Almost every musician in the world will tell you that their ambition when making music is to somehow to create something totally new, a kind of music that sounds like nothing at all that came before it. Most quickly realize that such a feat is nearly impossible, but every once in a while someone manages the wonderful trick of putting a new spin on things in a way that sounds completely and wholly fresh. Such is the case with Rene Lopez’s new EP, Love Has No Mercy. While the veteran NYC musician’s earlier records flirted with everything from salsa to soul, the seven tracks on Love are a decidedly more dance-friendly affair. The record—which incorporates the sanguine Latin influences of his previous albums and interjects them with a healthy dose of disco and funk—seems tailor made for both impromptu house parties and late nights at the club.
“There was no grand plan,” says Lopez. “I wrote a ton of songs for my last record that I didn’t end up using, so I booked some studio time and decided just to go in and kind of see what happened. I wrote “Love Has No Mercy” first and then the other songs just kind of happened. You know, I started off in the early 90’s playing in a Latin funk band with an MC—we’d play with Public Enemy or The Meters or jam bands. We were kind of chameleons. I’ve grown used taking all of my influences and then fusing them together into something new. I never felt very comfortable just working in one genre. This time around it just happened that I started to incorporate a dance sensibility into the work as well, which felt very natural.”
Clocking in at just under 30 minutes, Love Has No Mercy is a remarkably slick statement of intent. The EPs title track, which features vocals from NYC powerhouse Carol Cee, is equal parts Chic and Giorgio Moroder—a siren song of synthed-out futuristic disco that swings with the same kind of effortlessness that brings to mind the likes of “Get Lucky” and old school Donna Summer. In other words, it’s a track that basically requires dancing. Elsewhere, tracks like “Lovegod” and “City Streets are Dead Tonight” pulse with same kind of subdued electro-funk that made early Prince and Rick James tracks so eternally irresistible. For Lopez, the tracks represent a natural musical evolution—a move from the sweaty rock and Latin grooves of his previous albums to a place located firmly on the dance floor.
The somewhat kaleidoscopic array of influences manifesting on Love Has No Mercy make sense considering Lopez’ rich musical heritage. A native New Yorker (and the son of renowned salsa musician Rene Lopez, Sr), Lopez grew up absorbing the non-stop musical melting pot that the city had to offer, eventually channeling those influences into a his own music. A jazz trained drummer and multi-instrumentalist, Lopez recorded with a variety of band projects (The Authority, Extra Virgin) before taking wing as a solo artist, eventually perfecting a style that he came to refer to as E.L.S. (Electric Latin Soul). Though his previous solo records (People Are Just People, E.L.S., Paint The Moon Gold) flirted with the aesthetics of dance music, Love Has No Mercy embraces the spirit of classic 1970’s NYC club culture.
“This record is a first for me,” says Lopez. “I feel like I’m just kind of dipping my toe into this new world. I’m excited to see people remix these songs and for them to have a life out in the clubs. It makes sense when I think about the way I grew up. I was a kid during the disco era. I experienced my parents having epic dance parties in our living room. It just feels right to explore this kind of music right now. I can’t wait to go out and play these songs for people and, hopefully, make them all dance.”
Rene Lopez’s playlists