When Pop Meets EDM: Remixing Popular Songs

Now that the pandemic is, while not exactly disappearing, being managed more effectively, thoughts will start to turn towards festivals in 2022.

Some of the world’s biggest festivals were forced to cancel, or host virtual events instead. This meant millions of fans of all genres of music have now had two years without seeing some of the best acts live.

EDM is no stranger to festivals, and indeed virtual events. Marshmello has been known to not only play Fortnite competitively and for fun, but also perform inside the game. Back in 2019, Marshmello held a live event inside the game itself, attracting millions of fans.

The ticket agency site, Festicket, puts Marshmello at number 3 in the top ten biggest EDM artists of the moment. David Guetta, and Martin Garrix, are the only artists above Marshmello in Festicket’s opinion.

One thing that many of the best-known EDM acts have in common, is that they use samples from well-known, and often obscure songs. These can come from all manner of genres, but sometimes they will take the poppiest of pop songs, and create something else.

What exactly defines EDM?

There are more genres of music now than at any time before in history. A rundown of different musical styles would be a lengthy list that could run from bluegrass, to country, to rap, to grime, to punk, to black-metal.

Indeed, metal itself has many sub-genres, which to someone unfamiliar with the sounds might find difficult to discern. Or as your parents might say, it all sounds the same. Or, it’s just a lot of noise.

EDM though is pretty much an umbrella term that can cover many other different genres of music, as long as they carry the right characteristics. Electronic dance music is as the name describes. While drum and bass, techno, and trance, may all come under EDM, they must do two things to qualify; employ inorganic sounds, and be able to dance to them.

Sounds straightforward enough right? Well, it is this all-encompassing quality that EDM has that allows so many other styles to come under this title. EDM has been around in some form for over 50 years now and could be said to have begun with disco in the late 1970s. Now, many EDM hits sample from other genres, and one of these is pop.

What defines a pop song?

Typically in the past, pop music was simply a way of defining popular music. This meant that just like EDM, it encompassed many styles. Later though, pop music came to define a certain style.

The biggest pop band ever was the Beatles. According to Statista, they have sold more records than anyone else, and are around 50 million sales ahead of Elvis.

Their brand of music also indulged in a little blues, rock ‘n’ roll, and even Indian influences at times, not to mention psychedelia. Often pop music is considered to be saccharine sweet, or incorporate throw-away songs. However, many timeless, and intelligent songs exist which fall under the banner of pop music.

Pharrell Williams is one of the biggest musical acts in the world today and had a big hit with Happy in 2013. This is a perfect example of a pop song and contains nods towards Motown too. There is also an EDM mix where the drums are replaced by a machine.

Pop music seems to be a rich source to some EDM artists, and many popular songs have been transformed into something else.

Can you remix pop into EDM, or sample areas of these songs?

You only need to look at some of the better releases from EDM artists to see the influence, and use of pop samples. David Guetta with John Newman, and Mistajam, put together the wonderful If You Really Love Me.

One upload of this track has thousands of likes on YouTube. The influence for this song? The late Whitney Houston. This track is an EDM tribute to one of the finest vocalists from the ’80s and ’90s. While Whitney could certainly be described as soulful, her music was definitely in the genre of pop music. David Guetta just proves how great vocals and a catchy summer tune can blend into modern dance music.

A budding musician learning Wham’s Last Christmas chords on their guitar, might be surprised to hear an EDM version of the classic pop song. However, that is exactly what you will find if you search on YouTube for an EDM version. Highly popular it is too, with over 6.6 million views.

There are remixes and samples from hundreds, if not thousands, of popular songs. And many have been completely reimagined. Coopex, Yohan Gerber, and Lunis got together last year to totally overhaul Radioactive by Imagine Dragons into something that could get a dancefloor going.

The Cranberries and Dido have seen their songs; Zombie, and Thank You, respectively, turned into modern EDM tracks.

Should EDM and other genres ever meet?

One of the most beautiful things about EDM is that it can transform music from so many other genres. Just as hip-hop and rap acts have sampled everyone from The Rolling Stones, to Marvin Gaye, EDM can get other genres to crossover.

There have been some unusual and successful mash-ups and crossovers throughout the years. Run DMC and Aerosmith may have started the crossover genre with Walk This Way which is still one of the best examples.

You can listen to another interesting little mash-up here with Eminem, RHCP, and Aluvium, combining to great effect. EDM artists who use other styles of music help their audience open up to new genres. Anyone into EDM could find themselves being introduced to new (old) music through remixes and samples.

How does this affect home music producers?

EDM is one of the most accessible forms of music for amateur producers now. Computer equipment is more powerful, and cheaper than before. DAWs such as Garageband are free, and there are resources available freely on the net.

While there are copyright issues to contend with, there is nothing wrong with you sampling music or remixing songs, purely for your own entertainment. The IP police are highly unlikely to break down your door while you indulge in a little amateur remixing of Eminem.

If you can play a musical instrument, such as the guitar or piano, then you can use an application to take your music production to another level. Find a good pop song that is rife for sampling, then record yourself playing the part you wish to use. You can use apps to instantly show chords from any pop song online, and then record you playing for your home-spun EDM track.

Where to find pop and EDM crossovers

There are examples everywhere. However, one partnership seems to be seriously cornering the market recently.

Lunis were busy during the pandemic it would seem, and they linked up with Harddope to create a new version of one great pop song in 2020; Summertime Sadness. While there are many options for great pop/EDM crossovers, Lunis might be among the busiest artists.

If you want to hear how Lana Del Rey, The Cranberries, Katy Perry, and even Chris Isaak, could have sounded if their songs had been made into dance tracks, then listen to Lunis.

Summary

Next year’s festival season looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun. Tickets have been released for Electric Daisy Carnival, the largest EDM festival in the world. Don’t be surprised if you hear some choruses and lines sampled from classic and modern-day pop songs.

Alternatively, fire up your laptop, search for some underplayed pop classics, and remix your own. Many modern EDM acts started as teenagers mixing in their bedrooms, so why not you?