Paperhouse: On remixes

Over winter break, one of my friends downloaded a bunch of one-hit wonders. It did not take long, however, to find that someone decided that gems such as “Who Let the Dogs Out?” and “Cotton-Eyed Joe” needed remixes.

These remixes were not just bad — there was also no new perspective gained from listening to them. There was barely anything about the songs that was altered; hi-hats, bass, and synths were simply added on top of the songs with some minor equalizer manipulation. It was the musical equivalent of using Microsoft Paint to do photo manipulation.

Good remixes have a lot in common with good song covers: They maintain the most essential aspects of the song, provide a new perspective, and show an appreciation of the source material. For example, I was never a fan of Lady Gaga’s “Yoü and I.” However, after hearing Wild Beasts’ remix of it, I changed my opinion.

Wild Beasts’ remix stripped away almost every element of the song, leaving a vocal loop of Lady Gaga singing, “This time we made love / This time baby you and I,” over sampled loops taken directly from the song. The only addition the band makes is singer Hayden Thorpe moaning over parts of the song. The two layers of the song could not sound any more different. Wild Beasts stripped away the theatricality, the radio-pop polish, and the schmaltzy country-rock ballad feel. They left listeners with the soul of the song: sexual longing and the torture of being separated from a loved one.

It’s easy to discredit remixes as a legitimate art form because it’s not terribly difficult to make one. But artistic vision is necessary to make a remix worth listening to. Although there are enough mediocre dubstep remixes of pop songs to make one lose faith in remix culture, it’s important to remember that if you just keep looking hard enough, you’ll probably find a remix that will remind you why you started looking for them in the first place.

(Originally published in The Tartan)

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