k.d. lang's Hits Are as Timeless as Ever on Dance Remix Album 'makeover'

BY Tom BeedhamPublished May 26, 2021

Following the breakthrough success of her sophomore classic Ingénue and her subsequent coming out, k.d. lang occupied a curious corner of music's psyche throughout the '90s and leading into the new millennium. lang was a regular nominee at the Grammys and a Vanity Fair cover had her posing for a shave at the hands of Cindy Crawford, but radio didn't know what to do with her. Too queer for country, too country for pop, lang's musical expression was obscured in plain view, but at the same time, she was cultivating a devoted fan base that glommed on to her articulations of queer, female desire.

With makeover, a new release compiling remixes of hits lang released from 1992 through 2000, it's suggested that her persona precipitated an adoring following in the underground dance community, too. 

"I had the idea of putting together a dance remix compilation, as I mused about how we built community in those days before the internet, mobile devices, and dating apps," lang offers in a release. "Those dance clubs were a key to a world, which was still called 'underground' in the '90s. I also surprised myself by finding that there was a cryptic, sort of secret zone in my career, that hadn't been explored, overlooked even by me."

With that framing, makeover sounds like a landmark archival project, but its mythologizing leaves out the part where the tracks it positions as carefully curated, once well-cherished artifacts were readily available (save for some license wrangling, probably), all originally packaged with singles by the majors lang worked with, surely as a gesture to incentivize consumers. 

If this weird posturing — "Two of these tracks had even hit #1 on the dance charts!" — isn't a complete turn-off, the final product still kind of works. Reset in swirling, spectacular motion, mixes from elusive industry pros of the era expertly locate lang's tendency to occupy a space at the intersection of internal investigation and extroverted expression, and they ride the tension to some pretty ecstatic release, that's at once of its time but remarkably all over the board.

Ben Grosse and Lang's own "Club Xanax Mix" of "Lifted by Love" gives the track a Sade groove, Tony Garcia's "Just Keep Me Moving" mixes trade the original's cow-funk in first for a throbbing house atmosphere and then a paisley jungle sitar jam primed for the open-toed hacky sack crowd, and a Love to Infinity "Radio Mix" of "The Consequences of Falling" invigorates the downtempo original with a confidently shimmering house treatment that's glitter all over, while their "Funk Mix" thumps into the night.

In a hypothetical live setting, Tony Maserati's "Final Radio Remix" of "Sexuality" would be a bit of a nonstarter in the same set, but DJ Krush's take on the track taps into its mystery and recasts it as noir trip-hop inquiry.

If lang's songs were idiosyncratic expressions of one woman's desires, they had a versatility that made them ripe for dancefloor application, plum full of secret yearning and grand gestures. Captured on this awkwardly marketed remix compilation, they're just as galvanizing, and as this package arrives just in time for Pride Month — potential libidinal repression of a second consecutive pandemic summer be damned — they sound just as timeless and nostalgic as ever.

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