The Hitmaking Remixers Behind 'Cheerleader' and 'I Took a Pill in Ibiza' on Crafting a Smash

Scott Schatek
OMI

In 2016, a pop song is only as good as its dance-ready remix, lending it the right leverage to reach a wider audience and hit-maker status.

Such was the case with OMI's "Cheerleader," which was already out for four years when it became an unstoppable song of the summer last year, thanks to German producer Felix Jaehn, 21, whose tropical-house take hit No 1 on the Hot 100.

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Jaehn and Seeb member Simen Eriksrud, 40, shared with Billboard how they topped the charts and their tips to make a hit remix. 

Pick A Song You're Passionate About

"When we started 'Ibiza,' it was like the remix made itself," says Eriksrud, adding that it’s all about finding music he can relate to. He also saw something special when he heard the song; “If the song doesn’t excite you in the studio, I guarantee it won’t excite anyone.” 

Put The Vocals Front And Center 

Jaehn says he starts with the vocals first and lets the singer’s melodies guide him. “I didn’t have a picture in my head of what I wanted it to be until I asked for the a cappella,” he says. He also avoids the technique of looping just one phrase remix lyrics; “You stay true to a song through the voice.”

Experiment 

"Don't make a posh version of the original -- make it completely new," says Eriksrud. "In a way, it's about not respecting the song too much." Jaehn explains that he tested "Cheerleader" at countless different BPMs to find just the right fit. "Literally just try it and see what feels best."

Follow Your Instincts

When the “Cheerleader” remix was near complete, Jaehn says he got the sense it still needed something. That’s when he approached a trumpet-playing friend for the track’s now signature brass melody, which was recorded underneath the musician’s bedroom blanket. “I knew the song was almost finished, but some element was missing,” he says. “I thought it was pretty spot on. It’s a great hook.”

Don't Force It 

"That's the difficult thing of making hits: if you try too hard, it won't work," says Eriksrud. Instead, he recommends taking a more lighthearted approach: "Say, 'Today I'm going to have some fun and just make some music.'"