Zoë Badwi “Zoë” Album Cover and Preview

Our nation’s first lady of dance is ready to let the children have it.

Zoë Badwi must’ve been working on her inaugural solo dance album for a good two years now. To those only joining the party after the pop crossover of ‘Freefallin’, there’s much to be discovered with this forthcoming album because so many of Ms Badwi’s material has carved a mark exclusively in the dance/club world.

You gotta start with the late-2008 smash ‘Release Me’ – not to be confused with Agnes‘ dance/pop anthem – and work your way through to the 2009 ARIA Top 10 club chart hit ‘In The Moment’ with TV Rock, and more recently radio ready cuts like ‘Accidents Happen’ and ‘Carry Me Home’.

Warner Music Australia has uploaded a six-track Zoë album sampler featuring the four singles, as well as two new tracks. Here’s the verdict:

1 – ‘Freefallin’

You already know how this mega hit goes. The opening verse still ignites a flurry of faggatronic dramatic hand movements at The Peel. ‘Freefallin’ is Zoë‘s biggest hit to date and this week, it won the APRA award for Dance Release of The Year, so major kudos also to local producer Denzal Park and star songwriter Amy Pearson.

2 – ‘Release Me (TV Rock Edit)’

I remember the moment I learned that this was Zoë Badwi. Utter jaw meets floor moment. She sounds like an American dance vixen here and the slight growl in her voice kinda reminds me of a lean mean white woman version of Inaya Day. This woman is a true vocal chameleon.

3 – ‘Until You’re Over Me’

The missing piece in my Zoë appreciation has always been that much needed immense dance ballad. Look what just turned up. “Cause I can’t get over you ’til you get over me. No I can’t let you go until you set me free. Fighting my feelings on this dance floor wishing your body was next to me…” Is it too late to arrange for Ms Badwi to cover Geri Halliwell‘s album track ‘Love Never Loved Me’? Gurl, I know your people will be reading. I’ve attached the link.

4 – ‘Carry Me Home’

I know some of y’all are pressed that she’s covering a Sarah Connor song but Zoë is totally serving it vocally here. Why does it matter when the single wasn’t even released outside Germany? It probably flopped hard there anyway. I still feel that the radio/single edit is too short. Something needs to be done here.

5 – ‘Accidents Happen’

I don’t understand why this never made Top 20 on the ARIA singles chart. It was such an appropriate light weight dance/pop number to follow ‘Freefallin’. I still do face-framing actions to the “I didn’t mean to! Didn’t mean to!” bits. I’m a fan.

6 – ‘Believe You’

Uh oh, somebody just dimmed the lights and lifted the curtains on a stage covered in candles. ‘Believe You’ is a tender piano-based ballad you never saw coming from our club queen. “Don’t you remember when you wouldn’t even hold my hand. I guess that you never felt proud to be my man. I haven’t forgotten all the times that you let me down. There’s nothing you can say to turn the past around…” – for every gay who has ever dated a man in the closet, I am weeping silently for you now.

Ms Zoë has been working with various producers like TV Rock, Rogue Traders, Stuart Crichton (Pet Shop Boys and Delta Goodrem) and Static Revenger (Wynter Gordon), so it’ll be interesting to see what makes the cut. I am eagerly anticipating on it.

Footnotes:

Zoë Badwi will release Zoë in Australia on 5 August. The diva has also been signed by Atlantic Records in the US (home to pal and local label mate Wynter Gordon), Warner Music UK and Sony Music France. Global domination here we come.

Interview: Grant Smillie

DJ, producer and all-round man about town Grant Smillie chats with me about the changing dance music scene, his plans for Zoe Badwi and Wynter Gordon, and what gay people want to hear.

Download the JOY 94.9 Diff’rent Strokes interview podcast here.

Dave: Where are you heading off to? [airport lounge rumblings in the background]

Grant: I’m all over the shop at the moment – just doing a quick little trip to Sydney to do some writing, then off to Amsterdam for a conference and then playing in Astoria (London), LA, New York and then back to Australia for the festivals.

Dave: That is really packed out. Where do you find the time to make this mix tape (Neon Essential 10 – Vol. 1)?

