She Works Hard For The Money
Geffen Records, 1983
REVIEW BY: Alicia St. Rose
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/01/2000
Disco begins with D, as in Donna Summer. Yeah, I know about the Bee Gees and KC and his Sunshine Band. They were in to it up to their elbows as well, but it was Ms. Summer who manufactured the steam to get the engine running. It was Summer who heralded the Disco Era with a song so sultry, she herself, was relieved when the single wasn't a hit the first time out. That song, "Love To Love You Baby" also gave us the first extended play dance mix and sexually liberated the dance floor.
For the next five years, Summer, with the help of her writer/producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, raged up and down the charts with such provocative hits as "Bad Girls" and "Hot Stuff" and an incredible remake of "MacArthur Park". She racked up three #1 double albums in a row. And she accomplished three Billboard number ones in one year. Summer's voice was everywhere. Just flipping on the radio for a few minutes guaranteed you'd hear one of her songs.
But parties end. And so with disco. Any artist that had been absorbed by its hedonistic sponge was quickly wrung out. The Bee Gees, KC, the ubiquitous Summer all received our disdain as the punitive price for giving us so much giddy fun.
By being on top, Summer fell the farthest and hardest. (Well, okay, the Bee Gees fell pretty hard too.) By 1982 disco was the butt of jokes and Summer was primarily skimming the lower reaches of the top forty. Then in 1983, with the help of MTV and a powerhouse video for the title track, She Works Hard For The Money generated a bit of a comeback for the diva.
She Works Hard For The Money is not a bad album, there are just some parts that sound a bit dated, primarily due to Michael Omartian's arrangements and production. This is the same guy who worked his magic with The Village People, need I say more? The intro to "She Works Hard For The Money" conjures up the early eighties "flashdance" period so strongly you can smell it. Once you get past the synthesizer laden title cut you'll discover some decent songs and that Summer hasn't lost any of her vocal prowess.
Summer claims writing credits on all of the songs. "Stop Look And Listen", though upbeat, warns us about the callousness of society and our own self absorption. "Unconditional Love" is a duet with the "where are they now" band, Musical Youth. It's a delightful cut and one of the few songs that's aged well. "I Do Believe (I Fell In Love)" and "Love Has A Mind Of Its Own" are fine, well crafted ballads. Ray Parker Jr. adds his signature guitar to the funky "Woman".
The weak spots occur basically wherever the synthesizer reigns supreme. "He's A Rebel" is just plain lame. It sounds as if the synth riff was lifted from the kitcsh sci-fi movie theme. The synthesizer can also take the blame for debilitating "Tokyo".
All in all, this album is standard early eighties fare. It lacks the spark of originality to push it past that decade without sounding dated. If you want to sample Donna Summer, do so when she was at her dizzying diva heights on albums such as Bad Girls or On The Radio-Greatest Hits. She Works Hard For The Money is just small change.