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Hit Parade

Record companies love to say that their song did well at the Winter Music Conference. "This was the hit of WMC!" looks great splashed across the sales sheets and press releases.

(If I had a nickel for every hype sheet I get with this absurd claim on it, well, I would be sitting here writing this from a chaise longue on the balcony of my new Millionaires' Row condo. Or at least instructing my manservant to do it.)

Naturally they're lying more than half the time. Their song wasn't any more a winner on South Beach than it was on MTV. But dance followers in other parts of the world who weren't here won't know the difference. It's hard to contest the statement; even the people who do come here can't go to every cool party that happens.

Determining the criteria for a hit single isn't easy. This year it's doubly difficult, now that there are two music summits (M3 and WMC). Is it based on the amount of play a song gets in clubs, or the strength of a particular crowd's reaction to it? Remember, one nearly naked girl dancing on the speakers at Space 34 does not make a hit (though we suspect record labels have passed similar sights off as indications of an anthem).

Or is a true smash, like Kelis's smarmy pop song "Milkshake," merely inescapable, blaring out of pizza joints and car radios with alarming frequency? Judging from the current Party 93.1 (WPYM-FM) playlist, top contenders include David Guetta's happy-go-lucky house smash "Just A Little More Love," Motorcycle's still-ubiquitous "As the Rush Comes," and a handful of not-so-great Kylie Minogue and Beyoncé dance remixes.

This is an analysis of what is likely to be successful this year and what would be if there were any kind of fairness in the world. Ralph Falcon, one-half of the Miami production wonder duo Murk, is going to splash out with a brand-new song called "Pressure," which doesn't stray from his signature tribal punch, but also coyly plays with tension and release. Not many have their paws on this one yet, but it's a memorable tune that will stay on the Beach's shores far longer than the pale-looking visitors flying in for the week.

The U.K.'s Freaks (Luke Solomon and Justin Harris) have a label called Music For Freaks, and it, as well as its sister imprint Classic (operated by Solomon and Chicago heavyweight Derrick Carter), are perennial DJ favorites. Best of their crop in several months is the new Freaks single "The Creeps (You're Giving Me)," a spookily groovy cut with ominous minor key chords that will scare the bejeezus out of the overly intoxicated.

London crew Bugz in the Attic has a stunning remix of the Gene Harris jazz classic "Losalamitoslatinfunklovesong." It and other selections from Blue Note Revisited have been whirling around the broken beat community for quite some time and will definitely be played beyond the Blue Note party with Jazzanova and Bugz in the Attic on March 6. Keeping in the jazz vein, people are also excited about the Roy Ayers, Jr., remixes for songs taken from the recently released Virgin Ubiquity collection on British label BBE.

Ayers isn't the only Roy who is going to shine this week. Chicago producer Roy Davis, Jr.'s new song, "If You Wanna" with vocalist Terry Dexter, will have people asking about him once again. Ubiquity Records is planning to release it, along with a strong P'Taah remix and John Beltran's version of Davis's "I Know What You're Thinking," as a twelve-inch single, forcing DJs to make a tough choice among the three tracks. But play them they will.

Audiences also respond well to remixes that put urban radio hits into an electronic context, particularly since so many clubs program hip-hop anyway. So there will be more than a few DJs playing both legal and illegal reworkings of these songs. Ripe for the picking right now are Missy Elliott's "I'm Really Hot" and N.E.R.D.'s "She Wants to Move." People are still remixing "Milkshake"; Brooklyn DJ Tommie Sunshine is reportedly hitting town with one (along with new remixes he's made for everyone from Crack: We Are Rock's "Animal Trap" to Da Brat's "Boom"). Last year Tiga even recorded a cover of Nelly's "Hot in Herre," so perhaps others will follow suit by offering their own takes on popular hip-hop and R&B joints.

Speaking of covers, a couple to listen out for: Louie Vega's faithful version of Chakachas' "Jungle Fever" (better known as the backbone to 2 Live Crew's "Put Her in the Buck") and Dani Siciliano's insanely unfaithful rendering of Nirvana's "Come As You Are." There's also a new album of Stevie Wonder covers (Stevie) by California's Madlib, under the pseudonym Yesterday's New Quintet. It's still in its promotional phase, but surely a few folks have gotten hold of it and can't wait to play it.

It's embarrassing to admit, especially among true music aficionados, that crowds tend to go wild when a DJ drops an overplayed television jingle. (It's true -- I've seen people go bonkers on a dance floor to Transplants' "Diamonds and Guns" from the Garnier Fructis ad.) For those of us interested in preserving any dignity that this scene has left, a word of advice: Try to keep from losing your mind if you happen to hear the song from a Tampax commercial at a WMC party. It makes the real dance music look bad, and it would suck to have to say that this was the hit of the week.

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