Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder, one of the great singer/producer teams of all time
I still remember hearing "I Feel Love" for the first time and thinking "what is THIS?" It happened in the late 90s, when I was beginning to develop of love of disco and to drop my former elevated disdain of pop music. I knew in my mind that this song was from the late 70s, but it sounded like it came from the future. It announces itself with a flourish of synthesizer that fades in like a UFO dropping below the clouds, then the endless wave of percussive synthesizer notes carries the song along at a rapid pace. The strings, horns, piano, and other lavish disco disco trappings are completely absent here, and all that is left is a disarming, spare, crystalline beauty. This song does not conjure up leisure suits or line dances. No, it makes me think of a rocket ship hurtling through space.
The revolutionary backing tracks are the work of Giorgio Moroder, but they would not have worked without the voice of Donna Summer. She sang sensually and openly desirous of sex in ways that other women with her level of popularity never did before. "Love To Love You Baby" put her on the map with its lascivious moaning, and her biggest album was called Bad Girls. Disco was music for the pleasure centers and the soundtrack to nights of wild 70s excess, and Summer channeled that spirit as a disco singer better than anyone else. Pairing dance music with a boundary-breaking diva has now become formulaic, and Madonna, Britney Spears, and Katy Perry all owe Donna Summer big time.
One thing I truly love about this song is how it is the beginning of the electronic dance music genre, but manages to sound more futuristic than a lot of EDM that's produced nowadays. Sequencers can make music sound rigid, robotic, and when ill-used, plain boring. The early, antiquated technology used by Moroder have a trace of organic feeling to them, making the song seem so much more alive. Synthesizers can sound like musical wallpaper much of the time these days, but the glorious Moog of the 70s is capable of making some truly unique sounds. It is a device that rewards dial-twisting and experimentation, and in it you hear not just the machine, but the spark of human inspiration.
This all comes together in my favorite moment of the song. After the musical intro and some low-key cooing by Summer she increases the volume of her voice and sings out "I feel love!" just as the Moog hits a higher, sweeter note like a sunrise breaking over the mountains. It is glorious, almost holy, and one of my favorite musical moments.