The remix album has a long and sordid history. A surefire signpost of corporate capitalism, the format first emerged in the 1980s with the rise of pop superstars like Bobby Brown, Milli Vanilli, and Paula Abdul. There are more poetic reasons behind some remix releases though: 1987’s You Can Dance was a groundbreaking mix of Madonna’s early club hits, while Diamonds Are Forever exposed Shirley Bassey to a whole new generation. In a ploy to reel in young music buyers and suggested-retail-price-wary consumers (extradited from the record-buying experience and subsequently pushed further underground thanks to the music industry’s self-inflicted cannibalization of the single format), Sony has launched This Is the Remix, a series of mid-priced remix EPs. The first batch of artists includes Jessica Simpson, Jermaine Dupri & Jagged Edge, Nas, and Cypress Hill, and each release succeeds (or fails, as the case may be) to varying degrees.
Clocking in at over 53 minutes, Simpson’s 7-track This Is the Remix provides the most bang for your buck. Granted, there are only four different songs here, but with the Soul Solution Extended Club Vocal Version of her first hit, “I Wanna Love You Forever,” now you can hear Simpson scream over 10 minutes of club beats! (A radio edit is provided for those with short attention spans.) Two mixes of “Irresistible” prove that anything is better than the track’s formulaic album version (Jermaine Dupri’s So So Def Remix features a foolproof sample of Kool & the Gang’s “Jungle Boogie” while Hex Hector’s mix includes soulful ornamental vocals and Giorgio Moroder-style disco strings). Simpson’s latest single, “A Little Bit” (you may remember it from those Bally’s commercials), is shamelessly reconfigured for the Jersey Shore by remix duo the Greek and Guido. The infectious “I Think I’m In Love with You” finds Simpson once again doing her best impression of Mariah Carey. Remixes by Lenny Bertoldo and Peter Rauhofer (the sole new mix on the album) are the sleazy club anthems Carey has never made. This Is the Remix is a savvy marketing tool, but it’s also lazy; a continuous mix or a new track would have made this a must-have for avid Simpson fans.
On the hip-hop front, So So Def offers Definition of a Remix featuring Jermaine Dupri and Jagged Edge. The disc kicks off with Dupri’s new single, “Welcome to Atlanta (Coast 2 Coast Remix),” followed by a trio of remixed R&B tracks by Dru Hill (1997’s “In My Bed”) and Jagged Edge (1999’s “Let’s Get Married,” featuring Run of Run D.M.C., and last year’s “Promise,” featuring Loon, Bad Boy’s new Mase). Dupri’s “Let’s Talk About It 2” is mixed by the Neptunes, who seem to continually reference Vanity’s “Nasty Girl” in their recent work. Another Jagged Edge track, “Where the Party At,” closes the EP, and with Dupri, Da Brat, R.O.C., Lil Bow Wow, and Tigah making this one a full family affair, it looks like this is where the party’s at. Nas’s From Illmatic to Stillmatic, on the other hand, isn’t much fun at all. The first track, a remix of 1994’s “Life’s a Bitch,” is censored insufferably (for the record, it’s “Life’s a bitch and then you die/That’s why we get high/’Cause you never know when you’re gonna go”). “Street Dreams,” originally an interpolation of Eurythmics’s “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” is now a Quiet Storm-inspired mix with a sample of Linda Clifford’s 1979 hit “Never Gonna Stop” and a stolen Isley Brothers hook. The set is saved, however, by the organic, old-school vibe of “One Love” and the hip-hop manifesto, “One Mic,” originally from Nas’s most recent full-length, Stillmatic.
Cypress Hill’s Stash is a bit more impressive, with six incarnations of songs spanning eight years. DJ Muggs oversees most of the EP, lending his deft production skills and trip-hop poly-textures to tracks like “Latin Lingo (Blackout Mix)” and “Illusions (Harpsichord Mix)” (yes, there’s even a harpsichord!). “Checkmate” is a metal-tinged rap-rock track reminiscent of Rage Against the Machine while the Alchemist’s remix of “(Rap) Superstar” is a bit more demure than the original. Hardcore fans of Cypress Hill will surely dish out $8.99 for the CD, but there’s nothing here to entice your average Walmart customer. None of the EPs in the This Is the Remix series carry much buyer incentive. One would think Sony would have taken notice of the recent commercial successes of Jennifer Lopez’s J to Tha L-O and P. Diddy’s We Invented the Remix, both of which included previously unreleased tracks, unlike Destiny’s Child’s significantly less successful This Is the Remix. But with virtually no marketing plans in place and no new tracks, the label is hoping the EPs (which are essentially just over-priced maxi-singles) will sell themselves. They’re also hoping the series will fill the void left by growing piracy and a shrinking singles market, but is it too little too late?