Photo: aLIVE Coverage/Ultra Music Festival
Will Smith and Marshmello
Inside Ultra Music Festival's Record-Breaking 20th Anniversary
Look back at the amazing surprises and record-setting stats from Ultra's 20th anniversary
As the event set to celebrate a whirlwind 20 years in the game grew closer, expectations were unbelievably high for Ultra Music Festival 2018. The dizzying, non-stop bacchanalia spread across three gorgeous days saw staggering attendance, record-setting viewer numbers on the official livestream, and countless amazing surprises.
With marquee performances by festival mainstays like Tiësto and David Guetta, plus a whole host of incendiary sets lighting up the floor throughout the weekend, Ultra 2018 had something for every flavor of dance music fan. With such a variety – and immensely high quality – of both talent and production, it's no surprise that the 20th anniversary of the festival drew over 165,000 attendees from 60 countries around the world, while the official livestream drew a record-shattering 30 million (!) viewers worldwide.
Surprise appearances by music's biggest acts are always a part of the energy and excitement that takes over downtown Miami each year, but for their 20th birthday Ultra pulled out all the stops. Along with scheduled performances from both Rabbit In The Moon and Josh Wink – both of whom played the very first installment of the dance festival in 1999 – attendees were treated to shocking surprise appearances by Above & Beyond, Halsey, Desiigner, Yo Gotti, and even Will Smith, who took the stage with Marshmello and banged out his timely international smash hit "Miami."
And of course, the close of the festival brought about what will undoubtedly remain one of the most talked-about surprises of the 2018 festival season: the triumphant return of Swedish House Mafia after a nearly five-year hiatus following their supposedly last-ever performance together at Ultra 2013.
The intersection of the event's special anniversary, its unparalleled slate of scheduled talent and unbelievable roster of surprise guests led Ultra to once again take the crown as No. 1 trending topic on worldwide social platforms over the weekend for the fifth year in a row. In addition, the festival's extensive advance communication and collaboration with local, state and federal authorities helped pave the way for a collective execution of security and safety measures that was categorized by EDMTunes as, "the safest Ultra Music Festival ever."
Attendees still buzzing from this year's massive intersection of dance music and culture – as well as the untold millions still working to get over their post-festival F.O.M.O. – need not fear the long interim between now and next year's Ultra, as the dates are officially confirmed for their 21st installment: March 29 – 31, 2019. Mark your calendars now!
Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images for iHeartMedia
8 Times Dance Stars Channeled Their Inner Punk Kid, From Deadmau5 & Gerard Way To Rezz & Silverstein
With the release of Rezz's new emo-loving EP, 'It's Not A Phase,' dig into eight songs that saw the dance and rock worlds collide.
At first glance, the worlds of rock and dance music might appear diametrically opposed. Dig a little deeper, though, and the two genres share more than just a love for all-black outfits.
In recent years, a wave of dance stars have embraced their inner mosher by collaborating with their favorite metal, post-hardcore, emo, and pop-punk artists, creating a mutant sound with a foot in both spaces. Just this month, Canada's dark bass maestro Rezz released a winkingly titled EP, It's Not A Phase, which channels the punk and metal she loved as a teen. (On release day, she posted an old photo in front of a My Chemical Romance poster, with the caption, "this one's for everyone who had an emo phase.")
The EP followed Illenium's self-titled album in April — which features several of the Denver producer's rock heroes — while the likes of Marshmello, Kayzo and Excision have also tried their hands at rock/dance collaborations. For DJ-producers who grew up on raw guitars and tear-the-house-down vocals, it's a natural next step.
Of course, this mixing of worlds is not just a recent phenomenon. For decades, dance artists have remixed, borrowed from, and occasionally collaborated with their rock counterparts. From the punkish ferocity of the Prodigy's 1997 album The Fat of the Land to Justice's Slipknot-sampling "Genesis" ten years later, the examples are endless.
In the decade since the EDM boom minted a new generation of superstars, crossover collaborations have increasingly positioned the dance artist in the lead. In honor of this phenomenon, we're head-banging our way through eight of the best.
deadmau5 feat. Gerard Way — "Professional Griefers" (2012)
Back in 2012, as EDM was taking over America, deadmau5 was busy touring an early iteration of his eye-popping 'Cube' show and preparing to release his sixth studio album, > album title goes here <. Ahead of the LP, the producer born Joel Zimmerman released "Professional Griefers," a hard-charging dance-rock stomper featuring My Chemical Romance vocalist Gerard Way.
