Musical Discovery: ‘Ego’ by Ella Eyre feat. Ty Dolla $ign (Jack Wins Remix)

A successful remix is always one which could be passed off as the original, if the listener hasn’t heard anything different. In my case, as I listened to Jack Wins’ remix of Ella Eyre’s Ego, despite knowing it wasn’t the initial song, it certainly sounded like the first version.

There’s no denying that Eyre’s vocals can’t fit a good dance track (look no further than her recent hits with Sigma and Sigala, which both entered the UK Top 40). From something a bit tropical (Came Here for Love) or drum-and-bass (Good Times), Jack’s remix shows Ella’s suitability for a more club-like sound. With the original version adopting a slow calypso, the club version injects some much-needed fun and pace into the track. Whilst the initial track’s chorus contains nothing more than flowing drums and soulful vocals from Ella, Jack Wins brings a new instrumental melody to this part of the song which gives it that added punch.

Disappointingly minimalistic in its makeup, the slower tempo of Ella’s song lacks a satisfying beat drop and chorus. It may well serve as a more atmospheric single compared to the 23-year-old’s previous, fast-paced pop releases, but it just lacks a certain substance. Ego sounds very much like a track one would see accompanying a big-budget emotional movie trailer. It is great background listening, and is comfortably mediocre, but there’s nothing there to warrant our full attention.

This brings me to Jack Wins’ remix, and my point about this having the potential to be considered the original. The Dutch DJ’s impressive portfolio of hits shows he is no stranger to creating the perfect hook, beat drop and chorus, and fixes all the mistakes in the initial track with ease.

The underwhelming beat drop at the start is replaced with a satisfying drum fill, followed by a chorus complete with a bouncy rhythm and sharp synth chords to set the tone. Yet again, like his Rockabye remix, Jack Wins cuts out the featured rapper in the track (Ty Dolla $ign) for the benefit of the song as a whole.

With a perfect balance between adding new things to the song, and taking other parts away, Jack’s remix style yet again brings out the best in a single in a way that makes it his own – and if that’s not the sign of a good remix, then I don’t know what is.

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Musical Discovery: ‘Too Good At Goodbyes’ by Sam Smith (Robin Hustin Remix)

For any DJ, remixing ballads is always a tricky move. Aside from the fact that people like Whitney Houston, Adele and Sam Smith are household names and boast strong fanbases, pushing a slow tempo and finding a unique melody to place on top of the track could take away from the original aspects of the song. Much like how artists were quick to work on Adele’s Hello when she returned in late 2015 (to various success), following Sam Smith’s return last week, DJs are now working on remixes for his latest single, Too Good At Goodbyes. One such artist is Robin Hustin.

It’s a remix which is structurally sound throughout, following the usual rise and fall expected of a dance track. In the verses, Hustin steps back to let Sam Smith take centre stage with his vocals. That is, up until the pre-chorus, which the Danish DJ uses as the perfect build-up to a pulsating drop full of sharp club synths. Whilst the original purposefully – and rightfully – didn’t contain many instruments, Hustin has filled the gap with subtlety and flair with his own creative remix.

Update: Since publishing this review, the remix is no longer available due to ‘copyright issues’.

Musical Discovery: ‘Hometown (Radio Edit)’ by Jack Wins feat. Raphaella

There’s something liberating about being on the brink of making your debut as an artist. Yet to be defined by a single sound from a breakthrough single, DJs, bands and singers are free to experiment with different genres and styles before that one moment comes. For Jack Wins, previous releases ranged from poppy piano stab tracks such as Good Love to hazy synth and deep house vibes as heard in I Used to Love You. Now, with plenty of singles to his name and a brand new EP, Hometown is a wonderful mix of his past work.

Look no further than the introduction to the track – a series of haunting synth notes that hold a striking resemblance from Years and Years’ Shine that taps into the more mainstream side of the Dutch DJ’s style. Add in some light, soft vocals with a hint of soul from Raphaela and you have the typical low scene-setter to build up from.

As a drum beat grows in the background, it halts two lines before the end of the verse to create a smooth acapella with the vocals and a satisfying drop into the main melody of the song.

Cue the club vibes, with the common underlying bass notes mixed with high-pitched synth. As much as the song’s structure makes this sound euphoric, credit must also go to Raphaella, who is no longer constrained to the calmer side of her vocal range. Now, the bottled-up soul bursts out, merging perfectly with Jack’s constructed instrumentals.

If, surprisingly, this fails to get the crowd pumped or the bedroom listener excited, then the fact that the producer slips in a brief nod to tracks such as Good Love and Give it Up with sharp piano stabs should do the trick. After all, it’s an instrumental element included in tracks by artists such as Blonde and Sigala that have smashed the UK charts.

Yet, with a timecode of 2:40, there can be a sense of disappointment that comes with the end of the song. In amongst all the excitement packed into such a short duration, it’s easy to abandon that sense of structure we look out for in songs (with most songs, we know when it’s the final verse). With smooth transitions from verse to chorus, it certainly doesn’t feel like two minutes, but time flies when there’s good music playing, and there’s always the longer full house mix to listen to.

Musical Discovery: ‘Don’t You Feel It’ by Sub Focus feat. ALMA

It’s been nearly four years since Sub Focus (real name Nick Douwma) released his sophomore album, Torus, in September 2013. A drum-heavy collection of tracks perfect for the club, the record built upon the drum-and-bass style of his self-titled debut album. Yet now, the 35-year-old DJ appears to have spiced up his music a little. Nobody KnowsLove Devine and Lingua (feat. Stylo G) all contained edgy, deep house vibes with numerous musical effects. However, with his latest release – Don’t You Feel It (feat. ALMA) – the artist returns to somewhat familiar ground.

