Giorgio Moroder’s ‘Deja Vu’ is More Fresh Than Familiar (Album Review)
For nearly three decades, Giorgio Moroder's name only came up if you were a huge electronic music fan or music trivia nerd. In addition to his own twelve studio albums, the many songs the synth-disco pioneer produced include Blondie's "Call Me," Berlin's "Take My Breath Away" from Top Gun and nearly every Donna Summer hit you can think of ("I Feel Love," "Hot Stuff," "Bad Girls," etc.).
Moroder's work went largely under-appreciated after the late '80s, partly due to the low profile he maintained in subsequent years. That all changed in 2013, when he collaborated with Daft Punk on the autobiographical "Giorgio by Moroder" from Random Access Memories. The artist went back to work amid the renewed buzz, and on June 12 he released his first dance album in 30 years, Déjà Vu, on RCA.
"74 is the new 24," Moroder's vocoder-distorted voice says over layers of swirling synths on the track of the same name. As a future old person, I hope to god that's true (side note: Moroder's Vocoder would make a great band name). But the sentiment also hits on a potential concern about a septuagenarian making his return to the youth-centric world of dance music: Would this album be the auditory equivalent of a person dressing too young for their age, latching onto unflattering trends in order to stay relevant?
Fortunately, the answer is no. Déjà Vu tracks like album opener "4 U With Love" and closer "La Disco" revel in a solid dose of glitzy '70s discotheque nostalgia that longtime Moroder fans will appreciate, as will electronic music fans who've grown weary of dubstep and trap. "Back and Forth" could have been a latter-day Donna Summer banger were she still alive, though Kelis' raspy vocals give the song a texture that's all her own.
But album doesn't rest on its legacy-laurels. "Déjà Vu," "Tempted" and "Right Here, Right Now" — featuring Sia, Matthew Koma and Kylie Minogue, respectively — are standouts that harness their guest vocalists' contemporary pop heat. Taken collectively, these three tracks are the closest thing Déjà Vu has to a cohesive through line, unless you also embrace Moroder's intermittent roboto-voice vocals as a motif.
That isn't to say that all of it works. "Diamonds" with Charli XCX is a frenetic mess. And given his impeccable ear, I would have guessed that Moroder could craft a passable EDM song like his "I Do This for You" with Swedish singer Marlene — but I didn't really need him to.
As for Britney Spears' version of Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner"... to love it requires both an enduring affection for the pop star, and the ability to imagine her ever enjoying coffee and a paper alone at her local greasy spoon.
Overall, Déjà Vu is a strong effort, and one that evokes Moroder's formidable past accomplishments while taking risks and building on pop's current dance-heavy sound — a sound he was instrumental in developing. Most of the tracks weigh in around the tight three-minute-20-seconds mark, so the producer clearly aims to take hold of the Top 40 charts again. Whether he does remains to be seen.
PopCrush Rating: 3 out of 5