Remixes are one of those things that really divide people. Some hate them outright; some love each and every one of them. Others recognise them for what they are – a valid form of music, but one which suffers from mediocrity just like every other form.
In a previous post, I talked about the glory days of the 1990s, when a CD or 12″ single could contain up to forty minutes of non-stop music. Over your four permitted formats, you could comfortably fit more than 90 minutes of remixes. Factor in the import versions, and you could literally bore yourself to tears.
Except, who would ever want to listen to that many of versions of the same song? Even if you’re the biggest fan of the single, or even the greatest fan of remixes, the chances of you finding an hour and a half of non-stop enjoyment must be pretty slim.
There were those who broke the boundaries of the format, such as The Future Sound of London, with their forty minute mini-albums, and these rebels are certainly to be applauded. But for the most part, anyone who pushed the boundaries of the 90 minute single was unlikely to also be pushing the boundaries of the remix.
There were – and still are – many cases where a remixer would return three or four different versions of their own mix. Sometimes these would have fairly subtle differences, and other times they would be entirely pointless. Take Todd Terry, to name but one repeat offender, whose instrumentals, dubs, and accapella versions have littered many a bonus 12″ single. And much as I like his versions of Everything But The Girl‘s Missing and Wrong, he did get a little formulaic at times (Driving, for example, is a bit of a travesty).
So part of the problem has always been that the people doing the mixes tended to be picked by their popularity rather than their suitability or merit. Todd Terry is far from the worst offender, as he did at least deviate from his sound from time to time (unlike, say, Motiv8 to name but one). There must be plenty of examples of acts that spring to mind who turned up on single after single in the 1990s, and churned out the same drivel every time.
Relatively few artists used their remix CD to do anything particularly interesting either – Depeche Mode were one of the common exceptions, regularly crossing into rock and electronica territory with their choices of remixers, but most acts just seemed intent on trying to get their latest single into the clubs, at pretty much any cost.
Things have improved over the last couple of decades, although that legacy does remain. Take Pet Shop Boys‘ recent singles, such as Vocal, where the CD consisted of nine remixes, and the discography lists no fewer than forty-two. Does anyone really need that many versions of the same song? No, of course they don’t.
None of which is to say that remixes don’t have any artistic merit – of course they do. But in the long run, how are the mass-produced mix singles of the mid-1990s any better than the sort of rubbish that Simon Cowell wants us all to waste our money on?