Friday, May 7, 2010

Music Remixed

In most of my day-to-day music, I listen to dance & techno. As an aficionado, I know that a large portion of that music comes from remakes of pop music. Those remakes are so common, in fact, it kind of slipped my notice until recently when I got in to a discussion about a particular remix of Finger Eleven's "Paralyzer". A friend heard my remix and started on a rant that initiated with the "Paralyzer" remix, but ended up encompassing all remixes ever made. The gist of the rant was that a remix of a song does nothing but destroy the power of the original song, by dissecting the elements that make the original appealing, and break it down into a mush of bass beats and mainstream acceptable fluff. While I agree that a remix can have that effect, I don’t necessarily think that should automatically preclude any and all remixes ever.

Making music, like any other creative endeavor, can be an all consuming fire. In fact, most times that’s exactly what happens. The artist is consumed with the idea of creating a particular sound, or conveying a particular message with their music. They are so consumed that they ignore other avenues that could be explored while creating the song being worked on. I can't count how many times I've heard a song and thought, "it would have been cool if they had added a trumpet here" or "why did they put that guitar riff there?"

That's the artistic source of musical remakes. Getting inspiration from an original work, and then modifying that work into something different. Something that appeals to a greater audience, or a different audience than was intended, or even presents the same message in an entirely different context. For example, Pink released a song called "You Make Me Sick". It's a song about a girl succumbing to the charms of a guy that she finds repulsive. In the original version, the song is slow and gives the message of someone being slowly corrupted into submission. There's also a remix of it that I particularly enjoy that speeds up the tempo and adds a driving bass beat. When combined with the lyrics, it gives the song a quality that makes it seem like inhibitions lost in a whirlwind of sweet words and desire. Both versions are appealing, but in the remix the song takes an entirely different and equally compelling context. That's what the best remixes do: take the essence of the original song and shift it or enhance it to create a new, yet equally great song.

I remember watching an interview with Jennifer Lopez where she was talking about a time when she was filming a video and in between takes, her music was playing. Someone switched the music to a remake, and at first J-Lo didn't know why anyone would take off her music on HER video shoot. As she paid attention she realized that it was a remix of her song, and to her surprise she LIKED IT. Consequently, she decided to film several versions of her video, one of which to match that remix.

That is what remix is supposed to do, enhance your enjoyment of the original by providing a different context for you to enjoy.

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