While fans had already heard an instrumental version of the track in deadmau5's live shows, Way's vampy vocals brought the rock swagger, even as the production remained resolutely electronic. To celebrate the release, the collaborators appeared as gamers piloting a UFC battle between two giant mau5-headed robots in what Zimmerman told SPIN was "one of the highest-budget electronic music videos of all time." And yes, it's as extra as it sounds.
Steve Aoki feat. Fall Out Boy — "Back To Earth" (2014)
Steve Aoki is one of dance music's most voracious collaborators, teaming up with everyone from will.i.am to Louis Tomlinson to Backstreet Boys. He's also a punk rocker from way back, having jumped between hardcore bands as a singer and guitarist in his pre-fame life.
These passions have intersected throughout Aoki's DJ/producer career in his collaborations with Linkin Park and blink-182, as well as Rifoki, the straight-up hardcore band he formed with Sir Bob Cornelius Rifo of the Bloody Beetroots.
In 2014, Aoki joined forces with pop-punk favorites Fall Out Boy on "Back To Earth," which featured on his collab-stacked album, Neon Future I. In an interview with Billboard, Aoki explained that the band worked on their live instrumentation in a separate studio before he added the dance elements, and the result was "one of my favorite rock collaborations."
The Bloody Beetroots feat. Jason Butler — "Crash" (2017)
Like his friend and collaborator Steve Aoki, the Bloody Beetroots' masked leader Sir Bob Cornelius Rifo is a punk at heart. That raucous spirit was present on the breakout Aoki/Beetroots team-up, "Warp 1.9" (2009), then turned up to 11 in their aforementioned hardcore band, Rifoki.
In 2017, after a few years away from the limelight, Sir Rifo delivered the third Bloody Beetroots album, The Great Electronic Swindle, featuring guests like Jane's Addiction frontman Perry Farrell, GRAMMY-nominated singer-songwriter Greta Svabo Bech, and Australian rock band Jet.
On "Crash," the Italian producer hooked up with post-hardcore singer Jason Butler, of Letlive and Fever 333, to make a heavy, distorted and shouty head-banger that honors both of their styles. In true punk fashion, it's over and out in just over two minutes.
Kayzo & Underoath — "Wasted Space" (2018)
Few DJ-producers relish the opportunity to slam together dance music and rock quite like Houston-born Kayzo. For his 2019 album, Unleashed, the rising star secured some of his favorite metal, hardcore and pop-punk acts as guests, including Of Mice & Men, Boys of Fall, Blessthefall, and Alex Gaskarth of All Time Low.
One of the album's standouts, "Wasted Space," pairs Kayzo with Underoath, the Florida metalcore outfit who previously collaborated with Rezz on her 2019 release, "Falling." The collaboration is equal parts metal — with dueling vocalists Aaron Gillespie and Spencer Chamberlain at full-tilt — and shuddering bass drops built for an EDM main stage.
Marshmello feat. A Day To Remember — "Rescue Me" (2019)
Perma-helmeted producer Marshmello has enjoyed a whirlwind decade, with a famously prolific output that includes several dance and pop hits. In 2019, he surprised fans by announcing a team-up with Florida four-piece A Day To Remember, whose metalcore meets pop-punk sound is a far cry from Marshmello's usual vibe.
Their collaboration, "Rescue Me," finds an easy middle ground between crunching rock guitars, frontman Jeremy McKinnon's impassioned vocals, and Marshmello's skittering trap-pop beats. In an interview with Kerrang! Radio, McKinnon recalled his surprise at how quickly Marshmello shared the chorus on socials, adding that he wishes rock artists could be as spontaneous.
Illenium and All Time Low — "Back To You" (2023)
Hot on the heels of his first GRAMMY nomination in 2022, Denver-based phenom Illenium got back in the studio to make another album straight from the heart. The producer's self-titled fifth LP took inspiration from his teenage years listening to the likes of blink-182 and Linkin Park, while staying true to his own bass-heavy aesthetic.
