Released: May 1979
Chart Peak: #1
Weeks Charted: 49
Certified Platinum: 5/3/79
Donna Summer was the first true superstar to emerge from disco; who pushed the form beyond it's original limits, though always keeping the needs of dancers in mind. But then just about everybody got into the act, and her uniqueness was threatened. After all, if Rod Stewart, the Beach Boys, and Ethel Merman do it, can Streisand be far behind? Donna Summer had to do something tho re-establish her supremacy. What she did is Bad Girls.
The title of the new album -- with its echo of the Stones' Some Girls, its bow to black slang, its tie-in to raunchy chic, the late Seventies' hottest cultural cliché -- tells us right off to expect some tougher, harder music than we've had from Summer in the past. And it certainly starts out tough with "Hot Stuff". She sings it straight on, without the electronic embellishments of her classic cuts, but, though the back-up is rock hard instead of trance soft, Summer's sexiness and energy are still there. It's still disco (try dancing to it and you'll see); there's just more of a sense of a singer at work than disco usually permits.
The same crossover rock-disco sound continues through the first half of the two-disc album, with such other highlights as the bluesy "Love Will Always Find You," sung with astonishing subtlety, and "Dim All the Lights," which has "super-smash single" etched into every driving line. And if you still think disco singing is all yelling, just two minutes of the opening of "Can't Get to Sleep" will forever change your mind.
Side three contains four weak, overarranged ballads, but they show off Summer's impressive, I think, of any female singer now active). Her voice can clearly handle anything she wants it to. The three-song set on side four is a return to the familiar, trippy "elektrik" sound of the Munich Machine. The middle one, "Lucky," pulses and throbs wonderfully with a doubled and tripled staccato background; purely as disco it's far and away the album's high point.
- Edward Buxbaum, Stereo Review, 8/79.
The hottest female vocalist around is also prolific. This is her third consecutive double pocket set and considering the amount of product, Summer has remained consistently strong. Bad Girls represents somewhat of a departure in that the first two sides at least are more rock-oriented. Summer's vocals not only are more powerful and sexy but multi-dimensional. The music's strength carries over to all four sides. Based on a "bad girl" concept, Summer comes across in a seductive vein in vocal delivery and even through the album's graphics. Writers include producers Moroder and Bellotte, Brooklyn Dreams, Summer, Bruce Roberts and others. The musicians behind her supply pulsating and energetic firepower with some guest players also helping. Best cuts: "Hot Stuff," "Bad Girls," "Lucky," "Can't Get to Sleep At Night," "Dim All The Lights," "Our Love."
- Billboard, 1979.
You tend to suspect anyone who releases three double-LPs in eighteen months of delusions of Chicago, but Donna is here to stay and this is her best album. The first two sides, for songs per, never let up -- the voice breaks and the guitars moan over a bass-drum thump in what amounts to empty-headed girl-group rock and roll brought cannily up-to-date. Moroder makes his Europercussion play on side four, which is nice too, but side three drags, suggesting that the rock and roll that surfaces here is perhaps only a stop along the way to a totally bleh total performance. Me, I still love my Marvellettes records. A-
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
Summer defined "feminine" for an age in love with femininity and made the disco experience an adventure, even for those who had trouble learning how to fantasize. Now, on her third two-record set in two years, she has altered her outlook on femininity and changed her mind about the adventure. The disco queen becomes a streetwalker ready to sell her voice to any guy (read: producer) for a dime ("Bad Girls," "Hot Stuff") or anyone at all blindly searching for a lover they'll never find ("Sunset People"). * * * *
- Michael Freedberg, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
Less than a year after Donna Summer had landed her first Number One album with Live and More, the queen of disco was back at Number One with Bad Girls, her third consecutive double-LP set.
Hot on the heels of her first chart-topping single "MacArthur Park" and the number four hit "Heaven Knows" from Live and More, Summer likely could have continued her hit streak if she stayed true to the disco grooves that made her a star. Yet on Bad Girls, Summer and producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte decided to shake things up a bit by inviting other writers to collaborate on the project and incorporating elements of rock 'n' roll in the disco mix.
