How to dance funky town
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The Number Ones: Lipps, Inc.’s “Funkytown”
In The Number Ones, I’m reviewing every single #1 single in the history of the Billboard Hot 100, starting with the chart’s beginning, in 1958, and working my way up into the present.
Minneapolis wasn’t funky enough for Steven Greenberg. That was the problem. “I wanted to get out of here,” Greenberg said years later. “The scene was very bland… A very vanilla market.” He wanted to make a move to a town that was right for him. A town that would keep him moving, keep him grooving with some energy. So he wrote “Funkytown.”
Greenberg, the son of a storage mogul, was a part-time record producer and a party and wedding DJ. He figured he could write his own disco song, and the song he wrote was one of the simplest, catchiest earworms ever to hit #1. Lipps, Inc. eventually became a full-on multiracial seven-piece band. (The name, I somehow only just learned, is a pun.) Early on, the project was just Greenberg. Then it was just Greenberg and Cynthia Johnson, a former beauty queen from Saint Paul who was working as a secretary for the police department. Johnson had experience; she’d sung lead and played saxophone for the local Minneapolis funk band Flyte Tyme. In 1979, Greenberg had written a disco song called “Rock It,” and he called Johnson cold, recruiting her to sing it after some friends recommended her.
“Rock It” got Lipps Inc. signed to Casablanca, and it did pretty well in the clubs, peaking at #64 on the Hot 100. Lipps, Inc.’s album Mouth To Mouth had already been out before “Funkytown” became a single. As soon as “Funkytown” came out, though, it became a worldwide smash, the kind of thing that continues to show up in commercials or on movie soundtracks for decades. It overwhelmed everything else that Steven Greenberg would ever do.
I’m both baffled and fascinated by the idea that “Funkytown” is a song that laments the lack of funkiness in Minneapolis. For one thing, “Funkytown” plays as a joyous work of total silliness, not of one person’s discontent. For another thing, Prince, an artist who will eventually appear in this column, had already been putting out records for two years when “Funkytown” hit. Pretty soon, mostly thanks to Prince’s efforts, Minneapolis would be known as, quite possibly, the funkiest town on earth.
For example: Flyte Tyme, Cynthia Johnson’s old band, would eventually recruit a new singer named Morris Day, and they would change their name to the Time. They’d fall into Prince’s orbit, play the villains in Purple Rain, and basically define absurdist theatrical funk for entire generations. (Prince produced and co-wrote the Time’s highest-charting single, 1990’s “Jerk Out,” which peaked at #9. It’s a 9.) Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, two of Cynthia Johnson’s former Flyte Tyme bandmates, will appear in this column many times as producers.
Steven Greenberg obviously had no idea that any of this was coming. (Greenberg never did leave Minneapolis. Sometimes, you just need to take a step back to appreciate the funkiness of your own town.) Some of the musicians who would later play in Lipps Inc., like Cynthia Johnson, would have various peripheral Prince connections. “Funkytown” sounds absolutely nothing like Prince, but it does bridge eras in a similar way, connecting the dying embers of disco to the bleepy synthpop that was still taking shape in 1980.
The thing I love the most about “Funkytown” is how it adapts Giorgio Moroder’s gleaming, synthetic Euro-disco sound, transforming it into something beautifully dinky and amateurish. Spiritually, “Funkytown” is a kind of cousin to ? & The Mysterians’ “96 Tears” — Midwestern amateurs bashing out a delirious, simplistic, insidiously catchy approximations of more-sophisticated imported sounds. (“Funkytown” is to Moroder as “96 Tears” is to the Rolling Stones.) Just like ? & The Mysterians, Lipps, Inc. caught a wave, fluked their way into a #1 hit, and went down in the annals of one-hit wonder infamy.
This sounds like faint praise. It’s not. “Funkytown” fucking rules. I like it even better than “96 Tears,” though I like it for many of the same reasons. “Funkytown” has personality. The song might have a backstory about dissatisfaction and wanderlust, but you can’t hear any of that in the finished product. Instead, “Funkytown” is all explosive absurdist sugar-rush joy, a vertiginous pile-up of explosive hooks.
“Funkytown” is, at base, a disco song. It’s got the thumping four-four beat, the vaguely utopian lyrics, the soaring but anonymous diva vocals. And yet the song’s chilly sparseness and its endless supply of dinky one-finger keyboard hooks look forward into the coming synthpop explosion of the ’80s. Johnson sings the intro verse through a vocoder that turns her voice robotic and inhuman. Almost every element of the track sounds programmed and processed — even the guitar and the saxophone.
