Compiled by the organization Red Hot, the compilation will benefit marginalized communities dealing with HIV and AIDS (Porter himself recently revealed that he has been HIV positive for 14 years). It is a sequel of sorts to Red Hot’s 1992 comp, Red Hot + Dance, which featured George Michael, Madonna, Seal and more.
For his cover of “Caught in the Middle,” Porter channeled the pure euphoria of Roberts’ original while embracing a maximalist arrangement that pairs his blazing vocals with a soaring chorus, pounding piano, slinky guitar and a delirious kick drum beat. “It’s not fair how you broke down my defenses,” Porter belts, “Was it really true that you weren’t free/Oh I don’t care ’cause I’m living for the moment/Remembering the very first time/My heart beats like a drum.”
“I live at the intersection of art and activism,” Porter said in a statement. “Thirty years ago no one even wanted to talk about HIV and AIDS let alone celebrate the community with music and dance. There has to be joy in the middle of the pain, and hope that things can and will get better. That’s why the work that Red Hot does is so important. Thank you for leading the way. I’m so happy to be a part of carrying on the tradition.”
Bill Coleman, the producer who helmed Red Hot + Free, added of Porter, “His energy, fortitude and all-around New York fierceness embody the spirit of our album and Red Hot’s consistent missions to raise awareness. To be able to produce (with John ‘J-C’ Carr as 808 BEACH) this thumping cover of one of our absolute favorite ’90s club jams by Juliet Roberts is not only a welcome gift creatively but an energetic and festive nod to our friends who are no longer with us. ‘Caught In The Middle’ is our purposely reverent and unvarnished soulful house rave up with a Sylvester-inspired tempo to simply party to and play loud. I just love hearing Billy soar within the grooves!”
Accompanying the song’s release, Red Hot also shared an extensive in-studio conversation between Porter and Coleman.
Along with Porter, Red Hot + Free will feature contributions Vagabon, Tituss Burgess, Sofi Tukker and Amadou and Mariam, Foster the People, Sam Sparro and more.