Remixed and Reimagined
Billie Holiday has been lauded along with Joni Mitchell, Judy Garland, and Aretha Franklin as one of the greatest female artists of the 20th Century. The appeal of Holiday was her pained and pinched vocals; she did not have a pretty voice, and the biggest part of her appeal laid in the rough edges of her whiskey-sour pipes.
Because one listens to Billie Holiday for emotional truth, it is a little disconcerting to think of Billie Holiday dance music. One needn’t worry, this album is not the kitschy mess of Ethel Merman’s disco record, nor is it a queerly camp album - like Liza Minnelli’s dance album with the Pet Shop Boys. Instead, the album is a collection of ultra-cool remixes of Holiday classics.
If listeners have a hard time imagining Holiday’s earthy vocals couched in plush dance music, they’d be right; logic would dictate that an artist as gritty and real as Holiday would not fare well in a soundscape of synthesizers. The remixes that work best are not the ones that try to reinvent Billie Holiday as a dance diva, but the ones that attempt to reinterpret her tunes. While Tony Humphries’ vision of “But Beautiful” is sonically awesome, Holiday’s singing suffers in the dub-treatment. Better songs are “Summertime” and “He Ain’t Got Rhythm” that pull off the difficult task of placing Billie Holiday on the dance floor without making it a mess. For the most part the album works because the music covered is the rawer kind that finds itself in the headphones of urbane hipsters.