The timing of all those little bits in “Funkytown” is just perfect: The galumphing drum sounds, the constant nattering cowbells, the chilly string refrain, the horn-beep sound-effect on the intro. And there are riffs. It’s laser-targeted pleasure-center music. The track remains metronomic, but it keeps piling on more cheap and appealing little blurts of sensation, especially in the definitive eight-minute 12″-single version.
Steven Greenberg idolized Kraftwerk, and “Funkytown” is funky the same way that Kraftwerk is funky. It’s stiff-funky — all those interlocking computerized parts finding their own primitive programmatic grooves. But Cynthia Johnson belts the song out with a real gospel-trained verve that the elevates the track. The two bring unlikely, opposite sonic sensibilities to the track. They shouldn’t work together, but they do.
There a weird racial thing going on with the “Funkytown” marketing. Given the band-name pun and all, Lipps, Inc. were probably supposed to be a totally faceless venture. But it’s still a bit weird that this song, sung by a black woman, only featured stylized white-lady faces in its cover art. And then there’s the best-known “Funkytown” music video. It’s hard to find a lot of information about this online, but it appears that someone hired a blonde British woman named Debbie Jenner to serve as the face of Lipps, Inc. in West Germany and the Netherlands. (“Funkytown” went to #1 in both countries.) In the music video, Jenner makes an absolute ham out of herself. Her dancing and lip-syncing are truly ridiculous. She looks for all the world like an Amy Poehler SNL character.
Now: This is obviously some racist-ass shit. Nobody should be hiring white people so that music made by black people can be more marketable. Thanks to a bit of that Debbie Jenner video appearing in a commercial for an early-’00s compilation of old pop songs, Debbie Jenner’s face is the one that my brain associates with “Funkytown.” And yet I can’t even be all that mad at it since the resulting video is so gloriously goofy. (Jenner went on to front a group called Doris D. & The Pins, who had a few “Funkytown”-esque hits in the Netherlands in 1981. )
Anyway, Cynthia Johnson turned out OK. Lipps, Inc. recorded three more albums after Mouth To Mouth, and none of their post-“Funkytown” songs charted on the Hot 100. Johnson left Lipps, Inc. in the early ’80s, and Steven Greenberg briefly replaced her with two other singers before dissolving Lipps, Inc. in 1985. Johnson went on to become a busy session singer and a member of Sounds Of Blackness, the gospel-inflected R&B group who had a number of black-radio hits on the ’90s. (Sounds Of Blackness only charted on the Hot 100 once; their 1994 single “I Believe” peaked at #99.)
“Funkytown” is a moment, a wonderful piece of bubblegum near-gibberish that spanned two different musical trends and wedged itself permanently into our collective unconscious. The song’s premise is faulty; plenty of funky Minneapolis songs will appear in this column. But then maybe “Funkytown” never was an actual place. Maybe it was always a state of mind.
BONUS BEATS: The Australian new wave band Pseudo Echo turned “Funkytown” into a global hit for the second time in 1986. Pseudo Echo’s rocked-up cover of “Funkytown” was a #1 hit in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, and it peaked at #6 in the US. (It’s a 7.) Here’s the video for the Pseudo Echo version:
BONUS BONUS BEATS: The UK dance-rock group Pop Will Eat Itself used one of the “Funkytown” synth riffs in their 1988 single “Def Con One.” Here’s the video:
BONUS BONUS BONUS BEATS: Here’s the flashback scene from a 2004 Friends episode where Courtney Cox and Jennifer Aniston dance to “Funkytown”:
BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BEATS: Here’s “Funkytown” soundtracking a big-city montage in the 2004 film Shrek 2:
BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BEATS: Here’s Toro Y Moi’s video for “Empty Nesters,” a 2015 song that interpolates bits of “Funkytown”:
THE 10S: Gary Numan’s sleekly dystopian synth-banger “Cars” peaked at #9 behind “Funkytown.” It’s a 10.
Is it possible to learn how to dance jazz-funk on your own?
Jazz funk refers to dances that belong to clubs and are especially incendiary. On the dance floor, jazz-funk gives the dancer the opportunity to express all their emotions, energy and give all their best. This dance style is suitable for all dance lovers: stylish guys and graceful girls.
This dance style was created using elements of jazz, hip-hop, waking, locking, etc. It is a diverse style, in which impulsive dance movements are smoothly replaced by plastic ones, and impetuous dance moves are slowed down.
Lack of practical experience makes learning any dance difficult. Jazz-funk, as an ambitious style, is no exception, and therefore there are certain difficulties. The best way to learn jazz-funk technique is to get the help of a professional, who is not a problem to find, given his popularity among dance lovers. A good choreographer, with his professional advice, will greatly facilitate the development of dance technique, speed it up and make the learning process more enjoyable for the student.