Thanks to his stadium-filling stature, Illenium assembled a starry lineup of guests, including pop-punk royalty Avril Lavigne and Travis Barker on "Eyes Wide Shut" and metalcore band Motionless in White on "Nothing Ever After." Early fan favorite "Back To You" features the full force of pop-punkers All Time Low going up against Illenium's furious drops — and achieving perfect harmony.
Excision, Wooli, and The Devil Wears Prada — "Reasons" (2023)
Fellow bass lovers Excision and Wooli are frequently paired, whether they're going back-to-back as DJs or co-producing EPs like 2019's Evolution and 2023's Titans. This time around, the collaborators decided to try something outside their comfort zone, calling up Ohioan metalcore band The Devil Wears Prada to bring their distinctive grit to "Reasons."
In contrast to more pop-leaning entries on this list, "Reasons" is unapologetically heavy from the halfway mark, morphing back-and-forth from metalcore theatrics to hard-hitting wubs. In a statement, The Devil Wears Prada described this team-up as "uncharted territory" for the band, and their gamble paid off.
Rezz, Tim Henson, and Silverstein — "Dreamstate" (2023)
In a statement accompanying her new EP, It's Not A Phase, Rezz notes that she "grew up listening to bands exclusively, and over time developed an understanding of what it was about those songs that I loved."
That innate grasp of rock dynamics is on full display throughout Rezz's most vocal-driven release to date, with guest turns from the likes of Alice Glass, Johnny Goth, and Raven Gray. On "Dreamstate," Rezz embraces her inner emo kid with the help of Canadian post-hardcore band Silverstein and metal guitar prodigy Tim Henson, undergirding her guests' contributions with dark, stabbing bass.
"I listened to a bunch of Silverstein growing up, so it felt nostalgic to me," Rezz told Front Row Live Ent., before admitting that it was "the hardest song I've ever mixed." The extra sweat resulted in a one-of-a-kind collaboration, proving once again that dance music and rock are a potent mix — one with plenty of fuel left in the tank.
Photo: Don Arnold/Getty Images
9 Artist-Hosted Podcasts You Should Check Out Now: Sam Smith, David Guetta, Norah Jones & More
From Dua Lipa to Joe Budden, some of music's biggest names have added "podcast host" to their impressive resumes. Grab your headphones and take a listen to nine of the most insightful and creative shows led by artists.
As podcasts have become increasingly popular among listeners, they've also become a preferred playground for music makers to express themselves — and in turn, show a new side of their artistry.
Whether it's hours-long interviews courtesy of early adopter Questlove, breezy conversations with a musical accompaniment by Norah Jones, or a vital history lesson from Sam Smith, podcasts are allowing artists to further connect with their fans. And though there's already a disparate array of musician-led shows out there, it's seemingly just the beginning of a new podcast wave.
Below, get to know nine of the most interesting artist-hosted podcasts available.
A relatively new addition to the podcast sphere, Norah Jones is Playing Along is exactly what it sounds like. Hosted by the "Come Away With Me" crooner, the show features Jones jamming on a piano with a cadre of her musician friends and colleagues. The show's guest list is similarly varied, with recent episodes including memorable conversations with indie folk artist Andrew Bird, country singer-songwriter Lukas Nelson and jazz virtuoso and Robert Glasper all of whom took viewers on a musical journey through their catalogs and beyond.
Known as music's wise sage, legendary music producer Rick Rubin showcases his zen energy and insatiable passion for music on this informative podcast, which he hosts alongside journalist-author Malcolm Gladwell, New York Times editor Bruce Headlam and producer Justin Richmond. Much like Rubin's list of collaborators — which has ranged from everyone including Johnny Cash, Adele and Rage Against the Machine — the show zig-zags between insightful interviews with a range of music's most accomplished names, including Giles Martin, Feist, Usher, The Edge, Aaron Dessner, and Babyface.
Aside from her GRAMMY-winning music career, pop icon Dua Lipa has a bubbling entrepreneurial streak in the form of Service 95, a multi-platform lifestyle brand which includes a newsletter and special events. It also produces the popular podcast At Your Service, on which Lipa interviews a diverse range of personalities including musicians (collaborators Charli XCX and Elton John), cultural luminaries (Dita Von Teese) and activists (Brandon Wolf) for laidback conversations about their respective careers.
