Giorgio Moroder’s first solo album since 1985 represents either a tale of overcoming odds and reclaiming success late in life, or of record-company cynicism and the stagnant state of much of pop music. Let’s check out the heartwarming option first.
Moroder, a 75-year-old Italian producer, is one of the most influential disco and electronica musicians of all time, having set the template for years of songs to come with his ‘70s work with Donna Summer. Any popular track featuring four-on-the-floor bass thump, synthesizer arpeggios on loop, and a general sense of whooshing and acceleration and robots grooving owes something to him. He kept finding success through the mid-‘80s, helping mint hits for the likes of David Bowie, Blondie, Freddie Mercury, and the Top Gun soundtrack. Then he mostly disappeared from public consciousness, until Daft Punk’s 2013 album Random Access Memories featured a track called “Giorgio by Moroder,” on which he could be heard talking about wanting to create “a sound of the future.” He’s said that song helped restart his career, and now he’s back with Déjà vu, featuring collaborations with Britney Spears, Kylie Minogue, Sia, Charlie XCX, Kelis, and other Top 40 staples.
You might expect this to be a throwback affair, one that highlights the lineage of some of today’s newest stars. Instead, it sounds like it could be the latest That’s What I Call Music Now! compilation (yes, those still exist) except for the fact that most of these songs aren’t yet popular. That the album’s on-trend, to some extent, shouldn’t surprise: Pop’s currently obsessed with dance music that has Moroder’s sonic DNA, both in the form of the sleek drama of EDM and the warm, springy disco repopularized by Pharrell.
But Moroder’s new music doesn’t just harken back to the styles that everyone else is hearkening back to—it sounds like the 2015 versions of them, like it’s been recorded with the same presets that Max Martin uses, made in the same studio as “Blurred Lines,” mixed by Calvin Harris to slot into a Las Vegas nightclub set. Accordingly, the Kylie Minogue-featuring single “Right Here, Right Now” shot to the top of the Billboard dance chart. It wouldn’t be surprising if the “Call Me Maybe”-esque title track featuring Sia, or the speak-and-spell workout “Diamonds” with Charlie XCX, or the Maroon 5 imitation “Tempted” with Matthew Koma, end up having similarly strong showings. (Meanwhile, the Britney Spears cover of “Tom’s Diner," with gloriously overdrawn production from Moroder, represents a perfectly modern act of trolling.)