Aug 19

DJ SAMMY & YANOU ft DO – “Heaven”

Popular20 comments • 3,252 views

#940, 9th November 2002

Before writing this entry I scoured the Internet to see if DJ Sammy had ever said or done anything interesting. I drew a blank. He’s the model of a jobbing Euro-DJ, lucky enough to get one big break in his 30-year career and canny enough to ride it. In the most recent interview I could find, an Australian journalist asks him if he’s bringing any new material to tour Down Under? Yes, he replies, a new remix of “Heaven”.

Sammy’s main trick as a producer is cover versions of old stadium rock songs. There’s a tradition of this in dance music; usually I love it. In the end, a big crowd is a big crowd – the kind of songs which move it can survive a genre transition. The substitutions producers make – big blocky synths for guitars, belting female vocals for gruff male rasps, jacked-up hands-in-the-air tempos for mid-paced lighters-aloft ones – work without killing the vibe of the song.

That vibe isn’t just communal, though. House music, like disco, is a music which dissolves the precise boundaries between “I” and “We” without quite merging them, where private bliss or pain refracts through the lens of a crowd. It’s part of why there’s often such a melancholic streak in dance music – it’s not just that the moment is limited in time, it’s that you never quite lose your whole self enough to forget that. Heaven is eternal – but this heaven, the heaven of the song, and its lovers, and the dancefloor, is contingent and fleeting, and the dancers know it.

DJ Sammy is not an especially subtle craftsman, so it makes sense that his masterpiece is a song that’s utterly explicit about this evanescence: his banging version of Don Henley’s “The Boys Of Summer”, which turns Don’s sourly evocative lament for his sputtering sex appeal into a fierce and glorious defence of holiday romance at the end of the Mediterranean summer season. “Heaven” can’t achieve any comparable alchemy with Bryan Adams’ earnest pudding of an original.

What it can do is shine it up and strip it back to highlight the chorus, and with it the tenderness which is Adams’ particular gift as a stadium rocker. On Sammy’s “Heaven” the rest of the song thumps and builds so the chorus can soar with less commotion, a more tentative and intimate moment than big-room dance usually aims for.

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  1. 1
    AMZ1981 on 23 Aug 2019 #

    I thought I would have little to say about this entry but then some thoughts occurred to me.

    When I was getting into music in the early nineties the battle lines were largely drawn between rock and dance music although with hindsight there was a division between music that was played on instruments and had lyrics and music that was perceived as having neither. It was a bit like two grumpy families sat in their back gardens both convinced that their neighbours were the rude unsocial ones.

    Except that it did seem (at least from the `real` music garden which is where I was at the time) that the dance contingent were incapable of staying on their side of the fence, constantly stealing from rock and other classic genres in the form of sampling and sometimes straight covers. An example; What’s Up by 4 Non Blondes may be a wonderful example of bad rock but DJ Miko’s dance cover with a bimbo singer jumping up and down on the stage not only mocking the song but those who might have found something to treasure in the original.

    By that was the early nineties. By the mid nineties Britpop was driving a rock revival and the Prodigy and Chemical Brothers among others were taking dance music into its maturity. And to finally beat my metaphor to death; when the Spice Girls set up their pop circus tent a few streets away the die hards in both gardens retreated inside and watched from behind their net curtains instead.

    But I digress. It’s now 2002, Oasis have turned rock an interesting colour of beige, dance music is here to stay and DJ Sammy gets to number 1 with a helium voiced cover of a Bryan Adams song that was only a modest hit over here. It’s not great by any means but makes for a passable enough pop song, particularly for those with no previous context for it. Ten years previously it would have been considered an insult by many rock fans. I’ll return to that point shortly.

    We narrowly miss discussing DJ Sammy again when he turned his attention to The Boys Of Summer which is a song I adore. It might be in my all time top ten. And yet I quite like DJ Sammy’s version as well. Not a patch on the original of course but it captures some of the essence of the original. Maybe the dance music magpies had matured as well.

