Hit Parade

Our annual nonscientific tip sheet for WMC/M3's breakout tracks

Back in the early days of WMC, talking about diversity meant comparing and contrasting the work of, say, Junior Vasquez with that of Danny Tenaglia. But now that M3 is a major player as well, spotlighting a host of musical genres traditionally overlooked by the house-music-heavy WMC, the parties and clubs are bumping everything from hip-hop and trance to techno and breakbeat (and, of course, house). Add in Remix Hotel, URB Village, and God knows what else, and the musical spectrum has widened tremendously.

This makes my work as your hit predictor simultaneously impossible and much more fun. WMC/M3 isn't about pushing Armand Van Helden's latest hit ad nauseam anymore (with no disrespect to Mr. Van Helden). That said, there are still some likely hit candidates to listen out for. This tip sheet was cooked up in the lab but remains an unscientific process.

M.I.A., a Sri Lankan spitfire of a b-girl by way of Londontown, has been causing major waves for quite some time; her first single "Galang" enjoyed a lot of WMC/M3 play last year. Her debut album Arular will be released in America on March 22, and DJs will still be rinsing "Galang" as well as Arular's many steel-tough selections (especially "Bucky Done Gun").

They're not brand-new, but expect heavy rotation from U.S. and UK club hits such as David Morales featuring Tamra Keenan's "Here I Am," Fischerspooner's "Just Let Go," Daft Punk's "Robot Rock," Erasure's "Breathe," and the Chemical Brothers' "Galvanize." Superpitcher's remix of DJ Hell's brooding "Je Regrette Everything," a European hit featuring the simmering vocals of Billie Ray Martin, should also be prevalent.

Some producers feel it's not necessary to reinvent the wheel to find a sensation. While it's not that creative, Soul Central's warm, Ibiza-tinged take on Derrick May's enduring Detroit techno classic "Strings of Life" has become very popular internationally, and will be hard to escape at the clubs here.

In fact it's common for DJs to use the week to unveil new remixes of already-familiar tunes. They also love to bring lots of mash-up records, those great and illicit slices of wax that blend -- or sometimes aggressively mash -- the vocals from one record with the instrumental track of another. One of the best comes from Philadelphia duo Hollertronix: It combines the music from Britney Spears's "Toxic" with the a cappella raps of Mike Jones on his Dirty South hit "Still Tippin'." An MP3 of this song is circulating on the Internet, so it might pop up in sets from DJs who mix using computer files, a phenomenon we're going to see more of this year.

But Britney, in my opinion, is still toxic. Besides, there are many more talented girl-pop songs circulating right now. At the top of this diva pile is Amerie's "1 Thing," a show-stopping R&B banger produced by Rich Harrison, who gave Beyonce's "Crazy in Love" its bombast. Also be on the listen for a mash-up record where Amerie's vocals are replaced with Usher's (as if we haven't heard him enough).

The Futureheads' dance-rock rendition of Kate Bush's "Hounds of Love" has been perked up for club use by remixers Phones and Mystery Jets. It has earned a slot on BBC Radio 1 DJ Pete Tong's "Buzz Chart," which means that dozens of British DJs are playing it as well.

For those who still worship all things electro, Ciara's hit "1, 2 Step" is a surefire choice and it's also likely to be a subject of mash-up records. There's an awful "dance remix" from unknown producer Johnny Budz that is circulating on various party radio stations around the country, but the Jazze Pha original is second to none for its groove, which sounds like Kraftwerk on an ATL holiday.

Another Atlanta hip-hop anthem that might cross over here is Crime Mob's "Stilettos," on which two hardcore high school girls named Diamond and Princess shout, "We rockin' stilettos, ho!" It's perfectly appropriate for the Jimmy Choo set.

Many DJs will play "Double Dutch," a single released late last year by the much-hyped SA-RA Creative Partners, a trio of producers who have worked with many gold and platinum artists in hip-hop and R&B (from Ice-T to Erykah Badu). But true badasses will have CD-Rs of new material from their forthcoming album, which purportedly contains collaborations with Common, Big Boi, and Me'shell Ndegeocello.

Jumping back to the old school, former Philadelphia bus driver Frankie Smith, who released his funky little ditty "Double Dutch Bus" back in 1981, is planning a "comeback" dance record for a spring release. Who knows, maybe a Philly DJ -- Jazzy Jeff or King Britt? -- plans to rock it while in town.

It's leftfield songs such as Smith's that fall into the secret weapon category: Musical bombs kept tightly under wraps in order to make a grand entrance during conference week. Often these are the truly fresh offerings that keep those of us actually interested in the music pumping out of the clubs marathon-style, year after year. I don't know about you, but that's the main reason I brave long lines, streets jammed with impossibly superficial people, and the most meat-headed nightclub security in the country (bless their peanut brains). The DJs keep bringing those tunes.

 
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