Of Douwma’s latest releases, Don’t You Feel It is the second single to feature credited vocalists. The first, which saw Stylo G take to the mic, involved more vocal distortion and a bouncier dance track. This time, with ALMA lending a helping hand, the song’s structure sees a return to the Torus days – with a clear voice (with no effects) and the build-up appearing in the chorus, not throughout.

With pulsing bass and simplistic rhythm guiding the song to the instrumental, the focus in the verses is very much on ALMA’s sassy, smooth and groovy vocals. As for the main melody itself, this is where long-term listeners can detect an evolution in Sub Focus’ style. Gone are the days of fluttering, euphoric dance, instead being replaced with a slightly tropical, heavy tone.

Whilst previous releases saw Douwma delve into a harsher club sound, Don’t You Feel It sees the DJ return to comfortable middle ground, with a strong vocalist and a progressive instrumental to boot.

Musical Discovery: ‘Feel Right’ by Wolfgang Gartner feat. J Hart

Once again, I have to thank Spotify for its ability to recommend songs which fit in to my music taste perfectly. Their New Music Friday UK playlist always reminds me about the latest releases from artists I like, but a feature which I only recently discovered was the Daily Mix playlists. After giving one of them a listen, I found Feel Right, by Wolfgang Gartner feat. J Hart.

With staccato, hazy synth notes, it’s no surprise that some listeners are describing the song as nostalgic. It’s a style adopted by pop stars in the noughties, with stars such as Pitbull and Cascada adopting club synths in a bid to have the next dance anthem. Thankfully, this song does not revive the cringeworthy feel which accompanied this style at the time. Instead, a soulful and refreshing techno groove brings this type of electronic music up to date.

This is in contrast to the verses, sung by British songwriter J Hart (real name James Abrahart). Impassioned vocals combined with fluttering piano chords achieves the same euphoric feel as the chorus, so as the verse flows into the main melody, it all sounds seamless.

Alongside comparisons to the dance pop we all remember from years ago, a musical interlude two minutes into the song nods towards the techno style of Porter Robinson (particularly his track, Language). With Robinson taking inspiration from Japanese culture and always trying to create emotive and atmospheric music, it’s likely that Gartner’s Feel Right was hoping to go for a similar vibe – and it succeeded.

Musical Rediscovery: ‘Play the Game Boy’ by A*M*E

It was in 2013 that we first heard A*M*E (real name Aminata Kabba) on the No.1 club hit by Duke Dumont, Need U (100%). Her latest appearance was on the track My Love 4 U with Marc Kinchen, but in terms of standalone singles, the 22-year-old singer made her debut with the heavy pop single, Play the Game Boy in 2012.

It’s a track which plays on the theme of gaming throughout, from the album cover showing Kabba in a toy box, to the arcade synth undertones. As the music video starts, Korean text appears in what is no doubt a nod at the artist’s music being influenced by K-pop (as A*M*E references in this interview with Digital Spy). On the whole, whether it’s the K-pop style which will give you flashbacks to PSY’s Gangnam Style, or the video game feel to the track which will remind you of the last time you played Super Mario Bros. 3, it’s certainly a single full of nostalgia.

If that wasn’t enough, the repetitive nature of the lyrics and melodies in both the chorus and verses does a good job of making the track as catchy as possible. This, combined with sassy but soulful lyrics, forms a well-rounded single bursting with creativity and groovy pop vibes. It’s the perfect reminder of what the popular music genre used to be.

So with a few successful collaborations under her belt, what’s next for A*M*E? Last week, she posted on Twitter that it will ‘take another year to finish [her album] properly’, but that ‘there will be singles’ as well. Whilst hit releases with the likes of Duke Dumont and MK leave her name lingering in the minds of music lovers, a debut album in the future will remind them of the singer’s bubbly K-pop style.

Musical Discovery: ‘Ritual’ by Marshmello feat. Wrabel

It’s a style of music Deadmau5 has branded as ‘kiddy pop’. Whilst the intro to Marshmello’s Alone may sound reminiscent of disco tunes by Cascada and Basshunter, the latest track by the DJ – believed to be the artist DotCom – offers more different style, with hard-hitting bass and haunting synths. Ritual (feat. Wrabel) is far from pop, it’s a track which taps into the euphoric dance scene, whilst adding heavy melodies.

The single’s beat drop is bass-heavy and we hear it throughout the track as a whole, too. It’s an instrumental choice we hear in Madeon’s Nonsense, for example. In this case, it enables the listeners to focus on Wrabel’s soulful vocals in the verses and build-up to the chorus. As the song progresses towards the drop, the song flourishes with fuzzy chords and fluttering synth melodies. Then, when the moment comes, Wrabel voice goes falsetto (sounding almost like Sam Smith) reciting catchy, singalong lyrics. What sounds like an uplifting, vibrant track is contrasted with a darker main melody, filled with ghostly tunes. It’s a wonderful juxtaposition.

Although the song’s music video – and Marshmello himself – have come under fire from Joel Zimmerman (Deadmau5) for making a reference to the DJ, the enigmatic artist is still gaining traction in the EDM world. Aside from the music, he’s jumped onto the ‘masked musician’ bandwagon which has seen singers and producers such as Sia and Daft Punk gain attention from fans who love the mystery of it all and await the day when they get to see the people behind the disguises.

With an enigmatic appearance combined with a fresh EDM style, who knew a human marshmallow could become so popular?

Liam