    Which takes me back to 1992 and another example of a Bryan Adams classic being danced up; this time when Rage covered Run To You. It didn’t mean anything to me at the time (I was eleven and didn’t even know the original) but I’m fairly certain it combines the vocal (albeit sung in a different style) with the backing from I’ll Be Your Friend by Robert Owens. However I’ve not found anything to confirm this but if it was the case it would be a genuine mash up hitting the charts ten years early.

  2. 2
    weej on 23 Aug 2019 #

    I’m tempted to score this higher than 5 because it really evokes a certain time and place – that is, crap provincial nightclubs in the late 90s, something I have made my peace with by now and feel gently nostalgic about. At times it seems DJ Sammy is not sure what to do with the song and just lurches unimaginatively back to the hook, but otherwise it sounds fine.

    My question here is “why does this sound about four years out of date?” because it really does.

  3. 3
    Kinitawowi on 23 Aug 2019 #

    Can’t let this go by without a passing mention of the Candlelight Mix, stripping down even further to just the vocals and soft piano and pointing at it saying “EMOTIONS EMOTIONS EMOTIONS EMOTIONS EMOTIONS EMOTIONS”. I seem to recall it starting something of a plague of these, to the extent that when DHT took on Roxette’s Listen To Your Heart the “unplugged vocal” version got more marketing than the dance stomper.

  4. 4
    ThePensmith on 23 Aug 2019 #

    DJ Sammy certainly came along at a curious point where commercial dance music was concerned. Trance music of the Alice DJ Sakin and Quiksilver Van Dahl variety that had ruled supreme for a good four or five years had all but drawn it’s last breath by the time ‘Heaven’ became a hit. This did however, come right at the start of one trend that’d continue for the next two years – cheap and cheerful dance remakes of 80s classics tailor made for the ‘SchoolDisco.com’ brigade (a popular brand of club night aimed at the late twenties early thirtysomething market in the 00s).

    It meant that immediately following ‘Heaven’ topping the charts, we were treated (in the loosest sense possible of that word) to all manner of former 80s hits reimagined for the commercial dancefloors of the new millennium, almost all of which were bad. And almost of all which were by either Flip & Fill, Pascal or Soda Club (featuring Karen Parry/Kelly Llorenna – delete as applicable), and all of which came out from the All Around The World record label, an independent commercial dance label based in Blackburn, and thus giving rise to the colloquially named genre of dance music known as ‘Northern house’, so called because the majority of its sales and audience for its releases came from the North of England. I struggle to recall if we meet any of them on Popular but I can think of a few that came pretty close to doing so – discussion for them when the time comes I think.

    DJ Sammy was the exception, being as he was signed to the ‘Data’ label on Ministry of Sound, but he was notionally part of that movement with this and his remakes of ‘Boys of Summer’ and then latterly Annie Lennox’s ‘Why’ in 2005. One other thing that ‘Heaven’ also pioneered was the release of what came to be known as ‘The Candlelight Mix’ as #3 highlighted – in essence, the same song, but stripped back just to a piano and strings ballad affair. It had just as much popularity and airplay as the main version, even with an accompanying video doing the rounds on the music channels. Loads of others attempted the same thing in the following four years but without the same impact.

    To be honest, ‘Heaven’ isn’t my go-to Bryan Adams track, and I’m pretty indifferent about this version as well. 2, maybe 3 at a push from me.

    A bottom heavy top 10 of new entries the week this went to the top. The only other new arrival in the top 5 that week was Madonna with her rather divisive James Bond theme ‘Die Another Day’ at #3. Divisive in the sense that to some it wasn’t a ‘classic’ Bond theme. But to me, whilst it wasn’t a great Madonna single, it made for an interesting Bond theme. Craig David only making #8 with ‘What’s Your Flava’, the first offering from his second album ‘Slicker Than Your Average’. I do recall that this came just a few weeks before a certain rubber masked comedian debuted on Channel 4, so his problems were only just getting started here. I can say this wasn’t the song he should have come back with – it was almost a little too tailored for an American audience – but in his position it was probably a case of damned if he did and damned if he didn’t, particularly when the genre he’d broken through in (UK garage) was yesterday’s news by the dawn of 2003.

