Sunday, February 28, 2016

SUNLAND-Only Human (1998)

ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: February 28, 2016

Sunny side up—it's how some of us like our eggs prepared for breakfast.....and it's like how many of us like our music. Whether you're preparing to wind down on this Sunday night or just about ready to get your day started in another part of the world, let some sunshine in with the sunny sounds of the bubbly Europop band that calls itself SUNLAND, another new chapter in my eternal bubblegum dance music explorations. For me not knowing too much about SUNLAND's origins, it sure seemed like I heard them before the moment my ears took a liking to the delightfully bouncy reggae-inspired jam that opens the windows here on the group's debut album: "We Are Only Human". That's because of the sultry voice of female member Claudia Vasquez, who sounds so much like Lene Nystrøm of the Danish-Norwegian bubblegum band I know and love as AQUA. She got me hooked with the playful way she goes 'beep-beep'&mash;similar to the way the late Donna Summer goes 'toot toot, hey, beep beep' on her disco hit, "Bad Girls"—in every round of the main chorus. Then seeing how my eye had already caught notice of the 'House Radio Mix' before I'd even gotten through the first minute of the opening 'Pop Radio Mix', I already had it in my mind that I'd check it out next immediately afterwards. Talk about a mega-groovy dance thriller! Hearing this remix next was like BOOM!, with the sparks and the smoke from the explosion still shooting in the air throughout the entire energetic 3+ minutes the beat is blasting through my ears! It's the same fireworks show being but on display with the instant super catch called "Pata Pata" serving as my rhythm of the night with its ethnic vibe and care-free celebration atmosphere, plus the high-energy triad that is "Runaway", "Time After Time" (not a cover of the Cyndi Lauper classic, but a great dance jam nonetheless) and "Good Life" (not a cover of the INNER CITY house hit either, but also still great). But there's one here that is a cover, and it really did put a sunny smile on my face: "Hotel California". The original by Don Henley and THE EAGLES will forever remain a soft rock favorite of mine, but it was such a surprise thrill to hear SUNLAND's rejuvenated upbeat dance-pop reworking of it, Claudia's sultry vocals, the funky swag of the rhythm and the refreshing rap that slides in midway through adding some hip spice to the music. Everybody should come aboard the SUNLAND express with at least one complete trip of "Bus Stop". Now I know for a fact I've heard this one somewhere before, given its distinctive retro, throwback production, but I can't remember when and where for the life of me. Kinda has that SUGARHILL GANG/"Rapper's Delight" flow going on with the way each of the band's members take turns in laying down the slick rhymes. It's smart, it's hip, it's whole lotta fun and in every way imaginable a sure addiction! Then speaking of addictions..... That reggae-influenced bounce that I love so much in these Europop songs is what attracted me to jams like "Shine" and "Blood Sweat And Tears". Yet perhaps the sweetest treats in this sunny-side-up world of SUNLAND's are the warming slow tracks, which consist of "Juliet", "Moonshadow" and "September" (not a cover of the EARTH, WIND & FIRE classic here either). The lead vocals in all three songs are provided by one of the guys in the group with Claudia chiming in periodically, resulting in a breezy, romantic glow each time. You'll want to listen to this album because you want something that'll make you feel happy. After all, as the original 'Material Girl' Madonna said, it's human nature:

1. We Are Only Human (Pop Radio Mix)
2. Shine
3. Juliet
4. Pata Pata
5. Blood Sweat And Tears
6. Moonshadow
7. Hotel California
8. Bus Stop
9. September
10. Good Life
11. Time After Time
12. Runaway
13. We Are Only Human (House Radio Mix)
14. Reach

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