Amid his roles as a founding member of the Roots, bandleader on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," a prolific filmmaker and a best-selling author, Questlove adds podcast host to his rich cultural tapestry with Questlove Supreme. The show prides itself on loose, intimate and in-depth conversations with a who's who of music's luminaires, whether a multi-hour, emotional chat with Mariah Carey, an insightful conversation with trumpet legend Herb Alpert, or icons ranging from the late Wayne Shorter to Bruce Springsteen and manager Shep Gordon.
British songstress Jessie Ware teams up with her mother, Lennie, on this effervescent podcast, which showcases the "Free Yourself" singer munching on a delicious home cooked meal while having a conversation that's equally scrumptious. Whether the two are having pink salmon with Pink, eggplant pie with Shania Twain or spinach pie and florentines with Kim Petras, it all makes for an extremely listenable (and hunger-inducing) spin on the medium.
Earlier this year, Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Flea launched the interview series This Little Light, which zeroes in on the importance of music education. In short order, the podcast has already boasted heavy-hitter guests, including Cynthia Erivo, Patti Smith and Margo Price. "I wanted to do This Little Light to benefit my music school, the Silverlake Conservatory of Music," he said in a statement upon its release. "The idea behind it being music education, falling in love with music and embarking on a musical journey for your life. Everybody's path is so different, and it's fascinating to learn how every musician came to music and developed their study of it over time."
Five-time GRAMMY winner Sam Smith hosts a touching and informative history of the AIDS crisis from a UK perspective — from the earliest, heart-wrenching days of the disease to modern-day tales, including the death of Terry Higgins (one of the region's earliest deaths) as well as breakthrough treatments. Meticulously researched and told in a documentary-style, the BBC podcast is equal parts inspiring and heartbreaking — but above all, demonstrates that artists can effectively tell stories beyond the realm of music, while raising awareness at the same time.
A departure from every other podcast on this list, dance music king and David Guetta strays from the interview format and lets the music do the talking. Guetta hosts this weekly hour-long podcast doubles as a playlist, which features a selection of songs handpicked by Guetta himself. Typically opening with a remix from Guetta himself (he recently featured his spin on Kim Petras' and Sam Smith's GRAMMY-winning hit "Unholy,") the show then explores a variety of electronic tracks from a disparate list of artists, including tracks from dance music mavens Olivier Giacomotto, Idris Elba and Robin Shulz.
Still going strong eight years after its launch, The Joe Budden Podcast is hosted by the eponymous rapper and his friends as they talk through matters of hip-hop and their own lives, with recent topics focusing on everything from Cher's love life to the Met Gala. Each episode — which regularly hovers around the three-hour mark — is like being a fly on the wall to Budden and friends. Of course, there's celebrity interviews along the way, with headline-making chats with the likes of Akon and N.O.R.E.
Photo: Courtesy of Atlantic Records
Inside Tiësto's Pulse-Pounding Musical World: 7 Keys To His Global Superstardom & Journey To New Album, 'Drive'
On the heels of releasing his seventh album, 'Drive,' Tiësto details the secrets to his long-term success as one of dance music's biggest stars — from collaborating with artists he loves to staying true to himself.
Tiësto has been at the top of his game for the past 20 years. With a reliable string of monster hits, starry collaborations and an immense stage show, the beloved DJ/producer has been a revolutionary force that helped electronic music explode onto the global stage.
Now, the GRAMMY-winning Dutch superstar is back with Drive. His seventh album, it features all of the star's typical calling cards, from heart-pounding singles perfect for the dance floor to a cadre of buzzy artists lending their vocals (Tate McRae and Charli XCX included). Naturally, its advance singles have already collected over 3.5 billion streams.
While on a brief respite from his busy touring schedule, Tiësto took GRAMMY.com through his massive career, recounting his collaborations, inspirations and how he's stayed relevant.
Songwriting Rooted In Inspiration
When it comes to Tiësto's creative process, the producer admits "it's always different." That includes the process leading up to the inner-working of Drive, his first album since 2020's pandemic-era The London Sessions and his first conceptual album since 2009's Kaleidoscope.
"Sometimes I'll hear a sound that inspires a melody, other times I'll hear a lyric or a vocal and I know exactly what I want it to sound like," he says. "I'll start messing around and having fun with it," he says. It's that adventurous spirit that results in unique production techniques, from his signature vocal tones and pounding synths.
