Riddle Me List: Eight Reasons Why 80's Donna Summer Ain't So Bad

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Donna Summer will always have tacked to her name: Disco Queen Almighty as she brought disco to the masses and made us all either cringe or throw glitter up in the air. While I truly think her 1977 Once Upon A Time opus should be taken up by Andrew Lloyd Webber and be made into a budget busting musical, Donna's best moves were made in the 80's. No joke. While Donna hit and missed throughout the decade of greed, Donna did more than what was expected. She genre hopped, she unleashed Christian tunes, she paid homages to George Gershwin and she teamed up with Quincy Jones and Stock, Aiken and Waterman---all in one decade! Eight reasons as to why 80's Donna isn't something to turn your nose up on:

1. Donna Rocks Out

The disco ball was demolished in 1979...no worries for Donna. Summer releases The Wanderer at the dawn of the 80's, and while not a commerical success, the album is one of her finest hours. Pegged as a testament to the "wandering" state of disco/funk artists as they tried to accustom themselves to the new-wave/synth movement, The Wanderer shows Donna in "wild child" mode. Great cuts like "Cold Love", "Looking Up!" and "Breakdown" are evidence that Donna kicked off the 80's just right.

2. The Missing In Action I'm A Rainbow

The 80's gave us I'm A Rainbow but the album was shelved for about a good ten years by Geffen Records till it was released in 1994. Still I'm A Rainbow is a double-vinyl treat where half of the songs appeared on 80's cult fave soundtracks such as Flashdance and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, or just collected dust. Still it's an ambitious album filled with a balanced amount of fiery new-wave tunes and soulful warm ballads....if this sucker had been released back in 1981 there would have been diva mutiny!

3. The All Systems Go album

Before someone calls FOUL, let me just say that 1987's All Systems Go is the most criminally underrated album Donna has released in her whole career. True facts. What is overlooked is that ASG is consistent and chock filled with contagious synth pop treats that didn't need to be subjected to the bargain bin. While it's not ground-breaking by any means, ASG is Donna competing rather wonderfully with the likes of Madonna, Janet Jackson and even Sade, no joke!

4. Working With Quincy Jones

After I'm A Rainbow was thrown into the vault, Donna was quickly made by Geffen to recruit Quincy Jones for production help on a replacement album. Donna Summer was crafted and while most fans like to crucify it, it's not bad as some make it out to be. In fact, Quincy Jones (along with Rod Temperton) give Donna some slick production and got her back to her R&B roots. Plus working with Quincy is always a surefire way that a gaggle of guest performers will give ya a boost. Stevie Wonder, Dionne Warwick, Kenny Loggins, James Ingram and an out-of-place Dyan Cannon all make appearances. Yeah, the Bruce Springsteen and Ringo Starr covers are duds, but a stirring reading of "Lush Life" is worthy. And to think this album was released the same year as Michael Jackson's Thriller....

5. Donna Finds Jesus...and Sings About It

Donna became a born-again Christian at the dawn of the 80's and she put her "Hot Stuff" days behind her. During the decade, she made some notable songs that touched on her new found faith but never strayed from her signature style. Instead of being overly obvious, Donna opted to be clever not come off so preachy in most of the tracks she did. Her Grease bop of "He's A Rebel" is quite snappy citing Jesus as a "rebel with a cause". Donna even kept it traditional as she scored a Grammy nomination in 1981 for the lovely, "I Believe In Jesus".

6. Donna 'Works Hard' For MTV Air Time

We all know MTV used to play music videos. They also used to filter their music videos. Yep, filter...and most of the videos in the channel's early stages that were filtered were from African-American artists. Thanks to Michael Jackson, Prince, Tina Turner and Donna, that filter was demolished. Not only is the career girl anthem, 1983's "She Works Hard For The Money" one of Donna's biggest hits, but it was also the first video by a Black female artist to be on heavy rotation. Talk about a revolution! And if we want to get technical, without "SWHFTM" we wouldn't have all those "independent women" anthems that almost every R&B girl group from the 90's sang...

7. Donna Takes A Piece Of Gum From SAW

When you think of the producing team of Stock, Aiken and Waterman, you think: fast-paced, swelling and perky pop confections, and by golly you are correct! Donna recruited SAW to produce the whole-she bang of 1988's Another Place & Time. While the album loses it's gumball flavor after track no. 5, you gotta admit, it was gutsy for Donna to take on SAW as they catered to a younger crowd. Plus without that collabo we wouldn't have the teeth rotting pop hit of "This Time I Know It's For Real".

8. Donna Summer's Best Song Since "On The Radio"

Where can you find jazz hands, fringed skirts, big hair, hip wiggles, close-ups of Donna's face and a great Brenda Russell song all in one video? "Dinner With Gershwin" that's where. And to think there isn't much going on in the vid, yet it's still surprisingly entertaining!


  1. 1984 "cats without claws" featuring singles like
    "There goes my baby" "Supernatural love" "eyes" & "i'm free"
    the Quincy Jones album is my favourite from Donna 80's..


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