  5. 5
    Lee Saunders on 24 Aug 2019 #

    I’d written out a comment but Thepensmith has covered a lot of the same points (the changing sound of pop trance, AATW being at the centre of this change but Sammy being on Data instead, 80s covers, SchoolDisco) in a much tidier way

    What I will say is that the change in my mind is crystallised by the launch of the Clubland compilation series in mid-2002 that continued very successfully for years. A simple name and effective marketing (avoiding naming genres and instead presenting us ‘The Ride of Your Life’) made it the All Around the World-era trance equivalent to the Euphoria series which had only begun in 1999 but had spawned loads of editions already, with their best days already behind them.

    Looking back at SchoolDisco.com a lot of fuss seems to have been made about their popularity beating out the superclubs when they were at a low ebb. If you look at the Ministry of Sound and Cream compilations in this era its quite evident how far both brands had gone from making albums that represented the club. Ministry of Sound ditched named DJs the previous year, with the stocking up of hits on The Annual 2002 (2001) that annoyed many not even preparing for The Annual 2003 (2002), led of course by Heaven, and where the Scooter, hard house, AATW and 80s covers made it much reviled release by those still wanting something more like the earlier Annuals. Cream on the other hand demonstrated the new sound with Cream Trance Anthems 2003, a one-off flop that killed the Anthems series dead.

    Heaven is considerably better than the Sax Brothers’ Careless Whisper or The Sound Bluntz’ Billie Jean, but I don’t love it nor the Boys of Summer a great deal – very flash with some nice noises but not either particularly melancholy or irreverently banging for me. Though DJ Sammy was certainly a likeable chap as seen on his Never Mind the Buzzcocks appearance where Lamarr spent the whole show remarking how sweet he was, and Heaven is certainly a worthy choice for the final trance number one (for years and years at least, though the elements of the genre do figure prominent in a bunny not that far away now). I’ll give it a 5.

  6. 6
    Lee Saunders on 24 Aug 2019 #

    I also associate both Sammy hits with Divine Inspiration’s early 2003 top 5 hit The Way (Put Your Hand In My Hand), which I like about the same, and whose singer in the video looked a lot like Heaven’s Do.

    Re:Rage’s Run to You. What was the first charting genuine mash-up? While there are tracks that are almost (Doctorin’ the Tardis), I can’t think of anything earlier than Moments in Soul (early 1990)

    Sorry, off topic really

  7. 7
    AMZ1981 on 24 Aug 2019 #

    I was actually trying to establish whether Run To You by Rage is indeed a mash up with I’ll Be Your Friend. I’m convinced it is but can’t seem to find verification anywhere online. Given that it was a top five hit and ahead of its time you’d think somebody somewhere would have noticed.

    If anybody is interested; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOcgscShqZg Run To You by Rage. As a Bryan Adams dance cover it’s far better than DJ Sammy and I’m not entirely sure I wouldn’t give it the nod over the original.

    And this is I’ll Be Your Friend by Robert Owens. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34_TnLsXxEI Chart anoraks might know that this originally spent 2 weeks at the bottom rung of no 75 gaining an honorable mention in Guiness Hit Singles least successful artists but a later re-mix that hit 26 removed the distinction.

    But is it a mash up? There’s something oddly similar about the synth riff and the way the backing keeps rising behind the song but it may just be me.

  8. 8
    Alex Spacey on 26 Aug 2019 #

    I probably did hear this at the time, but I can’t recall it nearly as much as the previous entry. Listening to it again, it’s a perfectly listenable cover but nothing spectacular. Although I didn’t properly listen to Bryan Adams’ original until quite a few years after this cover was released and I’m not the biggest fan of that song (I’d also go with ‘Run to You’ as my go-to Bryan Adams), so I might be more inclined towards DJ Sammy’s cover than some.

    I think 5 sounds about right. (‘The Boys of Summer’ is arguably better though, probably a high 6, and I had heard the original before listening to that one.)

