New Millennium Elvis Sound – The Pitfalls of Re-mixing The King
huge worldwide success of Junkie
XL’s remix of Elvis’ previously little known single, A Little
Less Conversation (ALLC), has brought Elvis’ music before a contemporary
youth market on a global scale. Elvis vs JXL has now been #1 in
a dozen countries and only in Elvis’ home country, the USA, is it
struggling to receive substantial airplay.
since the great success on the dance floors of Europe of the
dance/disco version of Bossa Nova, Baby in the early 90s has
Elvis’ music really moved outside its traditional demographic,
the older, middle class market.
personal view is that Elvis’s music deserves to be put before
the youth market.
it isn’t, the reality is his album sales will continue to decline
as older fans increasingly lose interest in buying the 200th repackaging
of an Elvis’s Greatest Hits collection.
Elvis’ music has a spark, a beat and a ‘relevance’ as much today
as in 1956, but the songs need to be carefully chosen and marketed.
are four elements critical to successfully imprinting Elvis on the
pick the right songs! If the success of ALLC is instructive (and
most commentators and music producers like Junkie XL say it is),
songs with a funky vibe that will appeal on the dance floor are
a great starting point. Undoubtedly some major Elvis hits can be
‘contemporised’ successfully but why not pick some of Elvis’ lessor
known recordings that would be great on the flourishing and influential
club or dance scene?
a leaf out of picking A Little Less Conversation for a make-over,
what about other great recordings that failed to ignite the charts
or the public’s interest when Elvis was trying to reinvent himself
and be “cool” again in the late 1960s?
instance, Rubberneckin’ has that funky beat as does Your Time Hasn’t
Come Yet, Baby, although the lyrics would need to undergo a minor
change to eliminate their nursery rhyme sentiment (although see
element ‘Two’ below). The title track from Elvis’s last narrative
movie, Change Of Habit, could well be another good choice, with
its up-tempo pacing, pertinent lyrics and dance along feel.
there are numerous ‘latin flavoured’ Elvis recordings just ripe
for the picking! Probably half of the tracks on the great South
American release, Elvis Latino, could be used with their catchy,
up-beat lyrics and dance inducing tempos.
preserve Elvis’ original vocal track! This was uppermost in Junkie
XL’s mind when he re-mixed ALLC. In his interview with EIN, Tom
Holkenborg (Junkie XL) stressed how he did not touch Elvis’ original
vocal, only the background arrangement and music.
don’t go overboard! It is important that BMG and EPE do not go overboard
in chasing the youth market. A slow, but steady, release of strategically
considered contemporary re-mixes is surely the best way to go with
the modern day CD buyer.
market is very different to the 1950s and 1960s when record companies
were very successful in flooding the market with numerous releases
by the one artist. The ‘golden days’ of each year releasing 3 or
4 Elvis singles and 3 or 4 Elvis albums are long gone.
re-mixes of two major Elvis hits, Suspicious Minds and Burning Love,
are apparently being worked on. One of these is likely to be used
as a promotional tool for the upcoming Elvis #1’s album and the
second during the lead in to the profitable Christmas buying season.
But is this really a smart move by BMG?
is possible that if ‘re-mixed’ songs are used to increase sales
of the album there may be many disappointed album buyers. Why? Because
the album will include up to 30 tracks as Elvis originally recorded
them! They will not have the necessary contemporary, new millennium
sound of Elvis vs JXL! What this could mean is that in a grab for
greater profits BMG alienates the very market it needs to ‘capture’-
alienates them from buying future Elvis releases!
have a “cool” music video to promote release! Singles today rely
particularly heavily on airplay in the Club (or Dance) scene and
a strong funky music video on television. Radio station airplay,
while still important, has lost some of its power due to the proliferation
of ‘niche market’ stations and low rotation (diluted) airplay lists
where tracks are not played as frequently as they were two or three
decades ago. A “cool” video is likely to be a more significant factor
in sales success than traditional point of sale, etc marketing strategies.
word of warning: the failure, in some people’s eyes, of BMG
to have the second music video for Elvis vs JXL available as the
song hit #1 around the world should signal to BMG how it could lose
any forward momentum with a future release. Luckily the Nike ‘World
Cup’ video was available and while Elvis’ image was nowhere to be
seen at least there was a video ‘tool’ to promote the music on television.
Time will tell if re-mixes of tracks like Burning Love and Suspicious
Minds are successful. If they are, does this mean we will be treated
to contemporary make-overs for Hound Dog, Jailhouse Rock and Don’t
Be Cruel? – tracks that appear to have considerable merit as modern
day releases with their catchy, uptempo feel.
Rock also has an eye-catching, black & white video to go with it,
one that could be easily tailored to appeal to the youth market
to the eclectic and large body of musical work Elvis has left as
his legacy, there are many opportunities for BMG to find the right
tracks to bring Elvis once again into the minds and hearts of the
does however beg the question of what strategy is needed to re-ignite
Elvis’s appeal to the major buyers of albums, the older, middle
class! What do you think? What songs should BMG choose for future
would like to hear your thoughts. You can email them to: email@example.com
edition of Spotlight on The King was prepared by Nigel Patterson,
President, Elvis Information Network, © July 2002