Music Monday: The Rise of Unnecessary Remixes

So I wouldn’t say I’m a music snob, because I love a lot of different genres, but no one genre is superior to another. Just like TV, everybody has different tastes; everybody can like what they want. I am, however, kind of particular about what I like and don’t like. This revelation kinda happened over the past five years or so, but it was sort of always there. I have my favourites of course, but I’m a little bit more reluctant to discover new artists. Chalk some of it up to no time to actively search the internet for new music to listen to, but it’s also the fact that I’m not particularly impressed with the new batch of singers or music that get radio airplay.

Anyways, one of my biggest pet peeves are remixes. Hear me out though: some remixes are good, only if they’re done right. Again, personal preference as to what’s considered “done right”, but for me the remix has to add something of value to the song or changes it in a way that makes it feel like a different version but an extension of the song (if that makes any sense). I am not a fan of the unnecessary remix; the big one I file under that is the Dance/EDM Remix. Considering I’ve always hated EDM as a genre, it just annoys me to no end. Lately, however, the unnecessary remix I loathe is the Radio Edit/Remix where they take a perfectly beautiful song and “pop-ify” it/make it more “radio friendly.” I remember when Lady Antebellum released “Need You Now” which we all know is a great country-pop song, and then I heard some radio stations play a mix of the song that turned up the pop value and made it more upbeat. It was probably one step away from being a full-out club remix. And things have just gotten more ridiculous since then. It used to be every once in a while, typically when you get one of those genre crossover tracks and they get the “pop radio edit.” I’ve heard three, arguably already pop songs, get an unnecessary remix.

ADELE, Hello

Of course, everyone fell in love with this song as soon as it dropped. Powerful and dramatic, with Adele’s sweeping vocals. But then I heard a new mix of the song that still kept most of what you love about the song (Adele’s vocals) but increased the pop factor. It’s a subtle change in the arrangement, but you can tell the difference with the added drums that makes the song sound pop/rock (I would compare it to a OneRepublic song). It just takes away from the drama of the song itself.

Hello – DJ Mike D Remix

KELLY CLARKSON, Piece by Piece

This goes to show how much I try to avoid listening to the radio. After Kelly performed this song on Idol, and subsequently released that stripped down version, that is the version that I’ve been hearing. I love it, I heard it when she went on tour, it’s just a great fit for what the song is about. One day, after hearing the Idol Version on radio, the on-air DJ was talking about how this is such a stark difference to the “original” which was upbeat. I remember sitting in the car thinking, “What is she talking about? Upbeat?! It was maybe a midtempo pop song.  It wasn’t a dance pop song by any means.” Little did I know, the version that actually did get released as a “radio edit” was pretty dance pop-y. The accompanying video confirmed as such. And that just boggles my mind because the version I know from the album was good as is. I didn’t see a need to make it MORE POP. I’m just happy that people have been accepting of the stripped down Idol Version.

 

JAMES BAY, Let It Go

The most recent annoying remix I’ve heard is of James Bay’s Let It Go. For the past couple months, I’ve been hearing the original, simple beautiful song I know and love from the album. One day, I accidentally stumbled upon a satellite radio station that was playing this song, but an R&B remix of it?! WHAT?! It’s not terrible, doesn’t mean it was right to do so. I mean, I’d probably tolerate it more if it was like a reality TV competition show and a contestant had revamped the song for themselves (or maybe not), but giving the song an R&B groove, to me, takes away the purity of the original. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

*It was only while doing this post that I realized that two of the remixes I hated and made as an example were done by the same DJ. He is now on my hate list.

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When Songs Sound Similar to One Another

I woke up yesterday morning to my local radio station promoting the fact that they’d be playing the new Katy Perry song Roar every hour, so no one would miss it. A few minutes later, they played the song, and as soon as it started, I started thinking to myself “Why does this sound familiar?” Once the chorus of Roar kicked in, I found myself singing instead “Say what you wanna say and the let the words fall out/ Honestly, I wanna see you be brave” It turned out that Katy Perry’s new song sounded eerily similar to Sara Bareilles’ Brave. I’m not the only one who noticed, since in no time at all, others made the connection. Responses to the similarities ranged from:

  • Brave >>>>> Roar (I’m part of the group who shares this opinion)
  • The similarities are minor/ I don’t see the fuss/ Can’t they just co-exist?
  • They’re two totally different songs!

What’s funny is that both songs were written by different people, who just happened to be on the same wavelength and decided to write songs that ended up being quite similar to one another. Problem is, Sara’s song has been out since April. And compared to Katy, Sara is a minor artist, so while radio stations are rushing to put Roar on repeat, Brave hasn’t been heard as much (here on Canadian radio anyways) and now is only recognized because of this “controversy.”

