Welcome to the Dance
|Welcome to the Dance|
|Studio album by No Angels|
|Released||September 11, 2009|
|Label||Universal Music Domestic Pop|
|Producer||Khalid Schröder (exec.), Adil Bayyan (exec.), Nasri, Hakim Bell, Arnthor Birgisson, Bill Blast, Akene Dunkley, Adam Messinger, Aaron Pearce|
|No Angels chronology|
|Singles from Welcome to the Dance|
Welcome to the Dance is the fifth regular studio album by all-female German pop group No Angels, released by Polydor and Universal Music Domestic throughout German-speaking Europe on September 11, 2009. The band's second post-reunion effort following their reformation as a quartet in 2007, it was written, produced and recorded in Berlin, Los Angeles, and New York between the years of 2008 and 2009, featuring production by Nasri, Hakim Bell, Bill Blast, Adam Messinger, and Aaron Pearce, among others.
After releasing lukewarm-received comeback album Destiny (2007) and their performance at the ESC 2008, the band collaborated with a range of American and Canadian producers and songwriters on the album. Pursuing a new musical direction, Welcome to the Dance took the group's work further into the dance and electronic genre, introducing a more international sound. However, upon release, the album received generally mixed reviews by critics, who criticized the band for their missing individuality.
Commercially, the album underperformed, becoming the group's lowest-charting and -selling effort to date. In Germany, it debuted and peaked at number twenty-six, becoming the band's first regular album neither to reach the top ten nor the top twenty. The album's leading track "One Life," still made it to the top twenty on the German Singles Chart. A second single, titled "Derailed," was actually scheduled for a November 27 released but scrapped for unknown reasons.
While the No Angels' comeback album Destiny (2007) was a commercial success, it received generally lukewarm reviews from music critics and, in comparison to earlier successes, it underperformed with a domestic sales total of about 30,000 copies. From all four regular single releases, leading single "Goodbye to Yesterday" emerged as the album's only top ten hit, and although both the group members and record company Universal Music felt increasing discontent and uncertainty about the direction of the project by summer 2007, it was not until the band's participation in the Eurovision Song Contest 2008 in Belgrade, Serbia, the quartet hit an all-time career low, following their performance with the German ESC entry "Disappear," which finished 23rd out of the 25 countries that participated in the final voting in May 2008. As a direct consequence, planned recordings for the band's next studio album during the summer were indefinitely delayed, and the group went on a two months-hiatus to rethink and analyze the past year.
Having managed themselves since their reunion, they eventually agreed on signing a contract with Kool Management in July 2008 after several meetings with Khalid Schröder at the beginning of the year. Schröder, a former event manager and head of the German management of Aura Dione and Kool & the Gang, subsequently arranged meetings with his North American clients for the No Angels, including Canadian singer-songwriter Nasri Atweh and hip-hop producer Hakim "Prince Hakim" Bell, son of Kool founding member Robert Bell. In August 2008, whilst Nadja Benaissa spent her summer holidays with her daughter in Los Angeles, California, he spontaneously decided to send fellow band members Lucy Diakovska, Sandy Mölling, and Jessica Wahls overseas to join Benaissa for writing and recording sessions at Donnie Wahlberg's mansion, eventually green-lighting the start of the project.
Conception and production
Writing and recording
Most of Welcome to the Dance was written and recorded during five separate studio sessions in Los Angeles and New York City in the United States, and Berlin and Rastede in Germany between August 2008 and March 2009. The first session in Los Angeles in August 2008 was overseen by Aaron Pearce and Nasri Atweh, who decided on splitting the band into two halves during the writing process, leaving Benaissa and Diakovska with Pearce and The Writing Camp members Evan "Kidd" Bogart and David "DQ" Quiñones, while Mölling and Wahls remained with Adam Messinger and Atweh. The teams crafted four songs within three days of which all made the final track listing, including "Young Love", "Shut Yout Mouth", and "Up Against the Wall." In the same week, the band met with songwriter Rick Nowels in Santa Monica who presented them several of his own demo tracks. The quartet selected ten songs out of his repertoire, of which Nowles agreed on yielding two to the new project. His songs did however not make the cut on the album. The following month, the band re-teamed with Atweh in Berlin to write and record another three songs respectively, including eventual leading single "One Life."
