Is digital technology decimating our attention spans? With anything (literally, anything) just a few clicks away, it would seem quite logical to conclude that our collective cultural focus is destined to flit about at ever more fickle speeds.
Yet, intriguingly, the evidence stacks up to the contrary. If you check the top rated TV shows, few titles are new. And, amidst the rubble of what once was the music industry, Adele proved that even today you can freeze the world in a musical Medusa gaze for months upon months upon months.
Of the many important factors that propelled her gravity-defying ubiquity, remixes and covers played an unheralded but central role. It was not Adele alone who kept “Rolling in the Deep” on replay. Rather, a lengthy roster of artists who are superstars in their own right jumped on board to do their part to keep the bandwagon rolling. Here are two of the better remixes/covers that give even the most familiar song a bit of fresh life.
When an artist sells 13 million copies of an album, it’s bound to draw a follower or two. Though there’s good reason why you haven’t heard much of the many Adele-ites that have developed a sudden fascination with soul, a soulful voice that’s worth watching is Cold Specks. Though she hails from Canada and currently lives in London, Cold Specks (nee Al Spx) sounds as if she were plucked from an antebellum choir. Such songs don’t exactly scream “pop hit,” but one might have said the same of Adele. Take a listen.
Lisztomania is one of those songs, like Rolling in the Deep, that seems to have an endless life in the land of remixes. Here’s a disco-tinged remix from a DJ called Shook that gives the song a fresh after five feel. Cue it up for your next cocktail party.
An astonishing three months after its stateside release, Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” continues to defy all laws of commercial gravity. The original is still riding the crest of the radio playlists, buoyed by an ongoing series of outstanding remixes issued by a diverse A-list of artists.
Marketers of everything from songs to soap continue to think that smart social media strategy involves engaging utterly democratic user-generated content: fans remixing or singing the songs/ads/etc they love. I’d argue that this approach too often triggers an agonizingly unedited American Idol audition: generating bales and bales of banal chaff in the hopes of finding a few stalks of wheat (does wheat even come in stalks? I guess Whole Foods hasn’t taught me this yet).
I’d suggest that these makers of songs and ads instead take a cue from Adele. Instead of asking everyone to gleefully maul your art, invite an interesting list of artists to remix your art in the months to follow. Use the original as a beginning, and then delight your fans with different takes from different genres.
I’m starting to sound like I’m at work, and it’s a Saturday. Suffice to say that this Heatwave refix is hot: taking the eminently danceable original and bringing it to the dancehall.
In today’s digital music landscape, what’s a good bellwether for the real cultural resonance of song?
I’d suggest that, as we can see now with Adele, the metric of the moment is the number of remixes and remakes a song sparks.
“Rolling in the Deep” is, in itself a good song. Maybe a great song (maybe). But the number of headline-worthy acts that have been inspired (or encouraged) to reinterpret the song is striking. And, as is the case with many markers of popularity, these homages don’t just serve to identify this song as hot; they in turn serve to further the song’s popularity. In this music landscape fueled by what’s hot this very moment, nothing draws a crowd like a crowd of constantly new takes on a hit.
Here are three of the better ones. The first, a soulful a capella take from John Legend.
To take this meta for a moment, here is someone by the name of Copycat who is re-mixing the John Legend re-make of the Adele hit. Phew. I think this version sort of sucks, but it sure does make the point doesn’t it?
With a blues-meets-beats vibe reminiscent of Moby’s Play, this track is a killer car commercial in search of a car. Seemed apt for this afternoon.
For those curious about the track, it’s a bit of a multi-layered remix. The producer behind the xx remixed a track by Adele, after which a rapper by the name of Childish Gambino lays over a few verses. Infectiously danceable stuff.