Tim: YES I KNOW but let me speak. Squeakiness is a cheap easy gimmick – bit rubbish, but it seems it sells well enough for them to keep doing it. That’s why they’ve made over fifty albums (including many Greatest Hits albums, several Christmas albums, and indeed more than a couple of Greatest Christmas Hits albums). A typical reaction is to listen for twenty seconds, think “oh this is a bit fun”, skip to the next track and repeat until bored. One other reaction, had by SoundCloud user chipmunkson16speed, is to think “what would happen if I slowed this down?”
Tom: Huh. They covered the Pet Shop Boys version, not the original. That dates this record, certainly.
Tim: So, as it turns out, a de-Chipmunked Chipmunks cover is the version of Always On My Mind that you never realised could be so good.
Tim: Oh, and I’m not remotely suggesting it is. My point is just that it’s just so unexpected – the slightly whiny backing vocal sounds a bit off, but otherwise I find this really enjoyable. It’s worth remembering that this was recorded back in the days before digital pitch shifting, so this is, roughly, what was originally recorded, and it does sound good. The most surprising thing is that even though the whole Chipmunk song idea is so cheap and cynical, the singer, whoever he is, is singing it with no small amount of emotion. No need to do it, there’ll never be any recognition, but he still went for it.
Tom: I’ll grant that, but I suspect a lot of that emotion is brought in by the graininess that comes from all the processing that’s been done. Although I’ll grant you the harmonies are pretty good.
Tim: A sad post script, though: according to the Alvin & The Chipmunks fan wiki (because of course there’s one), the Reception section for this one’s album consists of one single sentence: “This album did not chart.” Oh well.
Tom: We described the original as Mostly An Album Track. And despite hearing a lot more through airplay, I stand by that: it’s catchier than I thought it was, but the instrumentation’s dull. Can Alan Walker’s trademark style save it?
Tom: …that is not Alan Walker’s trademark style.
Tim: Hmmm, no.
Tom: I mean, it sounds a bit like him, sure, but the usual staccato synths are mostly gone, replaced by something a bit more generic. It sounds like something you’d find on a discount “fitness workout” compilation CD, rather than something from one of the most popular current DJs.
Tim: Actually, I was all set to agree with you until that post-chorus cropped up, but then I changed my mind. Yes, for the first minute I was ready to dismiss it as exactly you said – generic, and something that might pop up on an Almighty CD a few months from now – but that post-chorus brings something else with it. It’s still not your standard Alan Walker sound, but I’d not go so far as generic.
Tom: Even the ending, which does admittedly start to go Full Alan Walker, is a bit disappointing. I reckon he should have led with that, and then gone bigger from there. As it is, it’s just not enough.
“Bruno Mars just deciding to freestyle over the quiet bits of an otherwise-OK Alan Walker track.”
Tom: So we’re pretty much agreed that Bruno Mars, while incredibly talented, has recently been making songs with irritating lyrics and kitsch retro-sound. And Alan Walker, while incredibly talented, has basically been making the same song.
Tim: Can’t disagree with either of those, particular with this song’s, for example, “Take a look in that mirror, now tell me who’s the fairest.”
Tom: Together, they are…
Tom: …not together at all?
Tim: No, but I quite like that in this case.
Tom: I say that because this sounds like two separate songs that happen to be played at the same time. Or, rather, Bruno Mars just deciding to freestyle over the quiet bits of an otherwise-OK Alan Walker track.
Tim: Yes, and I’ll tell you why I like it: however terrible the Bruno Mars bits are (or rather, I’ll concede, however irritating I find them), there’s the knowledge that Alan (seriously, still no stage name?) will come along soon to make it better.
Tom: It’s always a risk with remixes, I guess, but still: perhaps at least one of them should have adjusted their style a little?
Tim: Perhaps, as long as the one to do that is Bruno.
Tim: Last Saturday you pointed out that Roger was a rather mundane name for a singer of a great song, which in turn reminded me that one of the biggest dance tracks of the year was by an act with a name better suited to a middle aged accountant than to a superstar DJ; I then discovered that there are TWO remix EPs of said track, and this here’s a good one.
Tim: You see, I love the way that plays with the speed there.
Tom: That’s a rare technique: I’d expect my brain to reject it for being different, but no, somehow it works.
Tim: I cut to forty seconds in because for some reason the YouTube version gets going at the high speed, which kind of spoils it – when I first heard it it took me quite by surprise, and I was tied between “oh, this is weird” and “oh, this is brilliant”, and I very soon came down on the side of the latter. I don’t know if it’s the novelty of it – I certainly never felt the original was too slow – but it suddenly seems a whole lot more exciting, and I love that.
Tom: Admittedly the synth pads sound a bit like they’re from 90s eurodance, but you know what? I like 90s eurodance. I like this.
Tom: We agreed that This Town was sub-Sheeran, perhaps even sub-Odell. But can it be saved by Tiësto, the same way that Seeb saved Mike Posner?
Tim: I weouldn’t say entirely not – it does come across a whole lot less melty, though, and so a fair amount more listenable. The parts with the instrumental focus don’t fit at all, though.
