Remixes of hit songs have a bit of a tendency to polarize music fans. Some listeners love the opportunity to hear a new version of a classic tune. Others think that the source material is sacred and should never be tampered with. However, despite the often quite vocal criticism of remixes – and of EDM music in general – they continue to be churned out week after week. There’s probably a remix out there for every major song ever written if you’re willing to look hard enough. Some are totally unique reworkings of a fan favorite. In other cases, DJs simply add a bit of extra bass, speed things up a bit, and call it a remix. They’re not exactly created equal by any stretch of the imagination.
The intriguing question surrounding remixes is this: can they ever be better than the original song? Some music purists would turn their noses up at such a scandalous suggestion. However, it’s a fact that many remixes have done a whole lot better in the charts than their original tracks. Here are just a few catchy remixes that are arguably better than their source material.
Whitney Houston – “It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay (Thunderpuss Remix)”
Full disclosure: this song makes the list almost entirely thanks to the most recent season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. It was the song that formed the basis of the Lip Sync For The Crown, and Sasha and Peppermint nailed it. Whitney Houston’s original version of “It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay” had a pretty muted backing track. It was decent enough, but it wasn’t quite the “all guns blazing” music we’d expect of a song with such defiant lyrics. However, the Thunderpuss remix changed all that. It kept only the vocals of the original song and replaced the backing track with tribal drums, screaming synth, and orchestral vibes. The remix quickly became one of the biggest hits of the LGBT club scene, making a bigger impact than the original ever could.
Lana Del Rey vs Cedric Gervais – “Summertime Sadness (Remix)”
This remix of a Lana Del Rey classic was EVERYWHERE back in 2013. You couldn’t go out to a club without hearing it play about three times an hour, and radio play was equally saturated. While Del Rey’s original track is something of a moody masterpiece, Cedric Gervais turned it into a total banger. His House production made the song infinitely catchy and a dancefloor hit. Del Rey liked the end result so much that she asked Gervais to remix even more of her songs, most notably “Young and Beautiful” from the The Great Gatsby soundtrack. “Summertime Sadness” became Gervais’s breakout hit: it even won him a Grammy for “Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical.” Now that’s a success story and a half!
R. Kelly – “Ignition (Remix)”
The remix to R. Kelly’s “Ignition” has become so famous that people actually question whether the original track existed. It did – R. Kelly released it a few weeks before the remix back in 2002. However, the remix gained so much more attention than the original “Ignition,” which quickly faded into obscurity. Many radio stations never actually played the original version and skipped straight to the remix. Others played the two songs back-to-back in a six-minute extravaganza. Either way, R. Kelly didn’t exactly mind that his original track was basically ignored. The remix gave him so much popularity – and made him so much money – that he too abandoned the first version. Can you blame him? The remix is so much better!
Beyoncé ft Nicki Minaj – “***Flawless (Remix)”
How can you take a stunning Beyoncé classic and make it even more feminist and badass? By adding a Nicki Minaj rap verse, of course! While the original version of “***Flawless” is fierce as hell, the remix takes things to another level. Not only is Minaj’s verse one of her strongest features ever on a track (she kind of HAD to bring it), Beyoncé’s new verse gave us LIFE. She sang. She rapped. Most importantly, she made a light-hearted reference to the infamous 2014 Met Gala elevator incident involving Jay-Z and her sister Solange. When you put Queen B and Nicki together, you create a fearless song that could make even the meekest of women feel like a total boss for three minutes and 57 seconds. We ALL woke up like this.
Katy Perry ft Kanye West – “E.T. (Remix)”
The remix of Katy Perry’s “E.T.” isn’t exactly her strongest song, but it’s still a bit more interesting than the original. Kanye West makes an appearance to make some space-themed ‘naughty’ references, and also randomly floats around for a bit in the music video? (Why, exactly? Nobody knows.) While the original track was fun with its alien-ish beats and heavy synth, it always felt like it was lacking something. Perhaps that’s why everyone totally abandoned the Perry-only version when Kanye’s remix came along. The remix topped numerous charts, including the Billboard Hot 100, but was ultimately just another filler hit under Perry’s belt.