Bad Girls was recorded at Rusk Sound Studios in Los Angeles, a fitting locale considering that "Bad Girls" and "Sunset People" were inspired by life in the City of Angels.
"Hot Stuff," the single released in advance of Bad Girls and the album's opening track, showed off Summer's new direction. The song was co-written by Bellotte, a longtime Summer collaborator, but there was also some new blood involved. Keith Forsey, who had played drums on Live and More, and Harold Faltermeyer, credited with arranging Bad Girls, also had a writing credit on the song. Doobie Brothers guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter laid down a guitar solo on the track. Summer says that the personnel involved in making the album would often splinter into different camps. "On that day, Keith Harold, and Pete got together and I could hear them banging away in the studio," she says.
The new writing team proved successful, as "Hot Stuff" became Summer's second Number One single on June 2, 1979.
Nearly two years later, an engineer working for Moroder stumbled across a demo of the tune, written by Summer and the trio of backing vocalists -- Summer's husband Bruce Sudano, Eddie Hokenson, and Joe "Bean" Esposito -- known as Brooklyn Dreams. Moroder said the song was a "stone hit." His prediction became reality when "Bad Girls" topped the Billboard Hot 100 on July 14, 1979, becoming Summer's second consecutive Number One single.
The song was inspired by a secretary at Casablanca Records who was accosted by police while walking down Sunset Boulevard. "This woman in no way looked like a streetwalker," Summer says. "Merely because of color or because she was in the wrong place, she was harassed by the police. It made me irate."
Bad Girls also allowed Summer to break away from the sexy disco queen image she had been stuck with since her first h it, "Love to Love You Baby." Says Summer, "I was becoming more sassy. The original image was like a feminine victim type with no independence. That character was not who I wanted to be forever. With Bad Girls, I was able to make other statements. I was able to be other women."
- Craig Rosen, The Billboard Book of Number One Albums, Billboard, 1996.
Bad Girls added rock to Summer's dance-oriented palette via the title track and the wonderful "Hot Stuff." * * * * *
- Gary Graff, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.
(2003 Deluxe Edition) In 1977, Donna Summer -- the first no-bullshit soul singer to have an icy, businesslike edge to her voice -- delivered "I Feel Love," one of the greatest, unalloyed disco songs ever. Two years later, Summer transcended her disco origins and stormed the old rock-pop traditions with Bad Girls. The album was more concise and scorching than Summer's earlier work -- particularly the title jam and the Rolling Stones-worthy "Hot Stuff." The general impression at the time was that Summer was assuming a place within the line of red-hot rock-soul belters, but the truth was much more important: Along with her brilliant producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, she was creating a new idea of international pop. Madonna's career without Summer and "Bad Girls"? Unthinkable.
Bad Girls is the first major album to use synthesizer-based disco studio techniques in the service of pop-rock songs. Much of it is played on live instruments; the guitar solo in "Hot Stuff" is as universal as, say, the Lindsey Buckingham riff on Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way." But on uncannily biting and hook-y tunes such as "Can't Get to Sleep at Night," Summer and Moroder showed how dance music could kick like the meanest real-time rock & roll. For years after, an entire commercial strain of rock and pop would obsess about technology in ways that would revolutionize the sound of music, for both good (Duran Duran) and ill (Kajagoogoo).
This reissue contains a companion disc that collects Summer's previous and subsequent hits; the minimalist masterwork "I Feel Love" and the sweet, soaring "On the Radio." Like Bad Girls itself, it's just about unimproveable.
- James Hunter, Rolling Stone, 7/03.
With this double-vinyl epic, the Queen of Disco set out to conquer every corner of pop music, aided by her longtime producer Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte. "Hot Stuff" was her rack anthem, while "Bad Girld" found the sweet spot where toot-toot meets beep-beep.
Bad Girls was chosen as the 283rd greatest album of all time in a Rolling Stone magazine poll of artists, producers, critics and music industry figures in Oct. 2020.
- Rolling Stone, 10/20.
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