"Unfortunately Halsey died in a car crash in '94 and Andrew Taggart passed last year after battling pancreatic cancer at the age of 48. Pity that legends like them don't live long. Kids these days will never know how famous they were. RIP, legends."
This hilarious fake obituary was left as a YouTube comment on a so-called "80s Remix" of the Chainsmokers' mega-hit "Closer" by a producer named TRONICBOX. It's more than just a gimmick—he inverts the outsize EDM-lite jam into something strange and sultry, with pillowy keyboards and big gated drums. If John Hughes directed a teen dramedy on the CW this would be an ideal theme song.
Over the past two years, TRONICBOX has jumped on our ever-present craze for 80s pastiche—from acts like M83 to memes like Simpsonwave—and found a fertile niche cranking out extremely popular and surprisingly compelling versions of contemporary pop. He transformed Justin Bieber's "What do You Mean" into a treacly slow-dance number, and flipped Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream" into the kind of soft-rock anthem you might hear late at night on QVC. The contrast between contemporary vocals and timeworn keyboard and percussion sounds creates uncanny tension—recall the unnatural world of San Junipero, the Black Mirror episode about a virtual small town where retirees live out their 80s memories forever.
Modern acts from Wet to Com Truise use 80s textures to lend their music a mature identity. There's something refreshingly honest to me about TRONICBOX's remixes, though—he's not using dated sounds as a prestige signifier. He's just combining two different things for the sake of fun, closer to the culture of crafty Youtube challenge videos than Italians Do It Better. It's gimmicky, but he's got a deep understanding of the material and serious production chops (check out his 80s keyboard tutorial).
TRONICBOX has been releasing these tracks for over a year—some of their view counts have soared into the millions, and there's now a whole niche of similar tracks. "Starting to see so many "80's Remix" popping up on the internet these days," he wrote in the comments on his "Closer" remix last week. "Felt like it's time for another one." The Chainsmokers flip is some of his best work—it sounds like a lost Bryan Ferry classic. Sure, our generation may be living in confusing timewarp, full of manufactured memories and false history. But if it sounds this good, who's complaining?