Remixes: Good or Bad?

By: Michael Kevin |

For the past few years, song remixes have grown substantially, showing up at radio plays and streams. Although its popularity has reached another level in recent times, remixes are not a new thing. It has become a common thing in the music scenes, especially in the electronic music scene, to do music remixes, but however they weren’t the ones who introduced the term “remixes”.

Dating back to the late 1960s to the early 1970s era of Jamaican dance hall scene, the roots of music remixes were established. During the era, producers such as Lee “Scratch” Perry and King Tubby would strip down reggae tracks and alter them, either by removing the vocals or adding some effects on the instrumentals such as echoes, reverbs and delays. Moving to the 1970s, same tricks were done at discotheques with disco songs, with notable figure Tom Moulton making a scene with his mixes around New York City during the era. Moulton, who introduced the term “dance remix”, also introduced the 12-inch vinyl format and breakdown section, which became an important aspect for electronic music culture. In the 1980s, during which the electronic music had a significant rise, remixes were approached in an extreme extent, in which remixes during the era were done by adding samples to make a whole new song. Another form of remix was introduced in which the remixing is done by replacing the instrumentals yet still keeping the vocals as a whole. During the 1990s, remixes were done by mashing up two or more recordings (which in some cases are really different recordings). From then until now, we can search for an array of remixes from popular songs which are separated into a variety of genres, ranging from house, synth-pop, hip hop, trap, glitch, and more.

There are some cases in which remixes can be a good thing. One of them is that remixes can be a way for artists to promote their brand, which to some extent has proven to be successful, mostly for Electronic music scene in Europe during the early 2010s. Robin Schulz and Felix Jaehn, both German producer and DJ, were among notable artists who emerged into the charts through their remixes. Schulz gained prominence into the European charts through his remix of Dutch artist Mr. Probz’ song “Waves” and French indie pop duo, Lilly Wood & the Prick’s song “Prayer in C”, in which both songs topped the music charts in several European countries in 2014. The same case also applied with Schulz’s fellow German compatriot, Felix Jaehn, who produced a popular rendition of Jamaican artist OMI’s “Cheerleader”, which topped the charts in multiple countries, including the United States in the same year. Both Schulz and Jaehn later became a household name in the electronic music scene, boasting an enormous amount of streams in Youtube and other streaming services.

Another reason why remixes can be a good thing is that remixes can be beneficial for artists to make bonds with the music community, whether artists wanted to collaborate with other artists or fulfill what the fans wanted. One of the most notable examples of this case is American rapper Lil Nas X, who released his major hit song “Old Town Road” into several remixes with a couple of well known artists, including country legend Billy Ray Cyrus, rapper Young Thug, Mason Ramsey, DJ and Producer Diplo, and even RM of Korean boyband BTS.

However, remixes can be a bad thing for the music scene. One of the major points which later become a debate is whether remixes fall into fair use or not. Copyright implications have been a major talking point in music remixes, in which artists do remixes by borrowing and using the original music piece and redistribute it to the masses, which might eventually result in questions emerging on whether the remixes fall under the category of derivative work or vice versa. The law itself is vague and inconsistent to accommodate and protect remixes, mashups with their original counterparts, hence the amendment of the law could be necessary to draw a clear line between the two sides.

Besides fair use, remixes can be horrendous, quality wise, which might be unpleasant to the listeners who enjoyed the original piece. Some music listeners critiqued remixes for lacking originality, innovation, creativity, and uniqueness. Billie Eilish’s remix of “Bad Guy” which featured Canadian pop superstar Justin Bieber is the latest example when it comes to this case. The song had mostly negative reception from fans and music listeners for its decline in quality compared to the original song, and also mentioned that the remix feels unnecessary whatsoever.

In short, remixes can be both good and bad, depending how artists perceive on the remix itself. Some perceive remixes as a way to prove their skills to improve the original piece of song, while some perceive remixes as a way to become more popular. But either way, remixes have undeniably paved way for a lot of musicians, especially the ones in the electronic music scene in recent years.

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