His Blockbuster Live Shows Impact His Studio Work
Early on in his bubbling career, Tiësto was one of the first DJs who regularly played expansive, theatrical sets which wood record-breaking masses of people. It was in the summer of 2007, during a nearly six-hour set at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, when he performed what was "the largest-ever single-DJ show in North American history, featuring full-production and arena-scale theatrics the likes of which the dance community has never seen," according to Reuters.
As a result, he says his stage show is always top of mind when he's in the studio. "My main goal is thinking about how the song can fit into my performances," he explains.
One performance that stands out as one of his most memorable? "Being the first DJ to close the main stage of Coachella."
An Ear For Smash Hits
Proving his status as a hitmaker, Tiësto teamed up with pop star Ava Max on Drive single "The Motto," which first dropped in 2021. The song has since reached the top of Billboard's Dance Chart and has garnered one billion streams on Spotify.
"I had the idea for the song but needed the right vocal," he remembers of the global hit. "Once I heard Ava, I knew it was a perfect fit. Her voice is just incredible, and I can't imagine the song any other way."
A Career Built On Collaboration
"It really varies, but generally I find myself collaborating with artists whose music and voice I really love," he explains. "It's all about getting the best song possible and not just putting a name on the record."
To that end, Drive includes features from the likes Colombian star and GRAMMY nominee Karol G (she lent vocals to their hit single "Don't Be Shy", which marked her first-ever English song) and British pop star and GRAMMY winner Charli XCX (the sizzling track "Hot In It.")
Disparate (And Unexpected) Influences
Considering his towering stature in dance, one would think Tiësto would cite an act from the genre as an early inspiration. But that's far from the case when it comes to two of his bigger influences. He mentions classic rockers Iron Maiden, whom Tiësto calls a "childhood favorite," and notes his love for Elvis Presley.
"Perhaps because of my connection to Las Vegas, I love the music of Elvis," says the producer, who has played several Vegas nightclubs throughout his career, most recently holding a residency at Zouk. "He's one of my all time favorites."
Knowing When To Slow Down
Even with a jam-packed schedule of nightclubs and festivals, Tiësto is quick to note that his key to staying sane on the road lies far from the club.
"There's no better way for me to unwind than relaxing with my family," says the father of two. "And when they can't be there, they are my first FaceTime after a show."
Straying From Trends
In the fickle, fast-moving dance genre, Tiësto has been a rare case of a multi-decade success story. In his mind, staying grounded is the key to that longevity.
"The industry and trends are always changing, I think it's all about evolving your craft over time but staying true to yourself," he says. "I've been through many eras in my career because I like to keep it fresh and am inspired by everything around me as well. Staying true to your sound and not being highly influenced by trends is key and how we push the dance culture forward."
Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
A History Of Casablanca Records In 10 Songs, From Kiss To Donna Summer To Lindsay Lohan
As the Casablanca Records story hits the big screen with ‘Spinning Gold’ on March 31, revisit some of the hits that have defined the now-reinvented label’s legacy.
Over the past five years, some of the most famous (and infamous) stories of the music industry have hit movie theaters, from Freddie Mercury’s meteoric arrival in Bohemian Rhapsody to Elton John’s breakthrough years in Rocketman, and most recently Whitney Houston’s remarkable rise in Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody. Now it’s time for the big-screen debut of a name that might not be as familiar: trailblazing record executive Neil Bogart.
Bogart is the outsized personality at the center of a new biopic, Spinning Gold, which hits theaters March 31. The film tracks the monumental first decade of Casablanca Records, the larger-than-life label that Bogart dreamed up in the summer of 1973.
The industry upstart defied the odds to become one of the definitive labels of the 1970s, with a highly eclectic roster that included KISS, Donna Summer, Village People and George Clinton’s Parliament. At the same time, Casablanca Records typified 1970s excess, with infamous stories of drug-fuelled parties, flagrant spending and unchecked egos — all rich material for a big-screen treatment.
Written and directed by Bogart’s eldest son Tim, Spinning Gold stars Jeremy Jordan as Bogart alongside a cast of current music luminaries in key roles, including Wiz Khalifa as George Clinton, Tayla Parx as Donna Summer, Ledisi as Gladys Knight and Jason Derulo as Ron Isley. (The hit-filled soundtrack is just as star-studded.)
