On the back cover of the CD booklet that accompanies Richard X's first full-length is an anti-piracy statement from EMI Music (Astralwerks' parent), a polite but strongly worded missive reminding listeners about the danger of the Internet, CD burners and the like. Bit strange, really, since that's pretty much how Richard X made his bones, back when he was working under the name Girls On Top. His strip-mined singles that paired TLC's "No Scrubs" with Human League's "Being Boiled" ("Being Scrubbed") and Missy Elliott's "She's a Bitch" with the Normal's "Warm Leatherette" ("Warm Bitch") were burned and bartered online more often than they were actually sold. Even he owns up to the apparent hypocrisy: Underneath the anti-piracy business, he asks, "Has Richard X sold out?"
So, you can't hold too much against him. Especially since EMI gives Richard X access to its catalog to cut and paste as he sees fit on X-Factor Vol. 1. "Being Boiled" shows up again straight away, this time paired with a revamping of Chaka Khan's "Ain't Nobody," courtesy of Liberty X (no relation); the result, "Being Nobody," is soul on ice, an electromagnetic pulse that makes the 1980s seem earthy in comparison. But, you know, in a good way. Human League is represented again later on "Finest Dreams," a tag team of its "The Things That Dreams Are Made Of" and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis' "The Finest" fronted by punk-soul diva Kelis that makes you wonder why she isn't a bigger star. She could sing over a dial tone and make it work. That's Richard X's particular genius: He isn't the star but more of a coach, dealing in X and "ohs" rather than X's and O's.
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Elsewhere, Richard X "reforms" (his word) Spandau Ballet's "Chant No. 1 (I Don't Need This Pressure On)" and comes up with "Rock Jacket"--worn, possibly, by an amoral robot shooting up Vice City. Deborah Evans-Stickland, late of new-wave novelty the Flying Lizards, turns up for a version of the Bacharach-David chestnut "Walk on By" recorded for play over the P.A. at Heathrow Airport; you half expect her to direct someone to the red courtesy phone halfway through. Soul II Soul's Caron Wheeler, the Sugarbabes, Pulp's Jarvis Cocker and up-and-comers Annie and Javine also help bring Richard X's car-crash vision to life, as he redesigns '80s funk and dance castoffs, updating them for the present by making them sound even more like the past, playing up the source decade's plasticity. It's a streamlined version of 2 Many DJs' culture collages, a more thought-out (and certainly more official) version of the sloppy mash-ups that are on the Internet more than pop-up ads. No, Richard X hasn't sold out. But maybe you should buy in.