  9. 9
    ES on 26 Aug 2019 #

    This still gets a run from me on a regular basis. I reckon the vocals are better than the mix, but it works for me.

    As an aside, the candlelight mix seemed to get a pretty regular play here as well.

    And I remember the atrocious 9/11 remix (with the US radio programmer who dubbed his (?) little girl’s voice) over the top of the Candlelight mix interspersed with clips of “I miss you Daddy” and various other things. That seemed to make its way across to New Zealand pretty quickly for what was seemingly a 1-year anniversary for September 11 piece.

  10. 10
    James BC on 27 Aug 2019 #

    Wow, is this the first time All Around The World have been mentioned on Popular? Did they ever manage a number one single? (Without naming it, obv.)

    Legendary record label, anyway, who always seemed like they were punching far above their weight. One of their more random signings was N-Dubz, a favourite of mine, who I always thought benefited a lot from the slightly ravey production that presumably came from that association.

  11. 11
    Jazzy B on 27 Aug 2019 #

    Long time lurker, first time poster, so be nice :)

    A lot of my points have been raised by others, but I think it’s important to note that dance music was going through an identity crisis in 2002/2003. Dance music had been around since the late 80s, and the early 2000s was the first time that the over commercialisation of the genre became all too apparent. This, plus the fact that older ravers were starting to wind their partying down, caused a crisis in dance music, resulting in the closure of several superclubs in 2002 (Cream being the highest profile).

    However, trance was still a Big Thing on mainland Europe, and ‘Heaven’ was one of the major success stories. Released in late 2001, it suprisingly took almost a year for the track to eventually top the UK charts. Perhaps the move to the School Disco era of clubbing helped its ascent.

    To me at the time, ‘Heaven’ showed just how far dance music had fallen. Crass, lurid and out-dated, this was trance paint-by-numbers that could just as easily been Flip & Fill, Fragma, Lasgo or Ian Van Dahl. This doesn’t sound so bad to me now, but I still can’t listen to it without turning my nose up, purist that I am, so I would stretch to a 3.

  12. 12
    Lee Saunders on 27 Aug 2019 #

    #10 Not the first mention (there’s at least me in the Ketchup thread and Set You Free on the Baby D thread) but its about now they start becoming a chart force, and yes there’s an AATW bunny in 2004, which much like this is in the 80s cover realm

  13. 13
    Steve Mannion on 28 Aug 2019 #

    Earlier charting mash-ups (based on a strict definition of one track’s music with another track’s vocal without any re-recording) include The Source ft. Candi Staton’s 1990 release of ‘You Got The Love’ with the story behind it particularly unusual (bearing in mind the pre-‘Your Love’ version first came out in ’86). Comments on ‘Just Be Good To Me’ and Gabrielle’s ‘Dreams’ as two Sort-Of-mash-ups covered this topic too iirc

    Although the rolling Korg-wind (or whatever) hook is very similar Rage did not sample Robert Owens directly. I’ve had, um, four submissions approved by whosampled.com now so let us hope I knows of what I speak.

    As for DJ Sammy, I think this was the first time I preferred a beatless ‘unplugged’ version to the primary dance mix. A revolting development. 4

  14. 14
    Shiny Dave, logged out on 29 Aug 2019 #

    (Logged out because my password, the exact same one – it’s saved in my browser, I’ve checked! – seems not to be working with the logon being a pop-up window rather than funnelling through WordPress?!? This is not a one-off, it’s why I was logged off for the last entry comment.)