After he was pushed out at Casablanca, Bogart went on to found Boardwalk Records (signing a young Joan Jett) before his tragic death in 1982, at the age of 39. In the decades since, Casablanca has had several lives, including its reinvention as a dance music label in 2012.
To celebrate the release of Spinning Gold, we’re taking a trip back through 10 of the label’s hallmark releases from the 1970s to the 2010s.
KISS, "Rock and Roll All Nite" (1975)
Neil Bogart’s first gamble as a label boss was on New York shock rockers KISS. Bogart signed the band to Casablanca Records on the strength of their demo tape, recorded with DIY grit alongside former Jimi Hendrix producer Eddie Kramer. While initially dubious of the group’s garish makeup, he backed their lean and mean 1974 debut album, KISS, even as it failed to ignite the charts.
As detailed in Classic Rock Magazine, KISS played Casablanca’s launch party at Los Angeles’ Century Plaza Hotel, bemusing the glamorous crowd to a flurry of smoke bombs and a levitating drum kit. Bogart stuck by his hard rockers, and in 1975 they released Dressed to Kill, featuring the undeniable anthem "Rock and Roll All Nite," one of KISS’ setlist staples to this day.
As the story goes, Bogart, who is a credited producer on "Rock N Roll All Nite," challenged songwriters Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons to write the definitive KISS song. Later in 1975, the band hit No. 9 on the Billboard 200 with the live album, Alive!, and their fire-breathing, fake-blood-spitting path was set.
Parliament, "Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker)" (1976)
If KISS represented one extreme of Casablanca’s early catalog, George Clinton’s Parliament confirmed there was no rulebook. Bogart recognised Clinton’s shambolic genius early on, signing the bandleader and his funk disciples to Casablanca in 1973. After a pair of slow-burning albums, in 1975 Parliament released Mothership Connection, an outlandish concept record exploring afrofuturism in outer space.
On an album that sounded like nothing else out there, "Give Up The Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker)" was a supremely funky standout. It became Parliament’s first certified million-selling single and gave the group the cachet to build their signature stage prop, The Mothership, which landed theatrically mid-show in a swirl of smoke.
Donna Summer, "I Feel Love" (1977)
Bogart’s circle of gifted friends included Giorgio Moroder, the Italian producer behind the hallowed Musicland Studios in Munich, Germany. In 1975, Moroder played Bogart a song he’d produced for an up-and-coming American singer named Donna Summer, who was living as an expat in Munich after appearing in the musical Hair.
That song was "Love To Love You Baby," a slow, slinky disco number that, on Bogart’s insistence, morphed into a 17-minute version. In its extended form, "Love To Love You Baby" seduced dance floors and took disco into a new realm of slow-burning sexuality.
In 1976, Summer returned to Musicland Studios with Moroder and his studio partner Pete Bellotte to record "I Feel Love," released on Casablanca the next year. Still exhilarating and influential to this day, the record’s futuristic synth sound cemented Casablanca as the go-to disco label.
Village People, "Y.M.C.A." (1978)
With Donna Summer now a certified star, Bogart found his next disco hitmakers in Village People. Founded in 1977 by French dance producers Jacques Morali and Henri Belolo, and fronted by vocalist Victor Willis, the group emerged from and celebrated New York’s gay club culture, with each member adopting a "macho man" persona and costume.
Village People’s third album on Casablanca, 1978’s Cruisin’, featured the instant earworm "Y.M.C.A.," which hit No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1979. A winking advertisement for the fraternal pleasures of the Y.M.C.A., the song became a gay anthem and paved the way for future hits "In The Navy,” "Go West" and an actual song called “Macho Man.”
"[Casablanca] was a very trendy label," Belolo recalled to DJHistory in 2004. "Neil Bogart was known as an entrepreneur who had the guts to take risks, and he was a very good promoter."
KISS, "I Was Made For Lovin’ You" (1979)
Released on their 1979 album, Dynasty, "I Was Made for Lovin’ You" proved even KISS weren’t immune to disco fever. Coming two years after the hard rocking Love Gun album, this glam, light-on-its-feet return had some fans reeling.
