one of the first chicago house music singers to garner national notoriety in the mid-80s, especially in gay clubs, liz torres commanded the dance floor with her collaborations with fellow chicago-house pioneers jesse jones and master c&j. by 1990, liz reached her peak when she signed with major label jive records. while that should have resulted in crossover success, it only proved the industry’s inability and reluctance to market dance artists in the early days of house music.
known as one of the original “queens of house”, liz torres was born in ponce, puerto rico and raised in chicago by religious parents who only allowed her to listen to spanish church songs. by her late teens, liz became captivated by the then-emerging house music sound and teamed with pioneering house music producer jesse jones. the partnership resulted in the pulsating and percussive track “mind games.“
released in 1985, “mind games” became a hit in gay clubs in both chicago and new york especially at the legendary paradise garage where she dazzled the crowd with her persona and fashion-forward outfits. some of which would later be designed by patricia fields.
after the release of notable releases including her collaborations with chicago pioneering dance producers master c&j “can’t get enough,” “in the city,” “face it” and “touch of love,” liz was signed to a major label by the end of the decade.
by 1990, liz had already gained a strong queer following and that informed her style both sonically and esthetically. and that style was unapologetically sexual and rooted in feminism – things that were only celebrated by the masses if madonna did them. unfortunately, jive records struggled to translate all that made liz a force at the club level into a formable pop act.
for the lead single of her only full-length album, “the queen is in the house,” released in 1990, liz was paired with the production team of clivilles and cole. the result was the 1990 pop-centric house track “if you keep it up” that featured a legendary vocalist martha wash on the catchy and addictive hook. “if you keep it up” was a great track and was accompanied by a music video that featured several ballroom house members voguing including the godfather of vogue, the late-great willi ninja.
sadly, “if you keep it up” was overlooked by pop radio and the queer as fuck music video was regulated to smaller music video outlets. “if you keep it up peaked at #5 on the billboard dance chart but missed the hot 100 chart completely.
liz eventually parted ways with jive records and after a couple of independent singles, she faded into obscurity by the mid-90s. after an almost two-decade absence, liz resurfaced with the seductive “your love is all i need” in 2013.
liz torres is an important and often unsung part of chicago house music history. she remains one of the seminal pioneers of bilingual house music. while liz torres was able to break ground she never really had her breakthrough. but her catalog is still regarded by house music historians as essential listening.