Donna Summer may rightfully carry the Queen of Disco title, but to be cast solely in this light is a disservice to her considerable talents. Unlike the bulk of disco artists, Summer was never a one-hit wonder thanks to a willingness to push stylistic boundaries combined with formidable pipes that earned her longevity denied to peers like Anita Ward and Vicki Sue Robinson. If anything, she's proved to be the Queen of the Comeback, whether it was with a 1983 anthem for working women or a commercially fruitful late-'80s collaboration with British dance-pop team Stock Aitken Waterman.
That said, Summer has always had a nose for finding talented people to work with and for her first album of new material in seventeen years, she's reached out to a number of current pop composers including Greg Kurstin (Pink, Kylie Minogue), Danielle Brisebois (Kelly Clarkson), and J.R. Rotem (Rihanna, Sean Kingston). In addition, there's plenty of stylistic experimentation that yields quite a mixed bag of results. On the one hand, Summer has a ball easing into the breezy bossa nova of "Drivin' Down Brazil," unleashing her inner Tina Turner via the electro-blues stomper "Slide Over Backwards," and switching gears with "Sand on My Feet," a catchy acoustic gem reminiscent of Dionne Farris. Problems crop up when too many technical flourishes are added to the mix, such as the Kraftwerk-meets-Gwen-Stefani excess of "Mr. Music" or the title track that features an unrecognizable-sounding Ziggy Marley amid slick production that makes it come off as a failed Milli Vanilli experiment. Summer redeems herself on "Fame (The Game)," a cautionary morality tale dressed up in beeping synths, a pounding dance beat, and airy vocal breaks straight out of Ray of Light. Not quite a comeback befitting a queen but far from being the emperor's new clothes. (Burgundy)
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