Co-written by Paul Stanley with pop songwriters Desmond Child and Vini Poncia, the single sold over 1 million copies and remains a favorite sing-along at KISS shows. To this day, its detractors include none other than Gene Simmons, who never liked his pop-tinged vocal part.
Cher, "Take Me Home" (1979)
While Casablanca was founded on new talent, by the late 1970s, the label was courting already established stars. With 14 albums to her name by 1977, Cher met Neil Bogart through her then-boyfriend Gene Simmons. After a run of underperforming releases, Cher came around to trying disco.
"Take Me Home," Cher’s shimmering foray into the still-hot genre, unleashed her inner disco diva, which she explored further on two Casablanca albums, Take Me Home and Prisoner. While the legendary singer later strayed from disco, the lush, Studio 54-soaked sound of "Take Me Home" is testament to Casablanca’s gravitational pull.
Lipps Inc., "Funkytown" (1980)
As the 1970s ticked over into the ‘80s, Casablanca went looking for the next sound. Behind the scenes, the label was in turmoil. With Polygram now overseeing Casablanca, co-founder Larry Harris quit and Bogart was pushed out. Disco’s popularity was also waning in the wake of the infamous Disco Demolition Night at Chicago’s Comiskey Park.
If times were tough, you couldn’t hear it in "Funkytown," a party-starting track by Minnesotan funk/disco band Lipps, Inc. Featuring Cynthia Johnson’s peppy vocals over a perfect marriage of synths, strings and cowbell, the song was a surprise hit for Casablanca and a gentle clapback to the disco doomsayers.
Irene Cara, "Flashdance…What A Feeling" (1983)
Throughout its first decade, Casablanca was closely aligned with Hollywood — after all, the label took its name from the Golden Age classic starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. In the mid-’70s, the label even merged with a film production company to make Casablanca Record And Filmworks, Inc.
Following Bogart’s exit from Casablanca, the label struck gold with Irene Cara’s "Flashdance…What A Feeling" from the 1983 dance drama Flashdance. Produced by label mainstay Giorgio Moroder, the song is a pure hit of 1980s nostalgia, elevated by Moroder’s synth and Cara’s roof-raising vocals.
"Flashdance…What A Feeling" won the GRAMMY for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and the Academy Award for Best Original Song, giving Casablanca Records one last victory lap before it folded in 1986.
Lindsay Lohan, "Rumors" (2004)
Two decades after Jennifer Beals spun and vaulted through the music video for "Flashdance…What A Feeling," Casablanca was relaunched under Universal by veteran music exec Tommy Mottola.
One of Mottola’s early signings was "it-girl" Lindsay Lohan, who was coming off star-making roles in Freaky Friday and Mean Girls. Lohan’s 2004 debut album, Speak, featured the bonus track "Rumors," a club banger with spiky lyrics aimed at paparazzi and rumor-mongers hounding her every move. A long way from the halcyon days of KISS and Donna Summer, "Rumors" is still a time capsule to a quainter era before Instagram and iPhones.
Mottola’s other mid-aughts signings included singer and actress Brie Larson (long before she was Captain Marvel) and pop artist Mika, whose 2007 album, Life in Cartoon Motion — and particularly its infectious lead single, “Grace Kelly” — was a breakthrough success.
Tiesto, "Red Lights" (2013)
After its brief mid-2000s run, Casablanca Records went quiet again — that is, until its next relaunch in 2012 as a dance/electronic imprint under Republic Records. Capitalizing on the EDM boom at the time, Casablanca snapped up Dutch superstar Tiesto and his label Musical Freedom.
In December 2013, Tiesto dropped "Red Lights," the lead single from his fifth studio album, A Town Called Paradise, released on Casablanca the following year. A surging dance-pop confection built for Tiesto’s then-residency at Hakkasan Las Vegas, "Red Lights" endures today as a three-minute flashback to EDM’s heyday.
While Tiesto is no longer with Casablanca, the label has been a steady home for both veteran and rising dance acts over the past decade, including Martin Solveig, Chase & Status, Nicky Romero, Felix Jaehn and James Hype. Meanwhile, Lindsay Lohan has remained with the label, releasing her club-ready comeback single, "Back to Me,” in 2020.
Bringing the story full circle, a resurgent Giorgio Moroder also landed back on Casablanca Records in 2016. As the story of Casablanca's glory days hits the big screen, the label's latest chapter is still being written.