By Jeff Walsh
Donna Summer opened her recent show at the Paramount Theater in Oakland with "The Queen Is Back," a song off her hooky, fun album "Crayons," the disco diva's first in 17 years. In the song, Summer namechecks some past hits and sings about herself in third person for some unknown reason: "So many years ago, on the radio, she crept into your soul and loved to love you."
Since this is a youth site, we should probably take a step back and mention that Donna Summer was one of the biggest stars of the late 70s and early 80s, at the height of the disco era. Her hits include "Love to Love You Baby," "I Feel Love," "Macarthur Park," "Hot Stuff," "Bad Girls," "No More Tears (Enough is Enough)," "On The Radio," and "She Works Hard for the Money." Her era happened before even *I* was a teenager and, had my then-divorced mother not start going out dancing and such in the disco era, I'd probably have even less clue about her.
If you don't know Summer, it might be worth your while to check out some of her old hits (my faves are "I Feel Love," "MacArthur Park" (crazy lyrics and all), "Hot Stuff," and her duet with Barbra Streisand, "No More Tears." Or you can check out her latest album, "Crayons."
Any doubt that her audience is largely gay men at this point only needs to see the majority of attendees at her shows (although this might also be related to ticket price). But Summer doesn't hold back on playing the hits, save for "Love to Love You Baby," since her orgasmic moaning throughout the track doesn't line up with her religious beliefs.
It's amazing how many songs you know of Summer's until she keeps playing big hit after big hit. Almost 60, she puts on a full concert with dancers, backup singers, and costume changes, although Summer doesn't dance much herself. It's more of the Liza Minnelli approach: hire hot male dancers and have them choreograph routines around you.
But her voice is still in great shape, and the new album is surprisingly well put together. Summer's music has always been very producer-driven, in that you can tell which tracks are from the late 70s, which from the early 80s, and her newest tunes follow that pattern, too. They are all "2008 Dance Floor-Ready," although she does explore different high-RPM rhythms, such as reggae.
My only complaint is that she just wants to be a dance disco queen again, but you do have to wonder how much of her relates to singing "I've got my iPod, shake my body, you got me going, so naughty naughty," on "Mr. Music." Of course, the dance floor has always been her canvas, so I guess even a 17-year absence isn't going to change that.