BY VINCENT VARNEY
When R. Kelly joined Phoenix on stage at Coachella earlier this year, the crowd – nay, the world – stood in shock. The rumours had suggested that someone would join the French rock outfit, but I doubt a single person expected it to be the R&B legend himself, with many people believing the band was taking the piss. Funnily enough, Phoenix front man Thomas Mars admitted that the band only sought R. Kelly because the crowd was predicting Daft Punk, but result was beyond both artists’ expectations.
While the mash-up of Phoenix’s ‘1901’ and R. Kelly’s ‘Ignition’ exists only as a poor quality iPhone video, the two musical forces have combined yet again to bring us ‘Trying To Be Cool feat. R. Kelly.’ Trust me, you’re in (urine?) for a treat.
The track is being pegged as a remix of a recent Phoenix single, but that’s a bit of a stretch. The arrangement is almost identical to the original (which was a great song already), with a few small changes – namely, the song now begins and ends with a chorus; certain synth sounds (such as the electro-harp) are overlayed and repeated throughout song; and the post-choruses have been removed entirely, making the remix a more straightforward pop song.
The big difference comes with the lyrics, as R. Kelly now sings during the choruses and bridge, and has even written a whole new second verse. Admittedly, these new lyrics aren’t quite relevant to the source material – R&B tropes such as “baby girl” and “in the club” have made an appearance – but R. Kelly’s rhythm and use of call-and-response vocals make the his verse enjoyable nonetheless. Plus, the way R. Kelly transitions his new verse back into the chorus is pure genius.
R. Kelly also assists with the choruses, where his powerful voice adds a whole new dynamic to the song. He also added to the bridge what is probably the best lyric of the year: “Let this remix get into you.” While this phrase is poetic in its candour, it makes the fact that R. Kelly wrote and recorded his vocals without Phoenix’s knowledge more believable.
My only issue with the song is that it now opens with a chorus, which reduces the breathing room and makes the song a tad repetitive, but it’s easy to overlook this wee issue when the rest of the song is so catchy.
While ‘Ignition (Remix)’ celebrates its 10th birthday this very week, R. Kelly has proven that he’s not a has-been, maintaining or perhaps raising the bar on an already great Phoenix song. I highly recommend streaming the track on SoundCloud or YouTube– it’ll be like listening to a stream of gold.
Vincent Varney would like to apologise to anyone who was offended by the urination jokes in this article. Follow him on Twitter @VincentVarney