Music Discovery In An Unlikely Place

My friend Johnna is Jazzer-crazy.  She is passionate about her Jazzercise workouts, and it’s obvious by the way she springs into ‘high impact aerobic’ mode and sweats her butt off in every class.  My titanium hips prefer a ‘lower impact mode’ that matches some of the senior citizens in the group, but I still think I get a pretty good workout after 60 minutes.

Jazzercise instructors are allowed to put together their own 60 minute sets, with a few stipulations from the home office for tempo and building heart rate, etc.  Having had a background in the music industry, I was fascinated to learn that a woman older than my mother selects the music and choreographs many of the routines.  Jazzercise founder Judi Sheppard Missett turns 70 this year, and from photos of her, this program has obviously been good for her since she founded the organization in 1969.

But if you think Jazzercise is for old people, think again!  Participants range from 16 to 76, and everybody does as much or as little as they can do.  The trick is to stay moving.  I even got my husband to be one of 2 to 3 men in the class for 7 months but finally couldn’t take the calling out from our instructor, who loves to talk and draw attention to people who haven’t been to class in a while.  (Seriously, she should be a character on Saturday Night Live.)

While I don’t love every song we dance to, I have been exposed to some that I never would have heard otherwise.  The music is a crazy mixture of everything from country to hip-hop, so there’s something for everybody.  Here are a few of my faves I have discovered through Jazzercise:

1.  Robbie Williams ‘Candy’ – I’ve been hip to this ego-maniac former boy-band singer since I saw him in an acoustic showcase near the Capitol Records tower in Los Angeles in the ’90s.  From the British boy band Take That, Robbie has had huge success everywhere else in the world except here in the U.S.  He has done Buble-esque swing music, sung (and rumored to have done more) with Nicole Kidman, and channels James Bond with haunting songs like ‘Millennium.’  In the video for ‘Rock DJ’ he rips his body apart like pieces of meat until there’s nothing but a skeleton left.  This song ‘Candy’ was his latest #1 in the U.K. (his seventh), but saw very little airplay in the States.  It has an unusual feel for Robbie, with lots of horns, maybe that’s what took it top 5 in Mexico.  The first time I danced to this one I was told to keep my feet on the ground because I was so excited to hear Robbie I was a little over-zealous.

2.  Little Mix ‘Wings’ – Judi must have been inspired by the title because this routine is full of elbows moves like wings flapping.  Radio Disney loved this British girl group and they had decent success at mainstream radio.  Get ready soccer moms, they are set to open up for One Direction’s tour so if you haven’t heard them you will soon.

3.  Olly Murs ‘Dance With Me Tonight’ – I just realized all three of these first picks are British.  Would you be surprised to know I love The Beatles?   This is just a great, timeless song that’s easy to dance to once you stop thinking so hard about the ‘back ball change’ and just feel it.  Olly made it big on the British version of The X-Factor with Simon Cowell, and even though he’s huge in Britain, he’s known best in the U.S. for his hit with Flo-Rida ‘Troublemaker’ which is also a Jazzercise routine.

4.  Bruno Mars ‘Runaway Baby’ – You’re probably thinking, how could you not hear a Bruno Mars song outside of Jazzercise?  Were you living under a rock?  Well, this one from ‘Doo-Wops & Hooligans’ only reached #50 on the Billboard chart.  But it is quite a catchy one to dance to – I have to remind myself not to get too excited and bust a hip when I hear this one.

5.  Joe Walsh ‘One Day At A Time’ – With a more subdued tempo, this song is for strength training we do with handheld weights.  It has a Traveling Wilburys feel to it, no wonder since Jeff Lynne (ELO) produced it and the album ‘Analog Man’ released in 2012.  The song is about Walsh’s recovery from drug and alcohol addiction since 1995.  (If you want to see what life was like prior to 1995, see ‘The History of the Eagles’ an awesome rock n’ roll documentary.)  Good song but tough to find a place for it to be heard – since it’s adult rock done by a classic rocker.

6.  Pharrell Williams ‘Happy’ – Happy is what I was today when I finally heard this song on the radio.  We’ve been dancing to this one for 6 months!  From ‘Despicable Me 2,’ it may be from a soundtrack, but this one isn’t a throw away.  It’s no secret Pharrell can put together a great tune but usually he’s doing it for another artist.  This catchy tune makes you smile and it helps that the routine has a lot of ‘pendulum’ moves that seem to come naturally once you’ve done it a few times.  Since the Grammys this song seems to be finally taking off, and I predict it will be one of the big songs of the Spring.  (And I love the guest cameos in the video!)

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