The process of learning jazz-funk depends on lack of time or other reasons that prevent attendance. There is no need to get upset because of such a combination of circumstances. If there is a great desire to learn how to dance jazz-funk, then it is quite possible to do it yourself.
If you don’t have dance practice behind you, then you have the opportunity to learn how to dance jazz funk in Lviv, many different dance studios spread this style, the dance school in Lviv One Life also conducts jazz funk lessons, and if you hurry, then You can also join the beginner group.
Nowadays, the Internet offers a lot of videos to users. Video lessons can be purchased on DVD. Those who wish should only know that proven materials should be chosen so that money is not thrown away in vain.
To master this style, a dancer needs to be in good physical shape and appropriate choreographic training. The lack of such skills makes the desire to learn how to dance jazz-funk on your own more difficult.
First of all, it will take much longer to master the dance style. Two or three lessons, or a superficial study of video materials, is not enough to reach the level of a professional dancer.
Next is another difficulty, which is that a beginner dancer is more difficult to grasp the style. In addition to the movements used, he is required to maintain proper posture, the exact location of the limbs, as well as sparks in the eyes.
The difficulty that arises when you want to learn to dance jazz-funk on your own is an individual look at dances. Any dancer has certain mistakes that are noticed only by an outsider's eye.
A positive aspect of learning jazz-funk technique with a personal teacher is the shortcomings noticed in time and expert advice on how to correct them. When dance styles are studied with the help of video lessons, there will be no help in correcting shortcomings and errors.
Learning how to dance jazz-funk on your own using video material acquired can be easier for a person who has a fire of passionate desire burning inside. In this situation, any activity will bring sincere pleasure, tangible benefits, and the student will feel much more confident, having a great mood, and also an excellent shape.
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Jazz-funk dance (Todes school)
Jazz-funk dance style
Jazz-funk dance is a unique fusion of beautiful elements from other dance styles, which, at first glance, may not fit together. This is exactly what makes him so free, independent and popular. It has a large number of wave-like movements. Jazz-funk dance has no restrictions and rules, this makes it possible to express what is needed in it. This is a dance of contrasts, where sharp, daring movements are suddenly replaced by gentle and smooth ones, absorbing the interest of the public.
Jazz Funk History
It originated in America at the beginning of the 21st century and in this short period of time has become a fundamental dance in the world of show business. Its founders are 3 choreographers - Bobby Newberry, Brian Friedman and Kevin Meyer, who showed the whole world how attractive and harmonious hip-hop movements can look if you add a soft manner of performance, plasticity and dynamism to them.
The main features of the jazz-funk style
This is the creativity and showiness shown in the performance. Despite the fact that Jazz-Funk dance has embodied the techniques of various dance styles of the current version, this style has its own face. Distinct sharp movements smoothly turn into soft and measured ones. Each choreographer puts his inimitable personality, character and emotions into this style.
Many American pop stars - Beyoncé, Britney Spears, and others - danced in the jazz-funk style. In the outrageous appearances of Lady Gaga on stage with a team of dancers, elements of jazz-funk can be easily recognized.
Jazz-funk: why such popularity?
The popularity of jazz funk is due to the fact that he borrowed the best manners from each dance style. The ability to compose and express your own emotions on the go makes the dance very energetic, lively, expressive, dynamic, often exciting fantasies. The dancer gets the opportunity to express himself through the body.
One of the inherent hallmarks of this modern dance is impetuosity. The impulse is created in the upper part of the dancer's torso and passes to other parts of the body. The body makes an active movement to the side or forward. Such unexpected vigor of plasticity invariably attracts the interest of the public. Another characteristic of jazz-funk is movement with a transition from bold broken lines to smooth and gentle ones. Such a manner of movement represents coherence and harmony.
In the Jazz-Funk style, it is quite difficult to make out individual details, this dance style obeys only the rhythm, it lives while the music is playing. Jazz funk is a great means of self-expression outside of limited social and any other conventions.
Music for jazz-funk choreography
When choosing music for practicing this dance direction, it makes sense to concentrate on the tracks of such popular artists as Lady Gaga, Madonna, Rihanna, Beyonce, Britney Spears, Ariana Grande, Shakira and others. Some young choreographers and dancers who put on Jazz-Funk numbers and post their videos online most often choose songs from the works of these artists themselves for their performances.
Would jazz funk suit you?
Jazz-Funk is a great opportunity for self-expression outside of social norms and rules.
This style of movement is not easy to do - it requires good physical shape, preparation, stamina and some acrobatic skills. For this reason, the emotional dance is suitable for everyone who has these abilities, and in addition wants to throw out the accumulated energy, develop courage and become more self-confident.