Originally released as a double-LP in 1979, Bad Girls fully established Donna Summer as pop icon. Replete with the epic production work of Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, in addition to Summer’s own songwriting, the album unanimously validated her celebrity with critics. Now, at long last, this crowning opus of Summer’s career has received a superb remastering as part of Universal Chronicles’ Deluxe Edition Series.
Donna Summer was already a flourishing presence on the pop charts, even before Bad Girls. Indeed, she had scored two massive hit singles the preceding year: one with the Paul Jabara-penned “Last Dance”, for which she won a Grammy, the other with a cover of Jimmy Webb’s “MacArthur Park”. Bad Girls, however, connected with a larger audience than any of her previous full-length albums, producing four Top 10 singles and going double platinum.
Bad Girls, with its hedonistic mood and horny themes, perfectly embodies the protean nature of Donna Summer’s career. This is, after all, the now religiously conservative Donna Summer who no longer performs her orgasmic, star-making single “Love to Love You Baby” because of her religious beliefs. This is also the same Donna Summer who supposedly made homophobic remarks years later, a claim she still denies.
A concept album, Bad Girls is sung entirely from the perspective of a streetwalker, whom Donna Summer portrays. The immortal rock-disco hybrid “Hot Stuff” opens the album, segueing effortlessly into the equally timeless title track. Summer then proceeds to camp it up on the horn-laden R&B track “Love Will Always Find You”. Summer showcases a powerfully haunting falsetto on the ballad “There Will Always Be a You”. Summer’s tone remains conversational throughout, her numerous emotional flourishes referenced by subtle pitch changes.
Moroder and Bellotte constructed an ideal sonic landscape to accompany Summer’s dramatic vocalizations. Their designs for Bad Girls are noticeably naked of disco strings, instead favoring synthesizer melodies, horn sections and the occasional saxophone riff. Moroder and Bellotte’s eclectic production give the album a more pop-friendly touch.
It is important to note that Bad Girls (Deluxe Edition)” is a two-CD reissue. Disc One contains the remastered album, whereas Disc Two, dubbed “12” Singles & More”, contains many of Donna Summer’s most important singles in their full extended forms. “Dim All the Lights”; “Last Dance”; “On the Radio”—these form the crux of the Donna Summer mythos. Also included here are the full versions of the synth-disco classic “I Feel Love” and Summer’s timely duet with Barbra Streisand, “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)”. Noticeably absent is “Love to Love You Baby”—which, in its full extended form is well over 15 minutes—no doubt due to spatial limitations.
Bad Girls (Deluxe Edition) is an excellent listen, with a fluidity that should keep discophiles and casual listeners interested. It harkens back to a time when songwriting and vocal ability were integral to modern popular music. Perhaps they will be again, someday.
// Notes from the Road
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