When Remakes Attack

I was in a Chinese buffet last week, and found myself humming along with the oriental muzak. In fact, I couldn’t stop. Why was I humming along to music I’ve never heard before?

A Coke poster redone

It turns out I had heard these songs before, as they were Chinese takes on American melodies. They covered the likes of Celine Dion, Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson, with traditional Chinese musical stylings. (Or at least what I imagine to be a traditional Chinese “style”.)


Why are musical remakes so well received? Because they’re a perfect blend of familiar and unfamiliar. A new take on an old story.

Up-and-coming musicians sometimes get their start by remaking an old classic. Sometimes it fails badly, but breathing life into a classic is can be a great way to get an artist noticed.

Recent savvy internet startups have been using this method successfully. Here are a few:

Domains: Domainr
Travel: Hipmunk or Kayak
Online banking: BankSimple

These startups are gaining lots of traction because they’ve taken over a tired, unusable and worn out online industry. Who hasn’t struggled with their bank’s website before or spent hours trying to find a unique domain name?

Consider using the “cover” approach on your next project. Take something that’s broken–but familiar–and fix it. There’s no shame in borrowing concepts if you’re going to make them better.

As the proverb goes, there’s nothing nothing new under the sun.

Photo by Coca-Cola Art Gallery.

Leave a Comment

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  • Penelope J. August 2, 2011, 4:24 pm

    Love the title, Like your idea of the “cover” approach – take something broken but familiar and fix it. Why not take it a step farther and give it a makeover or a new face? An example could be writing. While plagiarism is a no-no, how many well-known writers actually lift/adapt/convert great descriptions, stories and ideas, and make them their own? This is actually a way to show or add your own originality to an old and possibly worn-out story.. 

    • Glen Stansberry August 2, 2011, 4:30 pm

      Penelope, that’s another great aspect of remakes/remixes. Authors do this ALL THE TIME (and they should). I knew an art instructor at a university who first had his students copy great works of art, as he said that they couldn’t learn how to become great until they actually copied greatness.

      Great points.