In October 2008, the No Angels returned to the United States for additional recording sessions in New Jersey and New York City, where producers and writers Hakim Bell, Akene "The Champ" Dunkley, Bill Blast, and M'Jestie got involved into the project. In addition, the band worked with writer Chel Hill and Karriem Mack and Shaun Owens of production team Soul Diggaz during their U.S. sojourn. As with Nowles, their songs did however not make the final track listing. After another session in Berlin in early December, the band re-teamed with all three main production teams for a two-week stint at Peter Patzer's Bekeeg Studios in Rastede near Oldenburg in January 2010. They were joined by Nicholas "RAS" Furlong, who went on to write and produce vocals on several tracks for Welcome to the Dance. The rest of the album was wrapped at the Hansa Studios in Berlin in February 2009, where Pearce and Atweh wrote and recorded the last tracks with the band, including songs such as "Dance-Aholic."
The album's opening track, "One Life," was one of the first songs ever all band members jointly contributed lyrics to. Conceived during a writing session in Berlin in September 2009, the track was penned over a backing track by New Jersey producers Hakim Bell and Akene Dunkley and created as an anthemic, self-manifesto song about the celebration of life. Greatly influenced by dance-pop and electropop, the track features effects of auto-tuning and sprechgesang during its bridge. The song garnered generally positive reviews by music critics, who noted it the album's standout track, and was released as the album's first and only single from Welcome to the Dance. The album's second track was written by Arnthor Birgisson and Savan Kotecha and deals with the circumstances of a love-hate relationship that the song's protagonist compares to a thunderstorm she feels stuck in. A vocoded, humming male voice provides the bassline of the song, while Jessica Wahls is featured with background vocals only. Third and fourth track "Rebel" and "Welcome to the Dance" are two out of three tracks that were contributed by Bill Blast and Alisha "M'Jestie" Brooks. Brooks wrote "Rebel" over a synthesized instrumental track by Blast, willed to create something "hard" for the band. Lyrically, the up-tempo composition deals with the refusal to fall in love.
The album's title song was written as a decidation to "everybody in the club, or to anybody in life that start off in the club," according to Brooks, and was lyrically inspired by Michael Jackson's 1980 record "Off the Wall." "Derailed," the album's fifth track, was written by Aaron Pearce, Nasri Atweh, and Nick "RAS" Furlong, and garnered mixed reviews by critics who summed it as "strained" but also highlighted it one of the better songs on the album. A beat-driven piano ballad about a broken relationship, it features leading vocals by Sandy Mölling while Lucy Diakovska appears as a backing vocalist only. Initially scheduled for a November 27, 2009 release, it was eventually scrapped as the album's second single. "Dance-Aholic," an up-tempo anthem about the joy of nightclub dance, was created the day after the aftershow party of the 2009 ECHO Awards where band members Benaissa and Wahls had impressed producers Atweh and Pearce with their dance-craziness. Seventh track "Shut Your Mouth" was one of the first songs the band wrote with Evan "Kidd" Bogart and his The Writing Camp collective during the album's first creative session in Los Angeles, California in August 2008. A musical reckoning with those people who want to ruin someone's reputation, it has been noted as one of the most autobiographical tracks on Welcome to the Dance as every member had the chance "to write things off her chest" with it. Built around a cheerleading motif, it shares similarities with fellow Aaron Pearce production Kreesha Turner's "Passion" (2008). It was also thought to have a similar opening to Janet Jackson's "Feedback."