La Roux – “In For The Kill (Skream’s Let’s Get Ravey Remix)”
English synth-pop group La Roux topped the charts back in 2009 with their second single “In For The Kill.” Critics loved the falsetto-led, kind of strange track, as did the listening public. The song peaked at number two in the British charts and was even nominated for a Grammy. However, it was almost overshadowed by dubstep producer Skream’s remix, released alongside the original. Skream somehow managed to make the song sound even more ethereal and unusual by stripping back the backing track and adding some classic dubstep ‘wubs.’ While other producers also tried to put their own spin on “In For The Kill,” most notably Skrillex, Skream’s version is still the one to beat.
Ed Sheeran – “I See Fire (Kygo Remix)”
While Ed Sheeran’s original version of “I See Fire” only saw limited chart success, Kygo’s remix made the track WAY more mainstream. The song was produced as the theme to The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and was a bit too related to the fantasy series to become hugely popular. However, Kygo stripped back the vocals and added some twinkling electronic sounds, immediately making a ‘meh’ guitar ballad into a low-key banger. Until this remix, nobody had even heard of Kygo: it made the Norweigan DJ into a star. The “I See Fire” remix was never released as a single but has over 70 million views on YouTube and almost as many plays on Soundcloud. Its success – and the career transformation that it caused for Kygo – totally overshadows that of the original.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Heads Will Roll (A-Trak Remix)”
The A-Trak version of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ hit “Heads Will Roll” is one of the original remix success stories. Most people know the remix even better than they know the original, an impressive feat all things considered. A-Trak was only really known as Kanye West’s former touring DJ until he released his version of this track. It changed his life overnight: the remix quickly became a sensation on the club circuit and is still a popular dance track today. It totally overshadowed the original thanks to its powerful use of synth and incredibly catchy backing track. Since the A-Trak version’s 2010 release, another even more widely-known remix has hit the scene. However, this newer JVH-C remix is best known for being a meme, so we’re not sure it counts as being better than the original.
Halsey – “Colors (Audien Remix)”
Halsey may now be one of the biggest artists in the world, but back in the day, she was just another talented musician hoping to make it in the business. In 2015, her debut album Badlands propelled the singer to the top of the charts, with its third single “Colors” gaining a huge amount of praise online. The ethereal, color-metaphor-based song had a dream-like quality that made it a totally addicting listen. Unusually, the single was released alongside a five-track remix EP called Complimentary Colors. While all of these alternate versions of the song became popular, the Audien Remix was a cut above the rest. The combination of sped-up vocals and an even more dramatic backing track full of hammering drums and bass drops made Audien’s version of “Colors” an instant hit. The young producer is now a Grammy-nominated chart-topper. Halsey picked her collaborators well!
Robin S. – “Show Me Love (Stonebridge Remix)”
The Stonebridge remix of the Robin S. song “Show Me Love” turned the track from an unequivocal flop into one of the biggest house anthems of all time. It’s actually incredibly difficult to listen to the original version now! It was totally superseded by Stonebridge’s version, released two years after its source material. The “Show Me Love” remix was groundbreaking – it brought house music into the mainstream, something never achieved before. The song could be heard in clubs everywhere for years after its release and is still sampled to this day. Most recently, Jason Derulo used it in his track “Don’t Wanna Go Home.” Stonebridge received a mere £1000 to remix the song, a paltry amount when you consider the success it’s now had. It’s a catchy mix of electronic sounds and strong, diva-like vocals: what’s not to love?
Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar – “Bad Blood (Remix)”
The Kendrick Lamar remix of Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” didn’t just turn a mediocre track into a total banger. It also gave us the masterpiece that is the star-studded “Bad Blood” music video. Sadly, the remix didn’t feature on Swift’s album 1989. Frankly, it would have been far better than just including the original. Until the remix came along, “Bad Blood” was considered a weak link in an otherwise outstanding record. Then Kendrick Lamar decided to work his magic, and the song was transformed. Swift’s lyrically weak verses were replaced by Lamar rapping, and the backing track was given a badass makeover. Lamar’s help – and the aforementioned crazy music video – helped the song to become yet another hit single for Swift.
Mr. Probz – “Waves (Robin Schulz Remix)”
The Robin Schulz transformation of Mr. Probz’s laid-back ballad “Waves” is a pretty remarkable success story. The original song was a super-slow track mostly comprised of orchestral and brass-band sounds. It had no electronic elements whatsoever and was more of a mournful song than a club classic. Enter Schulz, a then-unknown German DJ. Schulz sped the track up substantially, replaced the orchestra with a more stripped-down backing track, and consequently created a hit. The reworked version of “Waves” took the European dance charts by storm, massively outranking the original song. It helped Schulz to make a name for himself in the industry – he’s now one of the most sought-after producers in Europe.
Ed Sheeran – “Shape of You (Stormzy Remix)”
Ed Sheeran’s smash hit “Shape of You” was stuck in everyone’s heads for most of 2017. As the first single from Sheeran’s comeback album Divide, it was always going to be a huge success. Still, even the artist himself couldn’t predict just how much of a sensation the song became. If you went more than a few hours without hearing it in some form, it felt unusual. Of course, such a popular track is bound to be pounced on by remix artists, many of whom will totally butcher it in the hope of seeing success.
Luckily for Sheeran, prodigious UK grime artist Stormzy quickly came out with a remix to defeat all others. Stormzy’s remix premiered live at the 2017 Brit Awards when Sheeran invited his pal on stage to perform with him. An official release following shortly afterward. While the original “Shape of You” is good, we’re all so sick of it now that the remix at least provides a bit of variety. Stormzy’s verses are, as you’d expect, pretty killer.
Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, Justin Bieber – “Despacito (Remix)”
Now, whether the Justin Bieber remix of “Despacito” actually adds to the musical quality of the original song is debatable. It kind of felt like the Biebs wanted to capitalize on the song’s success so he desperately learned some Spanish and penned some fresh lyrics. However, the resulting fiasco in which it became clear that Bieber really didn’t know Spanish makes the remix so much more entertaining than the original. Yes, Bieber sounds fine singing in Spanish on the studio version. However, live performances were a whole other matter. Like, he didn’t even try. While everyone is pretty glad that the “Despacito” phase is finally over – it went on for SO LONG – we’ll never forget Justin’s contribution.
Camilla Cabello ft Daddy Yankee – “Havana (Remix)”
Camila Cabello’s first truly solo outing after leaving Fifth Harmony became more popular than even she thought was possible. “Havana” was initially only released as a promotional single but became so successful that Cabello’s album was delayed to make the remaining tracks sound more like it. It reached number one in nine different countries and was a top ten hit in dozens of others. While it’s hard to imagine this undoubtedly great song having any room for improvement, the remix featuring Daddy Yankee added something that we didn’t realize we needed. The first verse was translated into Spanish, giving this already Latin-inspired song an even more authentic feel. Yankee’s Spanish rap verses worked way better than Young Thug’s original efforts. Basically, everyone involved in the remix totally nailed it.
Taylor Swift – “… Ready For It? (BloodPop Remix)”
Aside from “Bad Blood,” Taylor Swift’s songs have never really been strong candidates for remixes. However, that all changed when “… Ready For It?” became the second single from Swift’s latest album Reputation. In an unprecedented move, Swift herself encouraged fans to support BloodPop‘s reworking of her song. In all honesty, it’s a pretty strong effort from the American producer. The already-electronica infused track gets an added layer of bounce thanks to the remix’s slightly lighter tone. It sounds more like a weekend party anthem than a moody love song about Joe Alwyn (which it totally is, by the way). Swift was clearly pretty pleased with the end result, and we can’t say we blame her. It’s a top-notch track!