 

Anyways, all this talk about these two songs sounding similar to one another got me thinking about past examples, and one of my favourite memories from college. See, two of my friends and I were studying/doing homework for the one class we had together, and somehow we started talking about music (clearly not studying). At the time, Chris Brown had a song out called With You. My friend Chris and I talked about the merits of the song, and it came up that it was pretty much Beyonce’s Irreplaceable, Part 2. Our friend Ian never made the connection before and so we made him REALLY listen to With You. Within seconds, he started singing “To the left, to the left” over top of the Chris Brown song, and his look of realization was the equivalent to the How I Met Your Mother “glass shattering” when they realized each others’ annoying habits. It was kind of hilarious. Then we started going with other songs that sounded similar or had similar elements: Rihanna & Ne-Yo’s Hate That I Love You and Ne-Yo’s Sexy Love; Leona Lewis’ Angel and Jordin Sparks’ Tattoo, to name a few.

 

Also, who could forget the controversy that occurred when Beyonce released Halo and Kelly Clarkson released Already Gone. Kelly Clarkson doesn’t take s**t from anybody, so when she has an opinion about something, girl let’s it be known – and she was none too pleased with Ryan Tedder, who produced both songs. As far as releasing the songs as a single, Beyonce was first, but in the production of the song, Kelly’s was first. For me, this was the beginning of when I started to not like Tedder as much. His songs started having an element about them that sounded the same.

 

Any other songs out there, released at relatively the same time, that sound alike? Songs that sample other songs are an entirely different story. I’m talking two seemingly different songs that share similar qualities.

The Now + Then of Music

It’s a subject that I often think about, most often when listening to the radio, and that’s how music has changed over the years. I’m a person who doesn’t particularly like listening to the radio, but seeing how part of my job involves driving around everywhere in a car that isn’t mine, I’m forced to listen to the radio. Honestly, my dislike of listening to the radio really has more to do with my frustrations with it. A lot of the more popular stations in my area (and I’m sure this applies in a lot of places) seem to play the same songs over and over again. This summer, I consider it a good day/drive if I didn’t have to hear a song featuring any one of the following artists – Pitbull, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, LMFAO, Rihanna…the list could go on, but the point is my idea of a good day has been rare. Also, you know it’s a bad thing when the radio can turn a song from one of your favourite artists and make you not like it because of the song being overplayed – in this case, it’s Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” The last time this happened was when Sara Bareilles was hitting it big with “Love Song” and everyone was playing it. It was a lengthy amount of time before I could actually listen to that song again.

I’m very well aware that the radio stations I choose to listen to are the popular ones, so they will be playing a lot of Top 40 stuff. At the same time, is it too much to ask for a variety of songs? I find it kind of sad that I have to listen to a radio station from Buffalo (if I can pick up the signal) to get an actually good variety of music. When I can actually pick up the signal for this station (Star 102.5), I get to hear, for example, Colbie Caillat, Sara Bareilles, Matt Nathanson. And it’s not just the songs that they’re famous for (“Bubbly,” “Love Song,” “Come on Get Higher” respectively) but their newer songs (“Brighter Than the Sun, ” “Uncharted,” “Faster”)! Of the more popular stations in this area, if I had to choose, I would listen to CHUM 104.5 and Magic 106.1 more often than 91.5 The Beat, Z103.5, and Virgin 99.9 because they give me a slightly better variety of music. Sure they’ll play the Top 40 stuff, but they also play older songs, which I appreciate.

Yes, this is all preference and people’s definition of what is considered good music varies; this is strictly my opinion, my thoughts. Fact of the matter is, these stations that play a better variety of music, both old and new music, gets me thinking about the songs I grew up with, because these stations plays those songs.

I’m 23 now, and if I look back on the past 10-15 years of music, and compare it to now, I would much prefer listening to the older songs. If you really think about it, the early 2000s were great years for music. We can laugh about the whole boy band thing that started in the 90s and continued on, but you can’t tell me that an album like NSYNC’s “Celebrity” doesn’t hold up today. You listen to some of the singles off that album (“Gone”, “Girlfriend”) and you can still hear it on the radio today. If we want to talk R&B, I would gladly listen to Usher’s “My Way” and “You Make Me Wanna” over his newer stuff. I would pick Aaliyah over anything these days. Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” and “Baby Boy” over “Run The World (Girls).”

Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve never been particularly fond of the dance music genre, but I look at the songs from back then (making it seem like it was THAT long ago, but it kind of wasn’t) and they seem to have a timeless quality to it as opposed to a lot of songs these days. These songs come on the radio and I still enjoy it as I did 10 years ago. I could just be cynical, but I can’t imagine the popular songs of today, holding up well, and still be good 10 years from now. With a lot of artists these days trying to make dance music, it feels almost dated. It’s a little hard to explain. All I know is that, now more than ever, I love and appreciate the artists who write music with meaning and heart, and they really try to make good music and not just follow what’s popular. Don’t get me wrong, I get that every artist wants to grow and experiment with new sounds at some point. But there is absolutely nothing wrong with sticking with what you know, what you do best, and showing what you’ve learned through your songwriting.

Music, like everything else, goes through cycles. So maybe right now, we’re in a little bit of a lull. And while a sizable group of popular artists are trying to make a dance record/album/song or trying to make everything a big spectacle, others are falling through the cracks of people’s consciousness, despite releasing albums with great music/songwriting/intentions. And honestly, this really just goes back to my longstanding wish that more artists get the recognition they deserve. Plus hopes that I can turn on the radio and not hear the same 10 songs or so, ALL THE FREAKIN’ TIME.

Rant over? For now…