The ninth track on the album, titled "Young Love," was the first song contributed to the project. The result of a guitar jam session with Adam Messinger and Nasri, it revolves around the facets of a new-found affection, and has been noted as a musical contrast to the highly synthesized and electronic sound of the album due to its acoustic flair and singer-songwriter style. The group noted it the most stereotypical song on Welcome to the Dance. On "Too Old," the album's tenth track, the protagonist requests her lover to get his priorities in order and finally make a decision for or against a relationship with her. It was generally well received by music critics who noted it the "single-worthiest hit" off the album alongside "One Life." "Down Boy" is the only song on Welcome to the Dance not specifically created for or together with the No Angels. Written by Tiyon Mack, Chad Roper, Le'che Martin, a demo of the composition, initially produced by Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins, was to be recorded by some unknown artist before it was eventually handed over to Aaron Pearce. His re-worked version for the band features similar structures however. Twelfth track "Stop," another Blast/Brooks production, chronicles a woman's feelings on her decision to give her failed relationship a second try. Thirteenth track "Minute by Minute" features guest vocals by Nasri Atweh while Benaissa provides the female leading voice. Lyrically, the ballad deals with true love.
Release and promotion
The band expected the production of Welcome to the Dance to last longer than any work on previous records, and thus, a scheduled release date was not set prior to spring or summer 2009, respectively. On June 8, 2009, producer Aaron Pearce announced on his official MySpace account, that he had put the final touches on the album and it "should be out by the end of the summer." Two weeks later, the band's official webpage went under construction and a countdown, dated at July 25, was started. On July 3, 2009, the No Angels made their first appearance in four months at the Sankt Pölten Stadtfest in Lower Austria, where they held their first official press conference after Benaissa's April 2009 arrest and performed both old tracks and five news songs from the upcoming album, including "Derailed", "Shut Your Mouth", "Tool Old", "Young Love" and "One Life." In the same night, latter song was confirmed as the album's first single during the concert. On July 15, 2010, the album was previewed to about 200 journalists and other media representatives at the Astor Film Lounge theatre at the Berlin Kurfürstendamm, where the band revealed the album title as Welcome to the Dance.
Released on September 11, 2009 in German-speaking Europe, Welcome to the Dance debuted at number twenty-six on the German Albums Chart, making it the band's lowest-selling week ever. Since the album failed to reach either the top ten or the top twenty of the national albums chart and eventually fell out of the top 100 in its third week, it also became the No Angels' lowest-charting regular studio album yet, resulting in lackluster sales in general and the release of just one single.
In Austria, the album debuted at number sixty-five in its only week on the Austrian Albums Chart. As in Germany, Welcome to the Dance became the group's lowest-charting album here yet, making it their first longplayer not to debut within the top twenty. In Switzerland, the album barely managed to reach the top 100 on the Swiss Albums Chart, debuting and peaking at number ninety-five only. It became the band's first album not to reach the top thirty at least.
|Monsters and Critics||(disappointing)|
Upon its release, Welcome to the Dance received generally mixed reviews from most music critics. Astrid Weist from MusicHeadQuarter.de praised the band for their decision to revamp their sound and gave the album eight stars out of ten, indicating it "a surprising album in several aspects." Generally satisfied with the input of contemporary dancefloor tracks and familiar sounding ballads, she summed the album a "rather convincing musical mixture." CDStarts.de writer Tanja Kraus gave the album five out of ten stars and complimented its international niveau and self-penned, well-produced pop character. Otherwise, she criticised the album for its "missing individuality and corresponding soul," and the "predominant amount of fillers as against the number of possible chart hits."
Pooltrax felt that the album was only partially answering expectations, and although they were persuaded that the band had not made the most out of it, they complimented the No Angels for their songwriting and the corresponding results which they compared to a "whiff of Rihanna." Critic Eberhard Dobler, reviewer for laut.de, was disappointed with the album and declared it out-dated, writing: "Suchlike sound may be new to the No Angels. But indeed, it's an old hat - why didn't they come around with this at [previous album] Destiny (2007) times?" He gave the album one out of five stars. In his consumer guide for LetMeEntertainYou.de, Michael Bauer also rated the album one star out of five, summing it "a dance in towards career ending." He felt that Welcome to the Dance was "nothing but monotonous club stamping," and dismissed the heavy usage of effects on the voices and beats.
|4.||"Welcome to the Dance"||
|7.||"Shut Your Mouth"||
|8.||"Up Against the Wall"||
|13.||"Minute by Minute" (featuring Nasri)||
- ^[A] denotes co-producer
Credits and personnel
|Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)||65|
|German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)||26|
|Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)||95|
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- NoAngels-Music.de — official site