When I saw on my Twitter feed that Armin van Buuren had dropped a remix of Van Halen’s 1983 synth-pop number one “Jump” with original VH vocalist David Lee Roth in tow at Ultra Music Festival 2019 (fun fact: Larry Levan played “Jump” at the Paradise Garage for his flock around the time of the song’s release, and, yup, they initially loathed it), I had low expectations but was curious to hear it.
Rock bands getting the remix treatment is nothing new. Everyone from Elvis to The Rolling Stones have had their songs reinterpreted for the dance floor with varying results. But before I could hear the remix I ran the numbers in my head [cue adding machine SFX]: the biggest commercial DJ + one of the biggest legacy rock bands = a nice lil’ payday for all parties involved, especially for Van Halen whose status is locked in who-the-hell-knows-if-they’re-going-to-ever-record-or-tour-again limbo.
The formula for Van Buuren’s interpretation is simple and calculated. He flies Roth’s vocal over a pedestrian EDM track, then brings in the song’s iconic synth line with additional percussion. Introduce a cowbell to the breakdown and – viola! – make sure you spell van Buuren with two u’s on the check.
Writing in Rolling Stone Brittany Spanos described the intro as “Baba O’Riley” esque – er, that’s a stretch – and opined, “The funniest part of the whole thing is that it makes one less nostalgic for the golden age of Eighties synth-rock, and more hungry for the era of Peak EDM that we experienced a mere five years ago.”
I think she tripped over her point. Nostalgia is precisely what’s being peddled here. “Jump” is a pre-internet relic, an artifact from a pre-woke time when Spandex-wearing men with peroxide hair ruled the charts and often behaved very, very badly. In fact, I’ll bet that a good percentage of UMFers had heard “Jump” before at a sporting event or on classic rock radio in the car with their parents. No matter what your musical proclivities are it’s a song everyone knows.
Novelty remixes of pop tracks are disposable fodder, a tactic that’s part of a strategy to get mass attention. The only thing that’s newsworthy about this lackluster remix is that it took 36 years to happen. Having garnered a lot of global attention since Ultra, everyone involved can proclaim mission accomplished.