I know what it feels like, to cringe as an artist completely butchers a perfectly intact song, or a music producer bizarrely remixes a song with great potential. I typically respond by emitting an audible groan, abandoning hope.
But before I give up just yet, I do a little exploration. I approach a song from a new perspective. A chilling new voice takes the stage. Someone slows the melody down. The lyrics somehow form meaning as someone pulls out a guitar.
It seems to the listener as though a brighter light has been shed, or a filter placed on what is now an infinitely more laudable and capable song. Lo and behold, my pain is alleviated.
Behold, the power of the remix.
Remixes have been utilized in our society for generations, taking the form of covers, parodies, adaptations, and more. Artists have pulled songs from across decades and reached beyond their conventional music genres, their unique take yielding great success on music that is not originally theirs.
Sometimes, when the essence of a song remains unchanged, listeners default to comparing voice qualities. In this moment, the focus is not as much on the song itself as it is on the fresh face singing the song; a high quality cover song can not only provide a new angle on an existing song, but also give the original new meaning.
Meanwhile, a remix can enhance the appeal of a song that initially didn’t capture the attention of certain groups of people. We all know of “dance remixes” and “club remixes” that take off and do far better than the original. That’s because these are typically targeted towards a more eagerly receptive audience.
I never thought that my jurisdiction as a music appreciator would stretch to include the territory of Kanye West music, but I heard a wonderful cover of “Bound 2,” in which a completely mediocre song had revived itself, strongly impacting me by the complexity and provocativeness of (some) of his lyrics.
The potential of the remix knows no boundaries, and this is why my most recent music obsession has been the remix. Please take note, however, that I’m being careful to phrase this opinion piece on the POTENTIAL of remixes.
This is to disclaim that not every take is necessarily the best or even comparable to the original; a certain nuance is a necessary prerequisite to make magic. I’ve heard some awful, awful covers and parodies, many worse than the originals themselves, but I’ve also heard some that have allowed me to regain my faith in humanity’s ability to produce comprehensible, attractive music.
So what makes remixes, covers, and the like unlock such potential? The nuance lies in the ability of the artist to showcase a quality so amazing about the original that you simply could not appreciate before.
When you think about it, we recognize and idolize artists for some combination of their talent and their music. They are rarely made into timeless icons for just one or the other. It just so happens that the music remixes and covers that we enjoy have found an abnormally appealing balance.
The first major cover artists that I’ve come to enjoy are Michael Henry and Justin Robinett, two graduates of Texas Tech University, that became YouTube sensations as a result of their harmonious voices accompanied by simple background instruments. They’ve been all over the map, producing creative mashups and renditions of lots of pop songs.
“Slow Dancing in a Burning Room,” originally by John Mayer, starts out with the two members staring intensely into the camera. There’s a college boy in the background, playing the Wii. All of these details fade into the background, however, as soon as they open their mouths and start singing.
Not only is this a piano duet, but it’s also an impeccable harmonization with detailed gradation. Anyone could believe that they had spun the words out of gold thread, as their voice effects allow them to completely grasp the song.
Timeflies is yet another duo of music producers that emerged from Tufts University, that cover and remix prominent songs. The vocalist, Cal Shapiro, takes on each song with vigor, allowing his voice to meld exquisitely with the original artists’.
He introduces new rap lyrics to augment the existing song, while Rob Resnick (producer) adds an entrancing new beat to every song thrown their way. Together, their talent pushes everyday pop music above and beyond, creating a fusion of electro, dubstep, rock, and pop that is sure to catch you off guard but simultaneously leave you wanting more.
And beyond these duos, the possibilities of remixes, adaptations, and the like are infinite. Based on each individual’s music taste, it seems rational to conclude that we can all find new versions of old favorites, a revamped edition of that which was once bland and distasteful, or something in between.
So whenever you are stuck in a music rut, or just looking for a new take on your favorite songs, look to the remix, one of the most innovative ways to rediscover your love for music.
- written for my school’s newspaper (My music column is called Sounds and Soliloquies)