Don't change for me. Better yet, do change for me.

What if you had the chance to take something good and make it great? Or to take something great and make it totally super awesome? Would you do it? Yes, of course you would! What kind of stupid question is that? Anyway, that brings me to today's topic: remixes. Putting aside those dark days in the late 90s when it was considered de rigueur to put out a "dance remix" of whatever shitty song was hot at the moment, remixes can actually be a pretty cool way to experience a song. They let you experience an artist's take on another artist's music, often with far more interesting results than you'd get by just hearing a cover version. Remixes, in fact, can sometimes turn out...dare I say it?...better than the original song. [Pause for effect.]

Yes, I said it: there are several songs where I think the original is decent, but the remix is art. Take for example "Presidential Suite" by Super Furry Animals. It's a pretty song. It has a nice acoustic guitar intro, the French horn (or whatever that is) is very pretty, and the lyrics are brilliant (featuring the classic line "Do we need to know if he really came inside her mouth?"). But overall I find it a bit overproduced and a little on the boring side. One reviewer on Amazon referred to it as a "tedious cabaret," and that sounds about right to me. Now dig on this here remix by Phat Eric. [Editor's note: I'm using some experimental Flash-based MP3 embedder doohicky I found somewhere, please let me know if it blows up your computer or tries to trick you into playing a game of thermonuclear war.]

Those strings at the beginning are a promising start. And it only gets better. That crazy laugh track (anyone know what that's from? I'd love to find out) lets you know you're in for a weird time. The new drum beat keeps things moving, and the exposed bass line provides a really nice counterpoint to the crispness of that electric snare drum. And the rap sections make it sound like this could have been a rap song on its own, having nothing to do with the "tedious cabaret." I think this is a great remix because it stands alone - it's a great song even if you've never heard the original, and it's much more interesting to listen to (to my ears, anyway) than the original. Take that, Super Furry Animals! Let that be a lesson to all your little Welsh buddies, too!

I have to say, I feel guilty about liking a remixed version better than the original song. It seems like I'm dishonoring the artist by essentially telling them "what you did was fine, but what someone else did with what you did was brilliant." I guess I need to get over that and accept our modern world with its Web 2.0s and its mashups and its other pointless bullshit, and just enjoy the music. Still, it's hard for me when I love the original version of a song, yet I find I love the remix even more. Take for example M.I.A.'s unbelievably addictive "Paper Planes":

Best of use a cash register since Pink Floyd exposed the downside of being rich in "Money" back in 1973. In fact, I would call this song "totally awesome." But the remix blows me away (even though it has some weird thing where the whole song shifts up about a half-step at around 0:13):

You should fast forward a bit, the first minute or so doesn't sound different at all. But then it suddenly becomes a different, vastly cooler song. With all due respect to the original, this version just kicks more ass. Which makes it Jordan's Lock 'O' The Week, for you bettors out there. And with that, I'll close by saying that I've always wanted to know how to remix a song. There's a bunch of songs I'd love to play with, but I have no idea what kind of software is involved. Anyone care to point me in the right direction? I'd be much obliged.

So, what remixes do you like? Are there any that eclipse the original song for you? Do you know any remix versions better than the originals?


Unknown said...

Hot Chip's remix of Amy Winehouse's Rehab is pretty cool.

Also, I think Feist is an interesting singer who tends to have really boring arrangements, so I like her album of remixes, called Open Season.

John Das Binky said...

Remixes, in fact, can sometimes turn out...dare I say it?...better than the original song.

This is a bit like saying "Sometimes, the best movie of the year wins the best picture Oscar." Sure, it happens now and then, but not too bloody often.

There are really only a handful of mixes I know of that overshadow the originals, and most of those are actually by the original artist. Sarah McLachlan and Genesis both do excellent stuff with their own remixes.

(I think it's worth splitting out the difference between remixes by the artist and remixes by someone else. Different beasts.)

Would you consider mashups remixes? I'd call out A Stroke of Genie-Us (Christina Aguilera + The Strokes) as one of the best sonic reinventions I've ever heard.

(Incidentally, my computer did not like the mp3 imbedding thing.)

Newmanium Reveler said...

Remixes and mash-ups are almost always more interesting for the methdology than for the outcome. For example, dismemberment plan's remix album - wherein they made tracks available to the public, jay-z-style, and then invited fans to submit remixes for this official release. But the results are meh.

Having said that, though, a good remix is sort of like the Harlem Globetrotters. It's not the "real" thing - it's all bells and whistles and bright plumage - but it also speaks to the original fanboy-worship aspect that got me into music (or basketball) in the first place. It's a clinical ear pairing two distinct things ideally, though there are plenty of exampels where the "remix" is just a jungle beat superimposed over a calmer song.

I really have a hard time hearing Jay-Z's "Encore" without imagining the mash-up with "Friend of the Devil." Ditto for some of the Girl Talk ingredients.