20 remixes of pop songs we’re not afraid to love
#10. Beyonce – Drunk N Luv (Diplo remix)
Beyoncé’s amorous anthem inspired a dozen remixes, from Kanye’s version (with the explicit verse that made us all feel uncomfortable) to a saxophone cover and Katy B’s soaring version; even James Blake got in on the action with an ethereal chop-up based around the Orientalist sample at the beginning of the original.
But who better to take on a pop song based around a trap beat than bass master Diplo? Add some staccato 808s, rave horns, gated vocals and a couple of big drops and you’ve got Beyoncé singing about “graining on that wood” over a moombahton backing track tailor-made for your local dance hall.
#9. Ellie Goulding – Lights (Bassnectar remix)
It was a certain other producer’s handiwork that first propelled dubstep to the mainstream (yes, we’ll get to that), but it was Bassnectar who showed everyone else how the full-throttle wub remix was done. Pair his skills with the work of Ellie Goulding – dance music’s enduring vocalist of choice – and you had the biggest remix of the movement. Even with dubstep’s 2011 glory days behind us, Bassnectar’s effort is still popping up in spots as unexpected as the Spring Breakers movie credits and amassing those YouTube plays (19 million and counting).
#8. No Doubt – Settle Down (Baauer remix)
You don’t have to spend long scrolling through Baauer’s Soundcloud for one thing to be very clear: the guy knows his way around a remix. His edits of Flosstradamus, Disclosure and AlunaGeorge tracks have all gone large, but in the pop stakes it’s his take on No Doubt’s Diplo-produced comeback tune Settle Down that stands out. It’s not festival-ready trap, but it is an inspired effort from a producer who only needs three minutes to prove his skill set’s too diverse to pigeonhole.
#7. The Killers – Mr Brightside (Jacques Lu Cont remix)
Few producers have made waves in both pop and dance music as convincingly as Stuart Price. While he’s worked behind the scenes for the likes of Madonna, New Order, Kylie Minogue and Scissor Sisters, club dance floors know him better as Jacques Lu Cont, Les Rythmes Digitales or Thin White Duke.
Back in the mid-2000s, he brought the two worlds together on a remix that went on to rule festival stages over several seasons: the Thin White Duke version of The Killers’ single Mr. Brightside. Foregrounding the vocals of Brandon Flowers, Price transforms the pop anthem into a dreamy electronic excursion that stretches over eight blissed-out minutes. No ‘epic drop’ required.
#6. Sneaky Sound System – Always By Your Side (Nicolas Jaar remix)
It might have got an official release in late 2011, but you could be excused for not hearing Jaar’s Always By Your Side remix until it popped up, six odd months later, in his year-best Essential Mix. Tucked away on the B-side of Sneaky Sound System’s Big EP, Jaar’s interpretation of the Australian duo’s original was near-unrecognisable – so much so, in fact, the remix was given a whole new title.
And who else could take one line of a pop song and turn it into this? As if you’d expect anything less of one of the most consistent producers working today, Always By Your Side is Nicolas Jaar at his ethereal best.
#5. Adele – Rolling in the Deep (Jamie xx remix)
Jamie xx is a master of the rework – if there’s any doubt in your mind, pick up his remix album of Gil Scott Heron’s final opus I’m New Here and be converted. But can the master of mood and atmosphere successfully tackle Adele’s big-lunged pop hooks? Shame on you for doubting.
Jamie xx turns Adele’s megahit into down-tempo dancehall, with handclap beats and a pitched down vocal hook, before Childish Gambino drops in out of nowhere for the final third of the song, firing off a blistering and hilarious 34 bars (bemoaning a girl who left him for a “Michael Cera knock-off”). Swag.
#4. Destiny’s Child – Say My Name (Cyril Hahn remix)
Remixer extraordinaire Cyril Hahn built his name on spacious, atmospheric and sometimes menacing remixes of RNB confection by the likes of Mariah Carey and Solange, but his rework of Destiny’s Child’s sassy player-shaming anthem is the best of the lot. With its screwed-down vocal loop of “say my name” floating eerily over a restrained deep house beat as melodic tones drone in the background, it sounds like it could be an ‘80s Frankie Knuckles classic pitched right down. Perfect sunset or sunrise dancefloor fodder.
#3. Lana Del Rey – Blue Jeans (Gesaffelstein remix)
Step aside Cedric Gervais, this is how you remix Lana Del Rey. At a time when every man and his dog was remixing the new queen of Americana – search for “Lana Del Rey remix” on YouTube today and you’ll yield about 1,340,000 results – the Frenchman came out a head above the rest, transforming the pop hit into a sinister slice of techno and making it sound like the most natural thing in the world.
It’s an important milestone in the rise and rise of Mike Levy, too: arriving not long after Control Movement and just before his Rise of Depravity EP, Gesaffelstein’s take on Lana cemented his status as one of the most exciting names in techno – a promise he more than delivered on eighteen months later with Aleph.
#2. Tori Amos – Professional Widow (Armand Van Helden remix)
Usually when people remix a track they take a majority of stems from the original and use them to rebuild the track in their own style, or add their own signature samples to the original. Not so Armand van Helden.
Tori Amos’s original Professional Widow is a quiet-loud rock dirge driven by harpsichord and piano; Armand van Helden’s remix takes two tiny vocal loops and spins them into one of the highest charting, best-selling, most recognisable house tunes of all time, confusing millions of listeners along the way (“what exactly is she singing? ‘I’m only bringing you toast tonight’?”). The remix’s 4/4 speed garage beat and ear-worm of a bass riff, not to mention its unforgettably incomprehensible vocal samples, sped it to the top of the UK Singles chart and a place in remix history.
#1. La Roux – In For The Kill (Skream’s Let’s Get Ravey remix)
Arguably the song that took dubstep to the mainstream – well before Britney Spears et al started jumping on the bandwagon – Skream’s famous La Roux remix has left an indelible legacy. The bass icon’s take on In For The Kill did everything a remix could hope to: it improved on the original, ushered in a new era of dance music, inspired countless of (mostly inferior) imitators and crafted an anthem that’s just as well-loved five years later. You might bemoan the way the genre went in its later years, but back in 2009 Skream showed us all just how dubstep’s embrace of pop was meant to sound.
But if you really want to know the legacy Skream’s Let’s Get Ravey remix left, leave it to La Roux’s Elly Jackson to put it best. “What it did for me [was] re-gave birth to the real meaning and atmosphere of the song as we wrote it,” Jackson praised at an award ceremony the next year. “What he did with the song is what we would have done if we’d been brave enough. He left it sparse and exposed and dark. It showed that people don’t want mindless happy crap. They want something that makes them feel and that remix really does. Skream did an amazing job, thank you again and again.”