As the youngest of three girls, I have received my fair share of hand-me-downs. Clothes with wear and tear, “out of season” purses, and jewelry that turned my sister’s skin green; these alllll became mine. Lucky me? Along with the frequently hazardous items that were pawned off to me, I also inherited a taste in music similar to those of my generous benefactors. Anyone with older siblings can attest that they control everything, especially the music that plays loud enough to be heard in every room of the house. Growing up, I heard the likes of Beastie Boys and Girl Talk on a daily basis, along with other remix masters who sample songs, create mashups, and draw upon others to create tracks of their own.
Remixes get a lot of flak from diehard fans of the original songs. But every day listeners usually don’t understand that the legalities of their craft are issues that remix artists face every day. The truth of the matter is that remixes are not original works of art. The good news is that this doesn’t make them any less valuable.
Whether remixes are “real” songs or whether they are impostors that piggyback on an original release boils down to 90% personal opinion and 10% court rulings (exact percentages may vary). And, if you’re anything like my mother, you don’t believe that re-mixing is a real trade. To this, I say two things: first, stop ruining my dreams of becoming an international DJ/Producer and all-around ruler of the world. Second, producers use computers and technology the same way that musicians use “traditional” instruments. Paper plate tambourines and Kleenex box guitars aren’t traditional, but you’re not going to heckle the eight year-old “playing” with them. Well, hopefully not. If you do, I’ll assume you also hate puppies and eat black jellybeans – you make me sick.
While it is true that the basic idea of remixing music is machine based, it requires proper artistry in the mix of audio and overlays, as well as an ear for music, to manipulate and create sounds that humans cannot produce with instruments.
The increasing amount of interest in both listening to and creating remixes is heavily influenced by the fact that this generation of Millennials make up majority of the demographic listening to electronic music – remixes included. Although there is an appreciation for re-works of songs, there remains constant criticism. While it is a not-so-uncommon belief (often from the older crowd…cough cough Dad) that remixes are “dumb” and take away from the original, it can be argued that these remixes often breathe life back into an old, forgotten song. Considering that many producers offer their remixes as free downloads on sites like SoundCloud and Band Camp, this shows how they just want to take a song, re-shape it, and share their version with others without profiting off it. As the beautiful British man Sam Smith would sing, “I don’t have money on my mind / I do it for the love” (in the spirit of remixes, I’ll just leave a great one of that song here.
Remixes are merely interpretations. They allow for a producer to shape a new meaning within overplayed tracks. The practice of personal interpretation is applied everywhere else, so isn’t it only fair to at least accept that this is happening within the music world as well? The way I see it, those who remix songs are still artists, and what they’re doing is releasing new material. There are fewer and fewer completely original and authentic ideas, let alone songs. The recent surge of remixes is reflective of our time. With technology evolving, we are a generation of individuals who build upon past ideas, including previously released songs. Sure, it can be argued that some songs should just be left alone. But even the occasional displeasing remix makes you appreciate the original even more, and often renews interest in an album that may have been gathering dust on your shelf.
Like remix artists, with my hand-me-downs, I took what belonged to others and created something new. I pulled apart, added and altered bits and pieces to express myself. Sure, some of my Frankenstein-esque hack jobs should never have seen the light of day, but there were other pieces that garnered compliments. My updated versions of old jean vests, choker necklaces, and flannel (oh, the flannel!), were well received, my creativity praised. Although remixes are not truly original, they are still meaningful and should be showered in admiration for their own transformations of second-hand songs.