“Prayer In C” was everywhere on the radio in the summer of 2014. Which suited me just fine — I really liked this song’s hypnotic quality and it’s a fine example of how an expert remixer can take an undiscovered gem and make it into a worldwide smash hit.
It’s quite a daring approach to 21st century songwriting. There’s nothing in “Prayer In C” you’d recognise as a guitar solo, boy-band clap-along, chorus or even a hook to speak of, but I think it’s brilliant…one of the biggest hits of 2014, yet with none of the elements that nearly every other hit record tries to cram in.
I respect Lilly Wood for daring to push against convention like that…although having read up on the band a little, I suspect this was by no means Lilly Wood’s first step in the polar opposite direction to the rest of the music industry.
The song is very simple, musically. I quite like that because when you do something really simple, it has to be excellent. You can’t hide a sub-par performance with lots of production trickery when there’s very little else on the track.
The lyrics are intriguingly delivered in a voice that manages to be sultry, intimate and challenging all at the same time. This delivery enhances the already hypnotic mood and provides the little bit extra that makes this song so special.
Think of a younger Bonnie Tyler singing a song about social injustice composed by absinthe-drinking hippies to an audience of three in an avant-garde café on Paris’s Left Bank at 2am and you’re about there with the spirit of the vocal delivery.
But even that isn’t the full story of today’s song.
“Prayer In C” was originally released three or four years before it became a monster hit, to widespread indifference…except perhaps in a Left Bank cafe or two…until it got the remix treatment from Robin Schulz.
I’m not often moved by remixes…most are awful, or at least formulaic…but this one’s a cracker. It transformed “Prayer In C” from merely “pretty in its own way” to “global multi-million seller”.
Although there have been a few other examples of remixes transforming a song’s commercial performance over the years, it’s a comparatively rare achievement.
So you know Robin Schulz did a great job. But his “secret formula” for success is that he didn’t just remix “Prayer In C”, he re-imagined the song from the ground up and made it into a different proposition altogether.
In his remixed version of “Prayer In C” Robin Schulz picked up the tempo a little, but also added more drums and…to my great joy…bongos. An too often-overlooked weapon in the remixer’s armoury, I’ve always thought…
Listen carefully through half-decent headphones and you’ll get them…it’s worth the effort.
He also took out the song’s original flute solo which, for anyone apart from an absinthe drinker in a Left Bank cafe, was probably a wise choice.
I’d love to be able to tell you what “Prayer In C” was all about, but the lyrics are a little impenetrable. I think we get the idea that the world is a bad place and we’re all going to hell in a handbasket, but beyond that I’m a little unclear…
Yah, you never said a word
You didn’t send me no letter
Don’t think I could forgive you
See our world is slowly dying
I’m not wasting no more time
Don’t think I could believe you
I think we’ve all had relationships like that, haven’t we…
But we’re not done with the bad news from Lilly Wood yet. Things are about to get a lot worse…
Hey, when sea will cover lands
And when men will be no more
Don’t think you can forgive you
Yah, when there’ll be just silence
And when life will be over
Don’t think you will forgive you
The original version of “Prayer In C” sounded every bit as depressing as those lyrics suggest. I quite like lyrics that challenge me to think differently and I do enjoy the original version up to a point. But it’s something you quickly have enough of and turn to other things to cheer yourself back up again.
So this wasn’t perhaps the most auspicious of songs for Robin Schulz to use as the backdrop for a remixing project. But somehow it all works.
He made “depressing” into “thoughtful and pensive”. He livened up the music so “Prayer In C” became something that radio stations would play and you could quite cheerfully listen to. He introduced a chilled-out, hypnotic vibe that allowed you to relax into the song, allowing the points made in the lyrics to hit home without making the message too stark.
It’s great to have a message, and to feel strongly about important issues. But if nobody listens to you, the change you want to see will be very unlikely to happen.
And that’s what Robin Schulz did so masterfully. He made a song we enjoyed listening to. Now the message had a chance of being heard.
The result was sheer bliss, a summery UK Number 1 in August 2014 and one of my favourite songs from that year.
The hit version has a video that looks like it was devised by someone who had drunk rather too much absinthe in a Left Bank cafe. The original is just an audio that sounds like it was performed by someone who’d drunk rather too much absinthe in a Left Bank cafe.
Both are charming in their own way, but the remix is my favourite…at least until I crack open another bottle of absinthe….
You can listen to “Prayer In C” on Spotify here…
The original, less up-tempo performance is here…
And the video for the hit version of “Prayer In C” is below…which version do you prefer…?
PS — just before we get to the video, if you enjoyed this article, please give it a “clap”…or even more than one if you’re feeling kind. You can also follow me on Medium (here) or Twitter (here) to get new articles as soon as they’re published.