Despite Idina Menzel’s forceful, repeated urging, no one can seem to “Let It Go” — let go of the “Frozen” hit, that is, which has crashed the Billboard Hot 100, won the Academy Award for best original song, and spawned a flotilla of YouTube covers, remixes and mash-ups as exhausting as they are fun. Nary a week goes by without a new one going viral: metal version, club remix, “Africanized tribal cover” complete with children’s chorus.
It isn’t difficult to hear why the song is popular, of course — there’s Menzel’s big, Broadway voice, the oh-so-relatable themes of loss and overcoming, the inherent draw of a song that comes from a popular movie. But the remixes rise to another level of enthusiasm, somewhere between appreciative tribute and all-out mania. The Internet’s insatiable thirst for new iterations of the same three-minute, forty-second track would seem to indicate something profound about the song — or, at the very least, about its listeners.
To parse these and other questions, I turned to prolific remixer André Allen Anjos, better known by the stage name RAC. Anjos has remixed everyone from Kings of Leon to Lana Del Ray, and he’s on the brink of releasing his first solo album, “Strangers.” (Incidentally, its lead single is called “Let Go” — though regrettably, it has nothing to do with “Frozen.”) This is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.
First things first: You’ve heard the song, right?
Anjos: Yes, I’ve heard the song. I don’t think anyone hasn’t, at this point.
Have you seen “Frozen”?
No, I’ve just heard the song. I’m not much of an expert on Disney movies!
No worries! Let’s talk about something you are an expert on. What makes a song ‘remixable’? Like when you’re listening to a song, what types of things are you listening for?
Ah, it’s hard to explain. It can’t just be a track — it has to be a song. It can be any genre — Disney, pop, country, rock, whatever — but it just has to have that essence, that value, that a song has. Those make the easiest remixes. It’s in the vocals.
Why are the vocals so important?
Well the vocals are the most obvious part of the song — that’s definitely the part people connect with. It’s the inherent focus of the song, it tells a story, usually that’s where the title comes from. The vocals have mass appeal.
When I do a remix, actually, I rarely change the structure of the vocals for that reason. I’ll change everything else around it! But not that.
What’s the actual process for remixing a song? Take me through it in layman’s terms.
Basically it all starts with the multitrack file, or the original recording. You need a copy that has all the different parts separated out. An MP3 won’t work. Once you have that original studio file, you do this thing called soloing — taking out just the vocals, or just the guitars, or whatever else. Usually I take just the vocals and listen to those, then start writing something different under it. That’s the starting point. It’s kind of technical, but it’s basically just reverse-engineering a song.
That seems really straightforward: just cut the instrumental part out, write something else.
I go through a couple iterations, though. I have a song on this new album, “Hollywood,” that I did with Chris [Glover, best known as the man behind Penguin Prison]. I wrote something and sent it to Chris, then he tweaked it and sent it back — we went back and forth a lot. What started out as synth ended up as a rock, a kind of laid-back pop-rock thing. And that malleability is really important to remixing. The original idea is always flexible.
So let’s talk about “Let It Go” specifically. This is the song that has launched a thousand remixes. It seems like a new one goes viral on YouTube every week. But, I mean — why?
Yeah, all those remixes are one of my favorite things about YouTube. I think this has a lot to do with the popularity of the song, rather than the song itself. At the same time, it has one of those choruses. You could throw that in a rock song — I’m thinking the Strokes, maybe not the Strokes, but someone like them — and you could do something cool and totally different … Sorry, I completely lost my train of thought.
It’s okay. I’m hung up on the idea of a Strokes “Let It Go” cover, as well.
Right! That’s my favorite thing about YouTube — people will do, like, a metal dubstep remix of a Disney song. And some big names [like Grammy-nominated producer Dave Audé and dance collective Papercha$er] are doing remixes of this song. I think it’s become a big part of popular culture, and that goes a long way toward explaining why people are doing it. At the same time, it’s an easy song to remix. It has those qualities. It has that chorus. People heard it, and they heard potential.
So we can expect a “Let It Go” remix from you soon, right?
Oh man, it’s really just a matter of having time.