I freely dispense advice to friends and family about keeping their minds open when it comes to music and be willing to explore new music and artists. But I must confess that I have been guilty of not practicing what I preach when it comes to remixes. When I read an NME article with this provocative title – Radiohead’s Thom Yorke: ‘Remix culture is healthy for music’ – I was forced to confront my bias against remixes.
Why do I not care for remixes?
- Bad start. My first experience of a remix was probably the most vile form of music ever created – Jhankaar Beats. Just thinking about them makes a shiver run down my spine! Here’s an example.
- Don’t care for clubs. I am not part of the club scene and have never been. A big part of it, I think, is that I have two right feet. I can clap, snap, sway, foot-tap, table-tap, head-nod, head-bang, air-guitar, air-keyboard and air-drum to music. Heck, I can even do the “sitting bhangra” move but any other physical response to music is beyond me. Since most remixes target the club scene, they’re lost on me.
- Predictable and Contrived. The process of remixing is an afterthought and the opportunity for creativity is limited since all remixes I’ve heard do a mix(!) of the following – increase the tempo, auto-tune voice, add bucket-loads of other sounds (aka sampling). The limitation of the format is obvious in most remixes. If the original song is good, then the remix sounds like a desperate wannabe. If the original song sucks, then the remix automatically inherits the suck-factor. The sweet spot for remixes is probably songs that are not bad but seem to be missing something. For example, I felt that the original version of “Billo” (“Ustad and the Divas”) sounded OK but labored. The remixed version though (the Remix, not the Club Mix) transforms the original in a positive way and gives it a kick.
- Too Many Remixes. Remixes in Hindi movies have a very low signal-to-noise ratio. When you see multiple remixes of the same original, how do you pick one? I usually respond by not listening to any. A recent example of this overdose – “Chammak Challo” in “Ra.One” has four remixed versions!
- Electronic Music. That brings me to another bias I have – one against electronic music. I’ll reserve that story another day but let me just say that I don’t like the overdose of electronic music that’s inherent in remixes.
Coming back to Yorke’s statement. I don’t know if remixes, in general, are good for music since I have not heard non-Indian remixes but I do know that the current trend of remixes in Hindi films can’t do any good to music in India.
PS: I dislike some of Radiohead’s recent offerings almost as much as I love their debut song, “Creep”. Given where their music is headed, I tend to take Yorke’s statement with a pinch of salt.
PPS: The PS above is totally snarky and irrational because I feel betrayed by Radiohead for changing their music the way they have.