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January 01, 2009

Looking Forward to the 80s

by John Oseid

We're meant to look forward on New Year's Day. Well, I'm ringing in '09 with a medley of 80s movie hits. Trust me, I harbor no nostalgia for the Brat Pack era, but then, I'm not really looking back at all.

Marc Collin, the brains behind the French music collective Nouvelle Vague, brought together top young female vocalists from around the world for Hollywood, Mon Amour. The new album reinvents those 80s blockbuster songbooks by completely melting away the cheese from a synthesized decade.

In the hands of former Morcheeba singer Skye, Giorgio Moroder and Blondie's "Call Me" (used in American Gigolo 1980) turns into an acoustic number whose banjo and howling wolf interludes give it a quirky bayou feel. Her understated version of "A View to a Kill" (the theme from A View to a Kill 1985) is, excuse me, way better than Duran Duran's, and it puts romance back into the song. Above, the lush video to her 2006 European hit "Love Show" was shot in Jamaica. I'm heading to the record store shortly to find more of her work.

The rest of Hollywood, Mon Amour's tracks are super smooth (but not in an "easy listening" kind of way). The singers render 80s New Wave and rock hits into sixties, chanson-y numbers. Familiar amped-up tunes become simple but sumptuous melodies sprinkled with jazz, folk, bossa nova, and even a dash of tango. The album has its own MySpace page with links to all the artists.  More highlights after the break.

* Sorry, Sheena Easton, but on "For Your Eyes Only" (the theme from For Your Eyes Only 1981) German Dea Li makes you sound like a talent show contest. Dea Li also oozes sex appeal in "Cat People" (from Cat People 1982) while she breathlessly puts out that fire with . . . gasoline. Hey, if you have the moxie to take on the genius Bowie, much respect.

* I was already familiar with Brazil's colorful "tropical punk" singer Cibelle. Here, though, she kills with her vampy version of  "Footloose" (Footloose 1984), a song I had been happy to never encounter again. And did the world ever need to hear "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)" (Arthur 1981) again? Australian-born Nadeah's version will change your mind. Her take on Prince's baroque masterpiece "When Doves Cry" (Purple Rain 1984) is quietly sensuous.

* How do you top Simple Minds' wonderful "Don't You (Forget About Me)" (The Breakfast Club 1985)? Okay, maybe you don't, but Brit LeeLou's super-slow-mo strings and piano version holds its own. Backed by ethereal choir voices, "Flashdance&What a Feeling" (Flashdance 1983) by the Israeli Yael Naim is unhurried and melancholy. Lastly, if you can make "Eye of the Tiger" (Rocky III 1982) even listenable, great. Dane Katrin Ottosen strips it bare and gives it real emotion with quiet drumbeats and quiet vocals. Respect again.

I've now lost track of how many times I've played Hollywood, Mon Amour. Can't think of a better way to start the year than by spending a tranquil day discovering the world's next generation of vocal wizards.

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