    I seem to recall Tom mentioning, in the “Do You Really Like It?” entry, about dance fans growing older, and how they react. A thought: is this ‘drop a banging cover, pair it with a chillout remix’ trend of the 00s something that happened because of this? The 18-year-olds of the Second Summer of Love would have been in their early 30s at this point…

    I was 16 when this came out, so 33 now – it just struck me how surreal to think that this is in the first half of my life – and so I’d like to say I totally get that shift. But in my household, the shift worked the other way round. I never heard this in a club, because I never went clubbing, because being autistic meant that was a colossal meltdown waiting to happen and I knew that even as I absolutely grew up with dance music as the soundtrack to my childhood. But my mum did go clubbing – bringing two kids up as a single parent, it was part letting hair down and part seeking a new partner. She never did get a new partner. What she did get was a taste for 90s dance that led to most of her first CDs being dance compilations. (Heck, Rage’s “Run To You” was on one of those! I loved it! Still do!) And this got aided and exacerbated by the fact that I really got into that music myself. In an alternate universe where she did have a new partner circa 2002, I bet she’d have played “Heaven (Candlelight Mix)” a fair bit.

    I don’t think even I did, much, because it didn’t show up in those compilations and even then I was rarely in the business of buying singles; besides, this was sixth form, where I’d gone at least halfway to dull rockism and fought for the common room CD mostly to play Enya and Sarah McLachlan as sensory relief. I was never buying a DJ Sammy *single*, and I don’t even remember hearing the Candlelight Mix much anywhere except maybe late-night radio.

    This worked – arguably DJ Sammy worked – as far as it did because watered-down trance in a pop structure could already sound like an utterly unthreatening mainstream sound of modern pop. Fast-forward eight years, wait for America (via, in large part, a Swedish-Moroccan producer) to get in on the act, and it will be *the* mainstream sound of modern pop. Honestly, it’s beige trance-pop, and that might be its best feature as well as its worst. This, to me, is basically the Almighty formula in a diluted form aimed at the heart of chart radio rather than the heart of gay clubland, a formula that had already been carried to bunnydom by the Steps “Tragedy” cover that hit the top in January 1999. (To give you an idea of the ridiculous chart turnover of this era, this is the 130th bunny since then. In barely three and a half years!)

    We have met drastically worse dance covers than this before and we will meet one drastically worse dance quasi-cover again. The mere idea of covering “Heaven” as dance-pop is both sneakily clever and incapable of going much beyond being a solidly adequate pop song; DJ Sammy gets credit for both that sneakily clever idea and delivering on its capped potential. 6.

  15. 15
    Steve Mannion on 30 Aug 2019 #

    It only just occurred to me that the Candlelight Mix is also the title of the A side mix of Ground Level’s ‘Dreams Of Heaven’ single which charted outside the Top 40 in January 1993. Just throwing that in there for the presumed coincidence and also it’s a pretty good slice of vocal Eurodance from that sound’s peak period.

    Possibly another reason for the trend of ‘chilled out’ versions of dance tracks was the increased viability of getting them into TV shows at the time to soundtrack emotional scenes – thinking of youth soaps at the time like As If and Hollyoaks. The likes of Massive Attack and Lamb might have done quite well out of this too although no idea what sort of royalties a few seconds of ‘Teardrop’ or ‘Gabriel’ would actually yield.

  16. 16
    Kit on 1 Sep 2019 #

    Listening to this right now is the first time I am aware of hearing any version, outside of the a capella performance in Andie MacDowell’s living room in Magic Mike XXL. #6 best-selling dance single of 2002 in Australia, though: https://www.ariacharts.com.au/annual-charts/2002/dance-singles-chart

  17. 17
    Alan on 11 Sep 2019 #

    Whenever I hear this song I’m reminded of a short bit by a comedian/musician (though I’ve forgotten their name, sorry) that does the lyrics slow and meaningful John Lewis piano style…

    Baby you’re all that I want
    When you’re lying here in my arms
    I’m finding it hard to believe
    You’re eleven

  18. 18
    Richard B on 11 Sep 2019 #

    #17 – Me too! That was the excellent Adam Kay, formerly of Amateur Transplants, now best known for his popular junior doctor memoir ‘This Is Going To Hurt’.

  19. 19
    lonepilgrim on 22 Sep 2019 #

    All I can think of when I listen to the synth and drum settings here is ‘They’re taking the hobbits to Isengard’ which I think I enjoy marginally more than this track

  20. 20
    Gareth Parker on 3 Jun 2021 #

    What the heck, I’ll go up to a 6/10 here.

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