FANS CAN DO REMARKABLE THINGS WITH THE ALBUMS THEY LOVE
Remixes of songs are commonplace and often popular, be they created by professionals or fans. However, this popularity is typically only seen for individual singles.
If you were to ask someone if they listen to any re-edits or fan mixes of an entire albums, the likely answer is no. Why would they? Artists often spend years meticulously crafting albums – nothing will top their vision for an album.
However, with fan mixes and edits the enjoyment factor is not a question of what better, but rather what is different. Fans of particular talent can take albums and with some changes – sometimes major, other times minor – are able to create something fresh yet, crucially, familiar, adding a whole new level of enjoyment to an album you may have been listening to for years. Here we visit three fan projects that do just that, each with their own unique approach, to demonstrate their potential.
The examples given can be categorised into three types; those that add or remove an element to or from the original sound of an album, those that make no changes to the composition of a project but alter the mix in some way, and those that re-edit that entire framework of a project. Obviously, these categories are not all encompassing, but most usually fall into one of these three.
Of course, when discussing these edits, due diligence needs to be paid to the original artists as they could encroach upon copyright infringement. We discuss each example individually in relation to copyright, but to summarise, all of three of these fans did not receive permission from the original artists to remix their property, however, none of them profit financially from their work either.
First we have YouTuber James Mason’s remix of Metallica’s 1988 album…And Justice for All. The original, released in 1988, is an incredible album in its own right and marks the epic culmination of Metallica’s signature thrash metal style they pioneered with their debut album in 1983. However, it is not without its controversy.
Founders James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich mixed the album in a way that rendered then-newcomer Jason Newsted’s bass work inaudible. Why? Apparently, narcissism had a lot to do with it, as well as a general bias against Newsted after the sudden death of his predecessor in the band, Cliff Burton, in 1986. For a more in-depth explanation, see this excellent article from Kory Grow.
Described as “ingenious” by Rolling Stone magazine, Mason’s mix unearths Newsted’s contribution and renders it at five different volume levels, giving you full control over the bass. The lack of bass in the original imparts a certain rawness that sets it apart from most albums – however, Mason’s mix gives the album a much fuller sound. In this way, Mason’s mix is a great example of how fans can show us what our favourite albums could have been.
In regard to copyright, it been copyrighted by record label Audium on behalf of labels Rhino and Blackened Recordings (Blackened Recordings being Metallica’s independent record label), meaning all ad revenue from the videos goes to them.
Next we have YouTuber the_kovic’s remix of the soundtrack for videogame Doom Eternal. The game’s predecessor, 2016’s Doom, was hailed for its excellent soundtrack and was even nominated for ‘Best Music’ in 2017’s BAFTA game awards. Suffice to say, the hype around the soundtrack was palpable.
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After some delays, the soundtrack was finally released. However, it turns out that instead of allowing composer Mick Gordon to mix the tracks, ID, the game’s developer, mixed many of the tracks themselves. The result was mix is lacking in definition, particularly concerning the low and high ends. If you would like more details, see this article from IGN.
YouTube’s the_kovic has remixed the entire soundtrack, upping its fidelity and dynamism. Furthermore, they have edited the tracklist to follow the chronology of the game (before tracks appeared in a random order).
It should be noted that Bethesda Softworks, the publisher of Doom: Eternal, has been issuing some users with copyright strikes for uploading their versions of the soundtrack.
It does, however, bring up an interesting question in regard to what constitutes as fair use. This example may not transform the constitution of the project, but it could be argued that the significant changes to the mix do significantly alter the sound of the project, thus potentially creating an argument for fair use. In either case, fair use is an incredibly subjective argument.
Finally, we have Reddit’s u/Dorian_Ye’s fan edit of Kanye West’s 2016 album The Life of Pablo. Kanye toted the album as his first gospel effort before release and this influence is unmistakable, at least in most tracks. The soundscape has an ethereal quality to it, gospel singers ring out in choir and the lyricism is heavy with Christian rhetoric. Yet, these hallmarks are absent in several songs, making the ‘gospel album’ label a bit of stretch.
Feeling “like the gospel vibe was compromised” user u/Dorian_Ye decided to re-edit the entire album to more closely align with that vision, overhauling its entire constitution. Some tracks are outright removed (Feedback, Freestyle 4, Facts), a few have been combined into single tracks (I Love Kanye & Famous, Lowlights & Highlights) and others have been remixed entirely, often to include aspects of their original leaked versions that more closely resembled the gospel vision.
The reddit user’s edit presents us with a markedly different version of the album that is distinct enough to sound fresh, but crucially, hits all the familiar notes that we fell in love with in the first place.
With these examples we can see the potential of fan edits and remixes. They can give us a window into a version of an album that could have been, or rebuild the albums we know and love from the ground up. Yet, these are but a few examples. Look for fan mixes of your favourite albums – YouTube, Reddit and Soundcloud are good places to start. There are plenty of new and strange versions out there.