When a Nigerian song starts gaining global traction, one of two things happen: the song either goes on to have a bunch of remixes targeted at increasing its popularity in specific regions, or one major remix that taps a global superstar. From Fireboy’s Ed Sheeran-assisted Peru remix, to Rema’s Calm Down featuring Selena Gomez, whichever route artists and their teams decide to follow with a remix for an already popular song, it is often heavily critiqued by listeners.
Remixes have evolved over the years, going from being a transformational work of creativity that helps mold records into their most beautiful versions, to becoming strategies employed to penetrate markets or top charts. Songs get a remix when an artist is trying to get their numbers up, when an artist is trying to capitalize on an increasingly successful record, when an artist is itching to share their rendition of another artists’ record, or when artists want to break into new genres, markets, and scenes. While remixes have been adopted for both creative and marketing purposes, at their core, remixes are reimaginings designed to showcase an artist’s prowess and range in a way that borrows from, compliments, and builds on an original record.
Now, all these reasons might be valid to the artists involved but listeners often have a hard time accepting some of these remixes, and the logic behind them. Objectively, it is smart to want to feature a more successful artist on a remix of your song, but is it worth putting out a record that seems contrived and doesn’t improve on the original version? Remixes are however here to stay and although some of them are unnecessary risks, a lot of them have proven to be worth it. With all the love these remixes get, there’s usually an equivalent amount of hate—with some listeners stating how much a remix “ruined the song” for them, or how a song “didn’t need a remix.”
The evolution of remixes in Nigeria has been an interesting one, and songs like Wizkid’s Ojuelegba, P-Square’s Beautiful Onyinye, D’banj’s Mr Endowed, Tiwa Savage’s Get It Now, Ayo Jay’s Your Number and Korede Bello’s Do Like That are important case studies and perfect examples of moments that led up to where we are now with the Nigerian remix. However, the songs mentioned above do not encapsulate the entirety of how far remixes have come and how much they’ve evolved in the country.
Looking at some of the major remixes of songs by Nigerian artists like Rema, Wizkid, Fireboy, Lojay, Adekunle Gold and Ayra Starr, we begin to notice a pattern; with songs like Peru, Calm Down and Essence experiencing major airplay and doing impressive numbers on DSPs, both locally and internationally, then going on to tap prominent acts such as Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber and Ed Sheeran for their official remixes which turned out equally successful. While those songs didn’t need a remix to go global, the remixes outperformed the original records on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Then there’s Lojay’s Monalisa, Adekunle Gold’s 5 Star and Ayra Starr’s Bloody Samaritan which had remixes with Chris Brown, Rick Ross and Kelly Rowland respectively: these remixes were unexpected and although they didn’t chart on the Hot 100 they served to supplement and undoubtedly rekindle the fire of the original records while helping new audiences discover it.
While we are focusing on remixes that have leveraged foreign acts, especially those in the United States and the United Kingdom, there have also been remixes like Asake’s Omo Ope and Buju’s Lenu that have acted as pivotal moments for the artists, with the remixes catapulting them to the mainstream and fast tracking their growth.
Talking about music quality and how remixes can elevate or degrade a record is important because of how much poor quality music can influence the soundscape of a region. So many music listeners have expressed their distaste for remixes that do not seek to elevate the quality of a record but are done nonchalantly. This takes us back to when a remix meant a record would undergo a transformation, and the artists involved would collaborate to deliver something with influences from the original record, but sounded like nothing you had heard before. Remixes used to be opportunities to dig deep and redefine sounds by combining familiar elements with unexpected and daring ones. Nowadays remixes are the same song with one or two new verses from featured acts, and the sounds are hardly differentiable.
There are a number of artists that have taken the route of putting out remixes to their already popular songs, but there are a few artists that haven’t: at least not yet. Last year, Tems’ Free Mind debuted on the Billboard Hot 100, a thrilling feat for the artist. Free Mind is off her 2020 EP For Broken Ears and the songs has now spent over 16 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 list, and 33 weeks on the R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart where it recently reached the #1 spot, making it the second-longest climb to the summit in the chart’s 30-year history.
Free Mind is also accompanied by Burna Boy’s Last Last as another song by a Nigerian artist to have spent weeks (over 17 weeks) on the Hot 100 list without having a remix. However Burna Boy has teased a potential remix of Last Last: he shared an iMessage chat between him and Dave on Instagram that hinted at a remix.
Music listeners are having an increasingly difficult time choosing what they listen to, thanks to the sheer variety of music that is being released every day, and remixes that don’t present something new or unique will hardly make playlists or perform well. For the hardworking artists, they don’t settle no matter the success they’ve enjoyed; one of the ways artists multiply their results is intentional remixes.
While remixes might be intentional on the end of artists, listeners don’t care what the intention is if the sound isn’t getting better in quality and ushering in something exciting. Overall, we’ll continue to see remixes that happen solely to elevate the quality of a record, those that serve as strategies for market penetration, and those that are purely vibes on vibes.
Culture Custodian curates and collects the stories and events that matter for the Nigerian and African millennial.