In 1991, when I was a young lad of 15 (and a half), I was still taking the bus to school. I lived in the country, and it was the only way I could get to school until I received my precious driver’s license the next year. I did have something that made my bus ride bearable, though – a Discman… Or – more specifically – a Toshiba portable CD player, and a dozen of my favourite CDs.
I first heard Deee-Lite (as many kids of the 90s did) at a MuchMusic Video Dance Party – the song, of course, was “Groove Is In The Heart.” Let’s take a look, shall we?
Now, for a 15 year-old from Brandon, Manitoba, this video was mind-blowing. They looked like they were from the 60s, but also from the future! Those colours! The cultural diversity! Those shoes (Fluevogs, it turns out)!
After seeing this visual treat, I bought the World Clique CD for $356,651 – or whatever obscene price CDs were in 1990. (They were expensive, kids. Ask your parents. We would even RENT them like videotapes.)
Fast-forward to today – the CD is still in my collection, and my iPod has a substantial amount of Deee-Lite on it. And you know what? It holds up. Here’s the thing about Deee-Lite: while they helped define 1990s pop culture, there’s really no other (mainstream) act like quite like them.
I did a quick Google search for the term “Bands Like Deee-Lite” – you know what I got? A bunch of dance-pop acts. Admittedly, good stuff – a post about the genius of Cathy Dennis is percolating – but I’m sorry, Black Box, C+C Music Factory, and even Ms. Dennis are none of the following:
They were also socially conscious (or, woke, as the kids say) before it was cool.
I’m sure commenters may prove me wrong, but for my money, there has been no other mainstream’ish act quite like Deee-Lite. While they may have influenced performers and musicians like Tove Lo sonically, and influenced fashion trends (I remember being so excited for my bell-bottoms from Le Chateau), I can honestly say that Deee-Lite were (and still are) one-of-a-kind.
They brought a unique mix of disco, funk, psychedelia, trance and just plain fun to pop music – Bootsy Collins, for heaven’s sake – to the world in a time of drum machines (Hey, Technotronic!) and grunge. And I bet if you play “Groove Is In The Heart” in any crowded room, a substantial portion of the people in that room will groove, sing along, or bust out some dance moves you never knew they had in them.
Although Deee-Lite is no longer together, Lady Miss Kier is performing, DJing, and still being ridiculously fabulous.
DJ Towa Tei is still DJing and creating music in his native Japan, with a decidedly Deee-Lite Influence:
…and DJ Dmitri? Ummm… He’s on Facebook.
And although they may not be making new music, their brief time together as a group (1988-1996) created art that influenced many and inspired me (and inspires me to this day).
I highly encourage you to fall down a Deee-Lite Youtube hole. Along with “Groove Is In the Heart,” you’ll find some wonderful quirky, inherently danceable neo-disco grooves.