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Clubbed to Death

Why EDM remixes spell doom for your favourite tunes

By Ian VincePublished 13 days ago Updated a day ago 4 min read
Top Story - June 2024
Clubbed to Death
Photo by David Švihovec on Unsplash

I first noticed it ten years ago and I was relatively late to the party: The cult of the EDM remix of popular tunes that pummelled fresh, original cuts of pop perfection into oblivion.

In the early days, when electronic dance music – and the club culture that came along for the ride – broke out into the mainstream, recognisable hook lines and sing-along choruses were hoovered up wholesale into the belly of the beast. Only to be rearranged, reformulated and regurgitated as the amuse bouche and hors d’oeuvres of marathon length club sets otherwise stuffed full of four-to-the-floor stompers. In this way, the songs’ familiarity bred content to keep audiences on-side.

By 2015. it was another day and another Hozier remix blaring out of the audio feed, bringing us one step closer to a kind of clubmageddon, where every last ounce of dynamism is bled out of music by the repetitive application of indiscriminate force to a kick drum.

Sure, I like the 4-4 thump-thump as much as anyone else, but there’s a reason why this song was played to death; it has a hook-line so massive, it’s not so much a song, more of a 12-tog opiate-laced butterfly net. Once it’s got you, it never lets go and you don’t care anyway.

By Krys Amon on Unsplash

Something terrible happened with Take Me To Church. After it had been played to death, the DJ mixes came along to repeatedly flog its warm carcass for long enough to ensure that even its aura was totally extinguished. It was played to death, then clubbed to death to make sure.

The EDM remixes of Take Me To Church are like those awful sparkly floor Saturday night shows. You know the ones? The ones that are so cynical, even TV execs refer to them as ‘shiny floor shows’? The Hozier song has suffered the indignity they let the bovine masses inflict on the talent on those shows, in which absolutely everything must be smoothed out and robbed of all personality and quirks. Smearing such an ace, though admittedly over-played, song out over a quantised 4-4 is like asking the public to clap along to a Strictly Come Dancing / Dancing with the Stars bossanova - it works, but it completely ruins the music. In the name of a desperate lurch at popularity, such treatment smothers syncopation, glosses over grace notes and reduces the poetry of energetic music to a verse of doggerel.

By DJVIBE / STUDIOX on Unsplash

It’s low standards like these that tells me that many DJs would do as well to buy club music by the pound. The only thing that much of it has in its favour, after all, is its very interchangeability.

All but the best of it is built purely from a formula made for mixing and beat matching. Which is fine if you've necked something and want to grind out your chemical boogie somewhere, even if that does mean you may as well be dancing on the roof to the tuned sub-sonics of the air conditioning pump.

Back in the club, the constant measured bpm of an insistent kick drum, its crisp hi-hat and some say nothing vocals at the hands of a vanilla voice that stretches all the way to mediocrity is packing the dance floor. Thank Sandoz, Bayer or Ken Kesey for their service and for getting shit done.

So, I have a question.

Surely there are enough bad songs written specifically for bpms without inflicting your fascist beat zeal over a perfectly good one? Homogenised chocolate pop, sweet-tasting and diverting, but ultimately bad for you. Why must we do this all the time?

Ten years on from the Hozier smash, after a proliferation of largely meaningless genres of club music, much the same mucking-about with the classics still goes on, only with one important difference: Song stems.

Song stems are similar to tracks in multitrack studio recordings in that they split the sound stage into distinct slices. At first, stems came – officially blessed – from the studios themselves, which limited their supply as well as their adoption. These days you can perform stem extraction live using AI on relatively cheap equipment. The quality is nowhere near studio masters, but then again, you would be lucky to be hear them through anything but frankly poor-quality audio. Sure, there will be more wow and flutter than a missile strike on a butterfly farm, but in the usual environment of bewildering bass lines and a surplus of decibels, you will not be any the wiser.

As a sidebar - and something I’ll return to another time - next year marks the 40th Anniversary of The Breakfast Club, an iconic film with admittedly terrible montage sequences. In it, ‘basket case’ emo-goth Allison Reynolds (as played by Ally Sheedy) gets a makeover from ‘princess’ Molly Ringwald. It is celebrated as a triumph when it is the opposite, a defeat by the 4/4 forces of muchness and unswerving uniformity. It’s been nearly 40 years and nothing much changes in popular culture. I’m frightened that it might be the very thing that makes it popular in the first place.


About the Creator

Ian Vince

Erstwhile non-fiction author, ghost & freelance writer for others, finally submitting work that floats my own boat, does my own thing. I'll deal with it if you can.

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Comments (11)

  • Kingsley Gomes, PhD.a day ago

    Ian, this is a strong argument against the overuse of EDM remixes on classic songs. I definitely hear you on the point that some remixes can feel homogenized and take away from the original. I liked your analogy of the remixes being like "homogenised chocolate pop" - it gets the point across clearly. The point about song stems and lower audio quality in clubs is interesting too - a detail many readers might not know. Maybe in your next piece you could explore what makes a good remix and how some artists manage to add something new to a classic song without destroying it. Overall, this is a well-written piece for people who enjoy music discussion. Keep up the writing!

  • Excellent and Deserved Top Story, We are featuring this in the Vocal Social Society Community Adventure on Facebook and would love for you to join us there

  • I like you

  • TahimaAni8 days ago

    great job...congratulations

  • Andrea Corwin 9 days ago

    Sorry, I forgot to say Congrats on the TS!!

  • Andrea Corwin 9 days ago

    oooh frightened it might be the thing that makes it popular. I hear songs on the radio when driving, that DRIVE me nuts! I turn the station. It is usually female and can't understand the words and they are nonsense words anyway and the song is allowing the singer to just show her range of notes with ahhhh and oooooh.

  • shanmuga priya9 days ago

    Congratulations 🎉

  • Kendall Defoe 9 days ago

    I hate hearing remixes of songs I grew up with, and I appreciate this piece. Top Story!🏅

  • You have a great writing style and a wonderful voice. I would love to read more and learn from you. I'm glad I stumbled across this piece. Well done.

  • Caroline Jane10 days ago

    Love your turn of phrase, and that strictly come dancing analogy is hilariously on point! Great article.

  • Stars on 45 for the new millenium, hven't heard but sound attrocious. Great article

Ian VinceWritten by Ian Vince

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