Grant: It is a difficult proposition to try and balance it but I enjoy every part of my job so it’s not really a chore. The Neon Essential 10 is a new thing for us. It’s an online-only comp, which is exciting for us because we’ve always been associated with physical releases but these days it seems like we’re all living off our Facebooks – why leave the computer to go in store?

Dave: You’ve also been busy in the studio lately. What can we expect on that front?

Grant: Lots of new things. I’m producing Zoe Badwi’s album – we’ve got her follow up single, ‘Accidents Happen’, ready to go in the next couple of weeks and the album will drop early next year. For TV Rock, we’ve got collaborations with Dave Spoon, Afrojack, and a couple of originals, including one with Julie McKnight.

Dave: Are there plans for another TV Rock album?

Grant: At this stage, we’re just gonna keep it as singles. When we get enough singles that we’re happy with, it might turn into an album organically.

Dave: You’ve been a part of the dance music scene for ages, what changes have you noticed in the last five years?

Grant: There have been lots of changes! Musically, the indie-house thing came through and the vocals went away for a bit. The festivals have become so big that it has actually impacted the week-to-week clubbing proposition. People are burning out a lot quicker [and] we actually need people to go out week-to-week because that’s where records get broken and that’s where new music comes through. You don’t expect to hear new music all day at festivals.

Dave: Do you think attitudes have changed towards dance music?

Grant: Dance music has certainly proliferated far beyond what I ever thought it would. I know he’s always referenced but look at David Guetta and the amount of breakthrough he’s had in America – now the gigs there are huge! In Australia, for four years in a row dance acts that have dominated the ARIAS – first with TV Rock, then Sneaky Sound System, The Presets and Empire of The Sun. I said years ago that dance music’s not a dirty word and it certainly isn’t any more. It’s one of the most popular forms of music out there.

Dave: Consider this statement: “Dance music is so anonymous, it often lacks the personality that pop and pop artists have.” Do you agree?

Grant: I think it’s a valid statement. It is anonymous because the barriers for entry are so low but I think that’s a good thing. You can buy a music program for a couple of hundred bucks and away you go! You’re producing music. But the amount of money that goes into a pop act – and the amount of people it takes to put them on that pedestal, so to speak – is enormous and I don’t think the resources are there in the dance sphere to get them there, unless you’re a household name or you’ve had a breakout single like Yolanda B Cool & D Cup. But that’s one out of the blue – if you walked past them on the street, you wouldn’t know who they were but I would suggest that most people would walk past Jessica Mauboy and know who she is.

Dave: You’ve been DJing for a while now – do you think you know what gay people want to hear?

Grant: Yeah, of course! Unlike anyone else, I think the gay community has an amazing ability to pick up new music first and enjoy the classics too. I always have a good time playing for the gay crowds.

Dave: Your label Neon Records is looking after one of my favourite upcoming acts: Wynter Gordon. What’s happening there? Are you working with her?

Grant: Not personally but I did send off a track the other day for her to consider singing on. We’ve got her album – that’s coming out early next year and we’ve got a bunch of remixes done for her latest couple of records. She is an amazing, amazing talent! We’re looking to bring her out here in January/February.

Dave: I first came across her track ‘Surveillance’ years ago and it’s really interesting to see her change and now head in a dance direction…

Grant: Yeah, you’re spot on. Atlantic Records have put her with a bunch of producers and just as it turned out ‘Dirty Talk’ was remixed and it sounded great as a dance proposition, so they ran with that. She started performing at a few festivals and loved it. I think it’s probably a better change for her [because] in America, dance has become the new thing there and she’s made a smart move to jump on the forefront. The album’s not all dance by any stretch but it’s certainly more influenced that way than R&B.

QUICK THREE with GRANT SMILLIE:

1) What would you cook to impress a date?

That’s a good one! I’m a bit of a health freak so I’ll probably do a seared tuna with some sort of sesame – and maybe, we’d go out for dessert later.

2) Your favourite childhood TV show.

I used to love G Force the cartoon.

3) Not a lot of people know this but I heard you played the sax?

Yeah, definitely. I played for eight years in school and it continued on but it’s not something I’ve included on any of my records but it may well happen at some stage.

When was the last time you got it out for a jam?

About two months ago?

Ah… maybe serenading someone?

[laughs] Yeah. Exactly right.

Download Grant Smillie’s Neon Essential 10 mix tape

Check out our radio show: Diff’rent Strokes on JOY 94.9