Monday, February 4, 2008

"I Feel Love" Donna Summer

“I Feel Love” is the ultimate disco statement. So much is going on here. First off, it’s entirely synthesized. There are no acoustic instruments. While most disco songs released during that period incorporate orchestral arrangements (piano glissandos, lush strings etc.), “I feel Love” is entirely inorganic. It is cold, mathematical and as efficient as a German automobile factory assembly line. If Bach were alive in the seventies he would have composed “I Feel Love.” How appropriate is it that Giorgio Moroder would later provide a modern soundtrack for the 1984 re-release of Metropolis?

Providing a vivid counterpoint to Moroder’s robotic, insistent production is, of course, Donna Summer’s ethereal vocals. She is the ghost in the machine. Referring again to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, her vocals are like the presence of beautiful and angelic Maria in the otherwise cold dystopic urban environment she seeks to redeem.

The lyrics are also a strange addition to this composition. No narrative really. Three words: I feel love. Repeated several times. (There are other lyrics but they’re equally minimal and forgettable.) Where would “love” exist in such a cold, mechanical universe? And these “feelings”? Who is having them and why? Is this love in and of itself, or is it a more transient “feeling” of love that comes to people momentarily in the state of orgasm or drug use? This “love” Ms. Summers sings about is certainly not the stuff of chaste dates and wedding anniversaries. One imagines a dark disco full of dazzling lights and beautiful strangers with perfect physiques. You are there alone feeling intimidated. An attractive person introduces him or herself to you and offers you drugs. You take them and go out on the dance floor. Feelings of isolation and alienation disappear as the drugs kick in, your libido rises and you are rubbing up against people’s sweaty bodies. You feel love. But it is not really love. It is a feeling that is as skillfully and artificially produced as Moroder’s synthesized bass line. One can almost forgive Ms. Summers for subsequently becoming a Christian!

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