Tom: I will grant that the pre-chorus “I want to tell you everything” is still pleasant, but that’s because I’ve heard that motif a hundred times in other songs. The backing doesn’t really seem to work with… well, anything. The whole thing’s unnecessary, Tim.
Tom: Our reader, going by the name “RedBassett”, sends in this remix. He describes it as “a very clean blend of the original music and the additions”.
Tom: I describe it as “bloody awful”.
Tim: Yeah. I didn’t have a hugely negative reaction at first, but then I realised I hadn’t actually heard the original; I did, and then realised that every single redeeming feature came from that.
Tom: Sorry to our reader, but sometimes I have to call ’em like I hear ’em, and in this case what I hear is (not one of the better) CHVRCHES songs being mangled by what seems like an incompetent automatic remix generator. I handed up doing something I haven’t done to a song in a while: skipping forward a couple of minutes to see if it got any better. It didn’t.
Tim: No – if anything, it’s worse, with those additions at the end just being really rather dull. Bleh.
Tim: First there was Fade; then there was Faded. Now, we’ve an orchestral version that’s been released separately; I wouldn’t normally bring a remix of a track we’d already featured, but (a) that original really was fantastic and I’ll take any opportunity to bring it up and (b) just listen.
Tim: Because it completely changes the song. Yes, the melody’s the same, and the vocal’s not even been re-recorded, but it’s suddenly gone from being a big pumped-up jump around floor filler to a relaxing, “take a seat, love, everything’ll be alright” track.
Tom: It is: that’s a really good orchestration. The fact it’s been released by the original artist is a big point in its favour too. It’s not all that big a genre switch given the state of the original, but it’s done well.
Tim: What that mood switch may state about the point of the lyrics of any particular song is up for interpretation, but somehow it’s just as wonderful. Strings, piano, full orchestra, all beautiful.
Tom: But here’s the thing: I wanted just some percussion. Not much, not the synth patches of the original, but a little timpani roll here, or some subtle drums going into the final big chorus would have worked well. Even some other instrument in the lower frequencies would have worked. Without it, it feels a little anaemic — still good, but not as good as it could be.
Tim: Incidentally the (still uncredited) vocalist is called Iselin Solheim; we’ve not featured her here previously, but she’s got some greattracks in her back catalogue.
Tim: Yelle, a French band we’ve covered before; this track, from 2011 which in its original version is a bit shouty and unpleasant. Madeon, the producer who had a go at this before he got famous, so probably when he was about 12 or something.
Tom: Oh hey, that sounds exactly like what I’d expect from Madeon. (Which, given it’s an early track from him, perhaps isn’t surprising.) Rapid-fire samples running into a solid dance remix.
Tim: I found it via a suggested playlist entitled “Run Far, Run Fast” on a streaming service; it’s good, isn’t it? Keeps the chorus from the original along with binning off the spoken and irritating verses, and sticks a quick genre-shift almost in a funk direction.
Lovely all round, and the video on top’s just a bonus, really. If I ever do start start running again: it’s right there with me.
Tom: Although I wouldn’t recommend doing that massive jump down a 45-degree hill. That’s just dangerous.
Tim: HAH! I LAUGH in the face of…actually, yeah, you’re probably right.
Tim: Here’s a recipe for you: take one of the best pop choruses of the year (albeit one that could probably do with being sped up 10% or so); blend together with a flavouring of extra jingliness to complement that which is already there; gently fold in some chiming bells; place on various music platforms and wait for the festivities to commence.
Tom: Ah! And presumably that’s a recipe for a “cash-in”.
Tim: Did anyone ask for this? Not really, but I don’t care, because it’s utterly ridiculous and it’s got me somewhere between giggling stupidly and feeling very very Christmassy.
Tom: It’s utterly unnecessary, but considering it’s pretty much the lowest-effort remix possible and it’ll make its money back with Christmas party DJs buying it to throw into their mix for late-December… well, it’ll do. And to be fair, the original track stands up well on tis own anyway.
Tim: I’ll be honest, I’ll be surprised if this manages on its own to break down anybody’s humbug wall, because it’s somewhat pointless – one could argue, probably successfully, that it’s mostly designed just to fit on that many more Christmas party playlists. I can’t think of any other reason for it; on the other hand, it’s gone straight on my Christmas party playlist.
“It’s unpretentious, it’s simple, and it’s amazingly fun.”
Tom: I know I’m a little late to the party on this one, but it’s still current enough to be getting airplay everywhere. And I absolutely love it.
Tim: Good, because you should.
Tom: This is an amazing remix. It’s unpretentious, it’s simple, and it’s amazingly fun. Remind you of anything?
Tim: A few things, but I’m guessing you’ve got something particular in mind?
Tom: Take the catchy bit from a popular song, speed it up a bit, add some new instrumentation and a strong beat behind it. Heck, if it had someone shouting over it in a German accent, this could almost be Scooter.
Tom: Okay, maybe Scooter feat Kygo. Which, incidentally, would be INCREDIBLE too now I think of it.
Tim: Yes. Yes, that’d be a whole of wonderful. Let’s MAKE IT HAPPEN. Somehow. I don’t know.