Music: Gaudy Reign of the Disco Queen

Still tops in the clubs, Donna Summer wants a wider audience

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Listen here. Donna Summer has something to tell you: "You . . . are beautiful. Each . . . and . . . every . . . one . . . of . . . you . . . is . . . beautiful! That's right! And if you got it, then . . . I say . . . you ought to flaunt it!"

That doesn't sound like the old Donna Summer talking. But then, she's singing a different tune too. Back in 1976, on her first hit, Love to Love You Baby, she got a gold record by simulating orgasm 22 times and cajoling, in her best jailbait voice, "Do it to me again and again." Her latest hit, taken from her platinum album, Live and More, is a discofied rendering of Jimmy L. Webb's Mac Arthur Park, in which Donna can rise above the hot-pants reveries of her earlier work into the headier regions of post-psychedelic poesy. Try this: "Someone left the cake out in the rain/ I don't think that I can take it/ 'Cause it took so long to make it/ And I'll never have the recipe again, oh no."

Flaunt it, Donna. While you got it.

What she's got, most prominently, is a first-rate set of pipes, a ringing, theatrical voice that is locked in continual combat with the layered sound and dunce-cap lyrics of disco. With one platinum and five gold albums, Summer, 29, is the one incontestable star to emerge from the disco demimonde. Love to Love You Baby became a hit in the days when discos were not sprouting on every block, but were stashed in the closet along with the gay subculture from which they sprang.

The song's smash success coincided with disco's coming-out party, and became a kind of marching song for the disco revolution. Donna continues to ride high and handsome as the craze vaults all class barriers, from blue-collar to café society. Still big in the clubs, she has worked up a concert act that she is currently taking through 14 cities before invading the citadel, Las Vegas. Eager to wade into the musical mainstream, Donna dusts off The Man I Love and Some of These Days and presses them into a stage extravaganza that doesn't yield an inch to good taste.

Arms flung wide, blowing kisses like confetti, Donna sashays around the stage in glittering costumes, exhorting the audience ("You are beautiful"), joshing the band, trading a little prefabricated bitchiness with her backup singers who undulate at sharp angles like clockwork Nefertitis when Donna wraps herself around a lyric. "I do not consider myself a disco artist," Donna insists, against all contrary evidence. "I consider myself a singer who does disco songs. What I like to do is expose my market to other parts of music."

Donna's market is as broad as her expectations. After an appearance in a disco showcase quickie called Thank God It's Friday, she is primed to act. As she told TIME'S Edward Adler, "I don't have to take coaching. I can act. All I have to do is be myself playing someone else. I could be a Bette Davis-type actress. Catty, cold, precise and domineering."

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