Music Sounds Better with You has been so incredibly pervasive, it feels as though it is the official anthem of every homebrewed nu-disco album I have come across. Despite this song being almost overplayed, I'm still in love with it. The Stardust trio — comprised of Alan Braxe, Benjamin Diamond, and suspected music wizard Thomas Bangalter — have created something so marvelous I simply have to review their single! In fact, I want to review all the tracks associated with the single, compact discs, and EP.
I personally attribute the success of the Radio Edit of Music Sounds Better With You with the artists' visceral knowledge of the psyche of the listener, but you might find my very phenomenological interpretation of this track is overthinking it. Bear with me: the track begins distant and removed, as though we are listening to an old recording. When the bass kicks in, we are transported into the world of the song. It's as though a time machine disguised as a record player teleported us from a dusty old attic into the club of yesteryear, where the action is just beginning to unfold. Nostalgia fades into immanence, and we are immersed in the glamour and excitement of the disco age. The beat, synth and chanting song crescendo, are luring us deeper into the dance.
As though the artist knows you may be facing some restraint or hesitation to engage yourself fully with the music, they offer you a subtle invitation to make the music your own in an 8-beat break. The momentary absence of the music brings to the listener's attention how much he or she has already accepted the song, how much they are already listening and already feeling it as it is temporarily ripped away. It's as though the song is being flirtatious and playful, giving you a moment to chase it. Just as suddenly, the beat continues in a winking assurance that the song will return even more consuming than before and when the familiar buzzy synth kicks back in a feel a sense of celebration, of welcoming, and of wanting to make the song one's own through movement. Subtle variations in the melody of the synth keep the beat fresh while still reassuringly predictable. The listener is fully submersed in the frenzy of movement and pleasure.
Next comes the moment which, I believe, has made the song such an enormous success. Suddenly, the music distorts as though one is listening from outside the club, while the vocals retain their clarity. It's the auditory equivalent of a camera dramatically shifting focus from background to foreground. For me, this is an invitation for introspection. It is as though the social environment and the focus on the thoughts and perspectives of others on the floor fades away and the listener is left with his or her internal dialogue, affirming all the positive feelings that come with this energizing, sexy, celebratory song. It is as though the music is saying "Yes, everyone around you is having a wonderful time, and you are there with them, but more importantly, deep inside, you all these beautiful feelings, this wonderful celebration, is yours. There may be happy moments of celebration but this inner peace is something that will always be your own." With that, the tambourine kicks in, alighting a desire to spread that inner light out into the world. Again, the eight beat break, with its momentary restraint invites the listener to break out, to share what they have recognized about themselves with the world through movement, and to bring others to this beautiful realization. The song then gives us several bars in its full vibrancy to let us dance it out and fades away.
The 12" Club Mix is basically a longer, watered-down version of the Radio Edit. It loses all the power and intensity of the radio edit and becomes a song one can listen to in the background and ignore, rather than commanding your full attention and engagement. In fact, I actually found it was difficult to consciously focus on. It's not bad, but it's just not the original.
The Bob Sinclar Remix is much more relaxed but also feels kind of empty. It begins with a smooth jazz beat and ambiance and a sexy "OUF!" occasionally thrown in. The song manages to maintain a smooth, rolling groove while kicking up the beat, but then a beachy 90's guitar synth and horn kick in and the song goes from a loungey groove to being unabashedly corny. If a Baywatch Genesis game was created and it needed a corny smooth jazz background track, this would be it.
Bibi & Dim's Anthem From Paris Mix immediately trips up the beat so you know this is going to get fresh. Originally incoherent and disorienting but also dark and intense, the track begins with a strange crashing noise and bongos. A funky organ kicks in to let you know things are still headed in a disco direction, and the crashing and organ gradually transform into the original soundscape of Music Sounds Better With You. This is a truly original remix as it introduces its own atmosphere while playing off the qualities of the original. There is a break with echoing, buzzy synths, and theremins that sounds like a collage of science fiction sounds. The sing then returns to its source material, deftly balancing familiarity and novelty. Ambient sounds and climbing bass background melodies add a feeling of hopefulness and happiness near the end. By the end of this track I was impressed by how much (and how seamlessly!) it had transformed. The experimentation with distortion and timing paid off, as it managed to keep itself fresh throughout the 10:30 track.
As much as I loved the Radio Edit, the Chateau Flight Remix managed to really win my heart by being true to its funky history. It kicks off with some very classic mo-town horns, and includes classic vinyl skips, gradually altering the beat to keep things fresh. The base and background sounds of kids chanting and screaming manages to capture a retro urban feel reminiscent of early Sesame Street episodes. When the vocals from M.S.B.W.Y. kick in it feels more like a ripped track in an entirely new song than a remix. This song is like a katamari doing it own thing, and M.S.B.W.Y. is just one of the treasures it rolled up! If there is one thing I could change it would be the conclusion, because the song wraps up by the beat kind of falling apart, which I found disappointing because it ruined my groove.
I absolutely hated, however, DJ Sneak's 32 On Red Dub Mix. It was the most boring song I ever heard and I actually felt angry listening to it. It had this tinny beat and the most overused and unoriginal synths, not to mention it was so slow and took forever to change anything up. It was so empty I felt like I was listening to the background of an unfinished song. Needless to say, I was not looking forward to listening to the non-dub mix.
DJ Sneak's 32 On Red Mix was somewhat more tolerable. If I overhead it on the speakers at H&M (it would fit right in with the rest of their repertoire), I wouldn't cover my ears and roll on the ground screaming. Still, I recommend this song for background listening only because it is also so slow to do anything interesting that it is difficult to actually focus on. It's one of those song that keeps suggesting it is building up to something and then gets nowhere. The music itself is more original than the dub mix. It feels like you are on a journey in a spaceship. It feels like reading an essay written by someone who is very good at sounding like they know what they are talking about but refuses to actually get to their point.
Even though Music Sounds Better with You has been wildly successful, I don;t recommend many of the remixes. Bibi and Dim's Anthem From Paris Mix and the Chateau Flight Remix are both worth checking out, but apart from that, I recommend sticking to the original.