Giorgio Moroder didn't produce the Andrea True Connection, but you'd be surprised who the disco and electronic music producer did work with.
While compiling the accompanying playlist, I wondered how dance music producer Giorgio Moroder (Saturday, 6:50 p.m., Le Plur) feels about women. They are the voices of his music, including this year’s Deja Vu, where Sia, Kylie Minogue, Charlie XCX, and Britney Spears are among the women who give voice to his songs. He’s best known his production on the songs that defined Donna Summer’s career—“I Feel Love,” “Love to Love You Baby,” “Bad Girls,” “Hot Stuff,” and “On the Radio,” to name a few. He produced “Take My Breath Away” for Berlin (with singer Terri Nunn) and “Flashdance (What a Feeling)” for Irene Cara, as well as tracks for a young Janet Jackson, France Joli and more.
The neon sound castles he builds for them seems like a tribute to the women he features, but with anyone who cycles through that many women, I find myself wondering if he sees them as interchangeable. That they can be replaced if they’re problematic. Many of the women who sang on his early records were relative newcomers, including Cara and Donna Summer. Summer has told more than one version of the “Love to Love You Baby” sessions, one when she’s so embarrassed to moan and simulate sex that they had to turn out the lights, and one where she toughs it out. Even that story has awkward elements, though.
"There were a lot of people in the studio and I just couldn't get the song out,” she said. “I just couldn't imagine myself groaning in front of all these people. It was just too personal. So Giorgio threw everyone out.” Good for him, but why were people there in the studio on a day when he planned to cut that vocal? Why were there people there to throw out?
No one’s going to Moroder for his gender politics, and perhaps I wouldn’t have thought about it either had I not started this playlist with the porny songs from his 1976 Knights in White Satin. Really, Moroder songs are more about the structures that surround the women, all of which embrace the artifice of production. “Love to Love You Baby” evokes the ultra-boudoir, but he’s more commonly associated with the swelling, sequencer showcase of “I Feel Love,” the ticking, paranoid swirl in “The Chase” that made it the natural theme song for Art Bell’s Coast to Coast, and Duane Eddy’s guitar remade in 3-D by synths for “Take My Breath Away.” Moroder began using Moogs to get sounds and effects that didn’t exist, and by the ’80s he used synthesizers heighten the drama of the dance rock that became his signature, typified by his soundtrack to Fritz Lang’s silent 1927 sci-fi classic, Metropolis. It's no surprise that he found himself doing music for soundtracks, including Midnight Express, The Neverending Story, and Scarface.
Metropolis, like many projects Moroder has been involved with, has some moments of epic cheese, and perhaps that’s what makes him so interesting. He could make career-defining hits for artists, record pioneering Eurodisco before such a thing existed, but he could also cut a disco cover of Procol Harum complete with tribal pow wow drums, match Bonnie Tyler oversized emotion for oversized emotion, and give Freddie Mercury the electronic background for his own operatic passions. In short, all of Moroder’s musical accomplishment is tied to a sensibility that can lead to sublime as well as sublimely bizarre moments.