertise his talent over that of the other artists, producers and mixers represented. Virgin Records’ Dance Hits brings you 9 dance chart hits, including 3 #1s, among the 16 tracks smoothly sequenced to sound like a club grand tour. If you’re looking for true extended mixes to be played in the club or cutting-edge music, you won’t find it here, but if you want a 70 minute quality overview of hot mainstream sounds in today’s dance clubs, this set does it well.

Highlights abound on this collection. The 3 #1 dance hits chosen, Sander Kleinenberg’s aggressive mix of Janet’s ‘All Nite (Don’t Stop)’, Daft Punk’s retro-electro ‘One More Time’, and Scumfrog’s gorgeous mix of Dirty Vegas’ ubiquitious ‘Days Go By’ (otherwise known as the Mitsubishi song for its use in TV ads) nicely bracket the other tracks. There is some relatively uninteresting textbook dance music here, notably songs by contemporary Christian chanteuse Stacie Orrico, Mynt and Mike Rizzo, but once Shape : UK’s (a US alias for the Shapeshifter) retro disco on ‘Lola’s Theme’ kicks in, the remaining 50 minute ride is a good one. A smile broke across my face listening to the electroclash-influenced trio of cuts by Self Serve, Kylie Minogue, and N.E.R.D. with the procession of refrains of ‘Ride the pain into the pleasure’ followed by ‘You’ll never get to heaven if you’re scared of gettin’ high’ and finally the hysterical ‘Her ass is a spaceship I want to ride.’ Brilliant selections by Nevins for the exercise crowd!

In a sea of mass-produced dance compilations Virgin Records’ Dance Hits stands out. Mixer Jason Nevins takes you on a quick, but thorough, tour of mainstream club music. Along the way you hear straightforward house, smooth electronica, and touches of techno. Nevins even includes his own mix of a possible new star in the making. Brooke Valentine’s ‘Blah blah blah’ is an entertaining piece of hip hop mixed for the dancefloor, and her debut album arrives October 19th. To bring the club home, exercise or dance, pick up this collection.

About Bill Lamb