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From 'Ignition' to 'Macarena,' 13 Remixes That Eclipse the Originals

Mary J. Blige and Method Man
KMazur/WireImage

Mary J. Blige and Method Man perform in 2001.

One of the fascinating things about pop music is that there's more to songwriting than just writing the song. Take, for instance, "You're All I Need/I'll Be There For You," the Method Man-Mary J. Blige duet, which went to No. 3 on the Hot 100 in 1995 thanks to its long, luxurious groove and Motown-interpolating chorus. According to the The New York Times, this track "almost never came to be."

"All I Need" originally appeared on Method Man's Tical album in leaner, rougher form, with a mantra-like hook that did not evoke Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. Lyor Cohen, then the CEO of Def Jam, pushed for a remix with Blige in order to expand Method Man's appeal outside of the world of hip-hop. Blige agreed, but the rapper wasn't into it -- until Cohen "gave him money for a Lexus." This remix has a particularly colorful story, but successful reworkings of this type are not unusual: sometimes it takes another set of ears to unearth a song's full potential.

Method Man feat. Mary J. Blige - I'll Be There For You (You're All I Need To Get By) (Remix) from Jul!aAl on Vimeo.

Right now, several remixes are high on the charts. The remix to Makonnen's "Tuesday," with a verse from Drake, is currently at No. 12 and climbing on the Hot 100. Trailing behind it (No. 19) is Mr. Probz's "Waves": the version that pumps smoothly on American radio is a remix by the German DJ Robin Schulz. If you look at the Dance/Mix Show Airplay chart, you'll find another Schulz reworking -- of Lilly Wood's "Prayer In C" -- in the fourth spot, two notches ahead of "Waves." "Prayer In C" has already topped the charts in both the U.K. and France.

Read on for a list of famous remixes that eclipsed the original. In some cases, the remix gave the song an extra boost on the charts. In other cases, the remix -- easier to dance to, or featuring a famous guest -- charted when the initial version of the track didn't.  

Everything But The Girl, "Missing" (The Todd Terry Remix)
Peak Chart Position: No. 2, Peak Chart Date: Feb. 17, 1996
Todd Terry turned this song into a juggernaut, beefing up the beat and adding an extra riff that cycles through the whole song, helping the listener find the way to Tracey Thorn's hook. The result? A No. 2 hit on the Hot 100, on which Everything But The Girl had never appeared on before.

R. Kelly, "Ignition" (Remix)
Peak Chart Position: No. 2, Peak Chart Date: March 29, 2003
Kelly was an important figure in merging R&B with hip-hop -- collaborating with rappers and embracing the remix, more common in rap than R&B. On the Chocolate Factory album, Kelly put "Ignition" and its remix back to back so they flowed easily together. The remix was a massive hit to the point where most people don't even remember the original.

DNA and Suzanne Vega, "Tom's Diner"
Peak Chart Position: No. 5, Peak Chart Date: Dec. 22, 1990
Vega's track first appeared as an a cappella opener on a singer-songwriter album, Solitude Standing. DNA envisioned something else, pairing her conversational vocal with a thunderous rhythm section and bursts of brass. This resulted in a hit unlike anything else from Solitude.

Kid Cudi, "Day 'N' Night" (Crookers Remix)
Peak Chart Position: No. 3, Peak Chart Date: May 9, 2009
"Day 'N' Night" already contained that minimal, pointy riff, rising and falling over and over. Crookers put their stamp on the track with carefully placed bells and whistles: an alarm-like sound during the hook, the occasional interjection of "What!," and a percussive synthesizer.

Lana Del Rey, "Summertime Sadness" (The Cedric Gervais remix)
Peak Chart Position: No. 6, Peak Chart Date: Sept. 21, 2013
Lana's original "Summertime Sadness" built around sweeping strings and a distant, military drum-roll, but people quickly picked up on the song's natural build. Gervais sped things up and synced Lana with a battering ram beat, helping Del Rey land her biggest chart hit to date.

Duran Duran, "The Reflex" (Single Version)
Peak Chart Position: No. 1 (two weeks), Peak Chart Date: June 23, 1984
Duran Duran were listening heavily to Diana Ross's 1980 album Diana -- which Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of Chic helped produce -- when they put together "The Reflex." For the single, they asked Rodgers to remix the album version. In an interview celebrating the track's 30th anniversary, the band said Rogers "took the song to another level."

George Michael, "Monkey" (Jam and Lewis Version)
Peak Chart Position: No. 1 (two weeks), Peak Chart Date: Aug. 27, 1988
While Duran Duran leant on Nile Rodgers, George Michael hired former Prince affiliates Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, who had helped create a stream of hits for the S.O.S. Band, Janet Jackson, and the Human League. Jam & Lewis concocted the single version of Michael's "Monkey," which is similar to the original, but harder and slightly less frantic.

2Pac, "California Love"
Peak Chart Position: No. 1 (two weeks), Peak Chart Date: July 13, 1996 (charted as double-sided single with "How Do U Want It")
Often the single gets spruced up for radio play, but in this case, the version that appeared on All Eyez On Me is presented as the "California Love (Remix)." The original drew power from a slamming piano riff, while the remix relied instead on heavy bass and the sort of long, cooled-out synthesizer lines that Dr. Dre loves.

Joe Featuring Mystikal, "Stutter" (Double Take Remix)
Peak Chart Position: No. 1 (four weeks), Peak Chart Date: Feb. 24, 2001
Joe's My Name Is Joe album featured "Stutter," with gentle guitar licks and the singer's sweet croon. But there's nothing sweet about the rapper Mystikal, who hopped on the remix, so everything changed accordingly. The beat draws from Pharcyde's "Passing Me By," and Mystikal delivered one of his typically visceral, unhinged verses.

Katy Perry Featuring Kanye West, "E.T." Remix
Peak Chart Position: No. 1 (five weeks), Peak Chart Date: April 9, 2011
When Perry added Kanye onto "E.T.," the track became the fourth No. 1 on Teenage Dream. The song exists halfway between Kid Cudi's "Day 'n' Night" -- the two tracks share a simple, pointy synth riff -- and Perry's more recent hit, "Dark Horse." "Dark Horse," however, has a rapper on the single (Juicy J) and album versions.

112 Featuring Notorious B.I.G. and Mase, "Only You" Remix
Peak Chart Position: No. 13, Peak Chart Date: Sept. 21, 1996
The Big Boy label was a big proponent of the remix. For 112's first hit, one rapper wasn't enough: Notorious B.I.G. and Mase each added a verse.

SWV, "Right Here" (Human Nature Mix)
Peak Chart Position: No. 2, Peak Chart Date: Oct. 2, 1993 (charted as double-sided single with "Downtown")
"Human Nature" was a top ten Hot 100 hit for Michael Jackson, so why not repurpose the beat and try it again? Teddy Riley -- a member of Guy and Blackstreet, who produced many acts -- remixed SWV's debut single with great success.

Los Del Rio, "Macarena" (Bayside Boys Mix)
Peak Chart Position: No. 1 (14 weeks), Peak Chart Date: Aug. 3, 1996
The Bayside Boys had the smart idea to redo Los Del Rio's track with English lyrics. The resulting song spent more than a year on the Hot 100, a record that would remain unbroken until Adele's "Someone Like You" came along.

 

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