Original Work: Paula Abdul – Straight Up (release date: 1988)
Remix of Original Work: J. Cole – Work Out (release date: 2011)
By: Kelsey Chaloux
- If you’re looking at two different media (book and a movie, for example), ask yourself how does one media make certain things possible (audio, for example) or not possible. How does this change or not change the overall message of the work?
The two pieces I am choosing to analyze are both songs that I am sourcing form YouTube. The quality of both audio and video are exponentially higher in J. Cole’s 2011 remix of Paula Abdul’s 1988 Straight Up.
This is most obviously due to high definition quality and technology that has surfaced since 1988 and are currently available to artists producing in the 2010’s and on.
The quality of the music videos affect the context of the songs when physically watching the footage. This immediately establishes the time gap between the two works, purely based on the quality of audio and visual production.
Paula Abdul’s song/video is filmed in black and white and has an obvious grainy texture. Even the shadows and contrasting of colors in Abdul’s video show signs of “old age”. On top of that, the scenes are very minimal and there is not much fancy camera work (angles, splits, ext.). In regard to the audio, there is a distinct “80’s vibe” and I am able to hear the difference between the quality and the clarity of songs produced today.
In contrast, J. Cole’s song/video shows a fantastic amount of colors, featuring bright patterns and cityscapes. The video quality is so high it is almost comical when comparing it to Abdul’s video produced in 1988. Along with fantastic color, the video captures beautiful light flares that really display the high video quality. The camera jumps from scene to scene, truly creating a mini-movie, and the video footage displays movement in different speeds- some scenes highlight movement being slowed down. As for the audio, the quality is tenfold stronger than any song recorded before the turn of the century. The clarity of J. Cole’s voice is noticeable and truly makes for a more pleasurable listening experience.
- What are the biggest changes you notice between the two works? How do these changes affect the message or story?
The most noticeable changes between the two works are the different genres of music present. J. Cole remixes Paul Abdul’s “Straight Up” by taking the chorus from a 1980’s pop song, and converting it into the chorus of a 2011 hip hop song. J. Cole is arguably one of the leading lyrical geniuses amongst today’s hip-hop culture (along side Kendrick Lamar).
Cole does not just sample beats and lyrics from Paula Abdul but remixes the beats and lyrics by making them unique to his song. For example, in “Straight Up”, the catchy background music is made possible by acoustic and percussion instruments, whereas in J. Cole’s “Work Out”, the same tune is found, but this time recreated by electronic synthesizers. In addition, when J. Cole uses Paula Abdul’s “straight up now tell me do you really wanna love me forever, oh- oh- oh, or is just a hit and run?” he does not take the original sample of her voice, but rather remixes it by singing it himself.
These changes affect the message of the song because the hip-hop elements of the remixed pop song establish the artists in their respective genre. By using electronic synthesizers to remix the original acoustic beat, J. Cole reaffirms his place within the hip-hop community by adding a fun and recognizable electronic beat to his music.
- How has the audience changed as a result? Do both works cater to the same audience? How?
The audiences of the two songs defiantly changed as a result of the two different genres they are produced in. First off, the twenty-three year time gap between the two songs clearly accounts for the change in audience. Many of the people who sing along to J. Cole’s “Work Out” were not even born yet when Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up” was a hit. This creates a different audience between the two songs because some of the audience members who listen to “Work Out” were not even around to hear “Straight Up’ in its glory days, and visa versa. Many people who listened and sang along to Paula Abdul are now too old to be attracted to J. Cole.
Another key change in audience is that those listening to Paula Abdul in the 1980’s were for the most part white girls who liked to dance around and workout to her catchy pop songs. Now, those listening to J. Cole come from a more diverse background- mostly drawing in teenagers and young adults and defiantly attracting more people of color due to hip-hops general culture.
- What is lost when the work is remixed by another artist? What is gained?
I don’t know if I believe anything is lost in a good remix. A good remix should be able to take elements from another artist’s work and recreate them to be their own, while still keeping it obvious that it is a remix. A good remix should be recognizable to the audience as a remix. If the audience cannot distinguish between what is the artist’s original work or what is being remixed/ sampled, then I believe the artist did a poor job at executing the remix and engaging the audience- because lets be real, people fucking love remixes.
I think remixes add to the overall collaboration of the music industry and culture. Remixes are extremely fun when they cross genres, much like the two songs I am analyzing. Within the last 6 years or so, the music culture has seen a new genre of music evolve and this genre of music celebrates remixes/remixing. Electronic dance music and trap DJ’s have opened up new realms of remixing and I believe this brings the music culture closer together, more collaborative, and more expansive.
When thinking about this question in terms of “Work Out” and “Straight Up”, I think the dance element that Abdul created in her work is lost, but J. Cole brings a chill persona to the work, allowing it to be a song to vibe out to.
^ (black and white, grainy picture, dance elements)
^ (color, light flare, remixing Abdul’s lyrics with his own voice)