Billie Eilish And Justin Bieber’s ‘Bad Guy’ Remix Ruins One Of 2019’s Best Songs
It completely undoes the magic of the original track.
Billie Eilish and Justin Bieber have been teasing a ‘Bad Guy’ remix all week, and now it’s here, we’re confident in calling it a soulless cash grab, something that ultimately undoes the magic of the original track.
On paper, the remix isn’t too different from the original, which we recently named one of 2019’s best tracks so far — but Bieber’s addition removes that innovative element of the track, turning it into another run-of-the-mill collab.
While the bass-heavy, eerie song doesn’t shift too much, Bieber adds in some Eilish impersonations and inflections throughout — and his own verse where he plays the song’s ‘bad guy’. On it, he rap-sings through autotune about his tattoo sleeves, gold teeth, and how he doesn’t sleep. There are also some ‘skrrts’ thrown in for good measure.
Unfortunately, the whole thing feels completely off for the song. Eilish’s debut album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? is incredibly fresh and innovative, entirely produced and co-written by the dark-pop wunderkind with her brother, FINNEAS. It’s pop from outside of the machine, tackling dark topics (climate change, anxiety, suicide) in deft, distinctly non-naff ways.
Bieber’s radio-slick voice doesn’t work in this world, though to be fair to him, we’re not sure anyone’s really would. Eilish’s album is so singular and idiosyncratic that it seems against the point to let any more in. And since Bieber’s ‘bad guy’ persona is much more tabloid fodder than Eilish’s demonic aesthetic and sound, he slows down the track with a side-step. We leave Eilish’s underworld, and head into Bieber’s familiar world of flirtatious, cocky r&b.
What’s the deal then? Why did this happen? Well, Eilish has a long-standing love for Bieber — she’s spoken on Ellen and the like about being a pre-teen Belieber back in the day, and when the two finally did meet at Coachella this year, it went viral.
Pairing the two up on a track is a nice end to a narrative — hell, the remix’s YouTube picture is of a super young Eilish in her Bieber poster-covered bedroom. The inevitable collab’s a handy trick up a labels sleeve, and a quick look at the US Billboard charts lends some clarity as to why it’s being wheeled out now.
‘Bad guy’ is one of the biggest songs of the year, but it hasn’t cracked that coveted #1 spot. Since its April release, it’s spent 14 weeks floating around #2, even as the album itself cracked the top spot.
While all pop songs are made with success in mind, this remix’s blatant attempt to hit #1 leaves it soulless. It’s especially disappointing coming from one of 2019’s most innovative acts.
It’s essentially been blocked by Lil Nas X’s ridiculously huge remix of ‘Old Town Road’ with Billy Ray Cyrus, which has had 14 weeks at the top of the charts. If it hits 17 weeks, it will be the longest #1 ever in the chart’s history. In short, it’s huge news, especially for an artist’s debut track — not to mention that it comes from a queer black rap-country artist who first found an audience via his Nicki Minaj fan Twitter account.
‘Old Town Road’ has faced tough competition, too. While it’s been at the top of the charts, we’ve had music from Taylor Swift, Post Malone, Ed Sheeran and Eilish, this year’s other breakout star, one regularly called ‘the pop star of her generation’. And then there’s Bieber, who, as Billboard points out, has a vested interest in breaking Lil Nas’s record. ‘Despacito’ spent 16 weeks at #1 in 2017 — a record only matched by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men’s ‘One Sweet Day’.
While all pop songs are made with success in mind, this remix’s blatant attempt to hit #1 leaves it soulless. It’s especially disappointing coming from one of 2019’s most innovative acts. It’ll be interesting to see how it charts; just quietly, we’re hoping listeners will keep on riding till they can’t ride no more.
UPDATE: Looks like Lil Nas X came prepped. He’s just dropped his own remix of the ‘Old Town Road’ remix, now featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, Young Thug and Mason Ramsey — the Walmart Yodelling boy. Will Lil Nas oust his own #1?
Jared Richards is a staff writer at Junkee, and co-host of Sleepless In Sydney on FBi Radio. Follow him on Twitter.