One legendary diva, two DJ/producers and a cavalcade of hip stars are the forces behind one of the hottest dance tracks in the world this week.
Released digitally Oct. 12, Duck Sauce’s “Barbra Streisand” is No. 3 on the Official Charts Co.’s albums listing in the United Kingdom, with the 3 Beat/All Around the World release selling 67,000 copies in its first week. The energetic track is also percolating stateside.
Released by Fool’s Gold/Downtown in the United States, the song enters Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Songs chart as the Hot Shot Debut at No. 40. Simultaneously, its star-studded video, featuring Kanye West and others, has garnered more than 1.1 million views on YouTube just a month after its debut.
“Barbra Streisand” is the work of veteran DJ/producers Armand Van Helden and Fool’s Gold founder A-Trak, two longtime friends with a mutual love for old-school disco and hidden musical treasures. The simple track loops a melodic “ooh” sample from the 1979 Boney M song “Gotta Go Home,” occasionally punctuated by a voice saying just two words: “Barbra Streisand.”
“There’s no particular reason,” A-Trak says of why they used the Streisand shout-out. “I don’t think either of us has a real explanation. It just sounded funny.”
The video expands on the joke, with a Streisand impersonator doing a monologue about the virtues of Duck Sauce’s hometown of New York (“It’s the place of opportunity!”) while a diverse range of stars — West, Pharrell Williams, Ryan Leslie, Vampire Weekend‘s Ezra Koenig, the Roots‘ Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson, Santigold and Chromeo — mouth the song’s single lyric.
And what’s Streisand’s reaction to the track? According to a representative from the artist’s PR firm, Sunshine, Sachs & Associates, “Barbra has been traveling out of the country for some time and isn’t aware of the song.”
“Barbra Streisand” (which joins such previous artist-titled songs as Weezer‘s “Buddy Holly,” Barenaked Ladies’ “Brian Wilson” and Taylor Swift‘s “Tim McGraw”) is Duck Sauce’s second single. The pair’s first, 2009’s “Anyway,” sampled Final Edition’s “I Can Do It (Anyway You Want).” Both songs are in keeping with the Duck Sauce modus operandi: finding something relatively unknown and making it fresh again.
“It’s like archaeology,” Van Helden explains. “You’re finding a lost treasure to an extent. Our precursor is obviously Daft Punk. They weren’t the first to sample disco, but they made it a style mainstay. So if you know what Daft Punk is, you know what Duck Sauce is.”
“Anyway” was accompanied by a video featuring a fake Jackson 5-like funk band, which has been a source of confusion for some promoters. “They call and ask, ‘How many people are in the band? Is it a tour bus and airplane? What’s the show like?’ ” says Dan Ross of XMix, which manages Duck Sauce and Van Helden as a solo act. “And I answer, ‘No, there aren’t eight dudes showing up with Afros.’ “
But Duck Sauce does occasionally perform gigs in the form of a tag-team DJ set, working behind a 30-foot-high inflatable duck. The pair played Los Angeles’ Electric Daisy Carnival in June and is scheduled to appear at Sydney’s Big Day Out music festival in January.
For veteran Van Helden, the group’s success is part of an exciting time for dance music. “The past five years have been a renaissance,” he says. “Sometimes it seems like [the attention] is going to decrease and go back to its dark side again. But it hasn’t. No one is letting the industry fragment and break people into sections. It’s back to the way it should be, with everyone enjoying music in all forms.”
Additional reporting by Mark Sutherland and Gary Trust.