On the Radio: Greatest Hits Vol. 1 & 2

Music review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
On the Radio: Greatest Hits Vol. 1 & 2 Music Poster Image
Hits collection showcases best of the Queen of Disco.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this music.

Positive messages

Donna Summer's songs describe an adult world of disco dance floors, party scenes, and romantic entanglements, but they do so with a hefty dose of positive values and self-respect. As "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)" implies, there's more to life than letting some man ruin it. And, as Summer suggests in "Bad Girls," before you get too judgmental about other people, consider how things look from their point of view.

Positive role models & representations

The sheer power of Summer's delivery of her classic dance tunes got many a kid through high school in the '70s and '80s, according to online posts. That voice and an unstoppable disco beat could overcome a lot of trouble.

Violence
Sex

"Love to Love You Baby" features the sound effects of Summer having imaginary sex, with many moans, groans, and other sound effects, to a pounding dance track.  It's all in the sound effects, but it's quite graphic. The rest of the album has frequent romantic lyrics and the eternal quest for love on the dance floor, not to mention references to lovers, faithless and otherwise, but nothing to make you cover the kids' ears. Or laugh out loud.

Language
Consumerism

There's some celebration of the hip club lifestyle, but no promotion of particular brand names.

Drinking, drugs & smoking

"Champagne was flowing and so I let myself go" in the bubbly "I Remember Yesterday."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that while the version of Donna Summer's breakout hit "Love to Love You Baby" in On the Radio: Greatest Hits Vol. 1 & 2 is not the 17-minute album-side dance mix that was such a sexed-up hit in its day, the four-minute version here has enough faux-orgasmic moans, groans, yelps, and auditory bumping and grinding to be either sultry or hilarious, depending on the listener's state of mind; you may find yourself having to explain to a younger kid what's wrong with the woman. That's the only dicey material in this double-album collection that includes most of Summer's best work from the disco era, showcasing not only her spectacular voice but also the songwriting and production skills of Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, whose distinctive, clean synthesizer sound was a leading influence on the techno movement of later decades. With plenty of irresistibly danceable tunes, including "Bad Girls," "Hot Stuff," "I Feel Love" and the fabulously lush "Macarthur Park," this offers an excellent overview of Summer's early career, and the best the genre had to offer.

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What's the story?

The late Donna Summer is at her Queen of Disco best in the On the Radio: Greatest Hits Vol. 1 & 2 collection, released in 1979 and including just about all her hits from the previous four years -- the title track (here in two versions), \"Bad Girls,\" \"Hot Stuff,\" \"Macarthur Park,\" and a live \"Love to Love You Baby.\" There's also an 11-minute version of her hit duet with Barbra Streisand, \"No More Tears (Enough Is Enough).\" Strong, sensual, sensitive female vocals (Summer's) and innovative sound and production (Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte's) would influence generations of artists in the pop and dance worlds.

Is it any good?

Dance music fans will want to check out this pioneering example of the genre. Donna Summer's in top form, ranging from sweet to sultry with one of the most powerful voices in the history of the music business. On the Radio was her third consecutive double album to top the charts, marking the first time in history any artist's double albums had achieved this. Many songs here are staples of oldies or light-rock radio, soundtracks and background music, and will be familiar to many kids. Others, now that the disco era has passed, may seem like too much of a good thing, but there's enough first-rate material here to offset the occasional filler.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Donna Summer's great voice and her influence on today's artists.

  • How does this music compare with dance music of today?

  • Have you ever heard the original version of "Macarthur Park"? Which version do you like better? 

  • "Love to Love You Baby": OMG or LMAO?

Music details

  • Artist: Donna Summer
  • Release date: October 1, 1979
  • Type: Album
  • Label: Casablanca
  • Genre: Pop
  • Parental advisory: No
  • Edited version available: No

For kids who love dance pop

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