This may sound like an April Fool’s Day joke, but I promise you it isn’t.
On March 19, which happens to be World Sleep Day, the wildly successful meditation and sleep app Calm debuted the latest addition to its collection of features designed to put even the most hardcore insomniac into an eight-hour coma.
Calm’s “Sleep Remix Series,” developed in partnership with Universal Music, is geared toward a previously ignored demographic that’s ready, willing and able to subject itself to a 60-minute remix of Katy Perry’s “Double Rainbow.”
And if that isn’t enough to hasten your retreat from this waking world, you’ll also find hour-long versions of Post Malone’s “Circles,” Ariana Grande’s “Breathin’,” Jhené Aiko’s “While We’re Young,” Kacey Musgraves’ “Golden Hour,” Luis Fonsi’s “Sola” and Shawn Mendes’ “Wonder.”
So how do you go about turning four-minute pop songs into tracks that run longer than Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn,” Pink Floyd’s “A Saucerful of Secrets” and the Velvet Underground’s “Sister Ray” combined?
The trick, as you may have guessed, is repetition, something we’ve all become conditioned to all too well. Think of all those hours you’ve spent on hold, listening to a 30-second instrumental loop that belongs in a porn movie, with periodic reminders that your call is important and a customer service representative will be with you momentarily.
Fortunately, the Sleep Remix Series takes a less predictable approach. As each song progresses, the intervals between vocal passages slowly become longer, the arrangements more dreamy, until all that remains is a fading instrumental track that could make that wait for a customer representative almost pleasant.
So pleasant, in fact, that the songs will be exclusive to the Calm app for only three months, after which at least some of them will be made available on Spotify and other streaming services. But don’t worry, there’s more where those came from.
All that said, Calm’s Sleep Remix Series is not foolproof. If, for instance, you need to get up in the middle of the night to, say, use the bathroom or eat a ham sandwich, how do you get back to sleep? Do you really want to spend another hour listening to the dulcet tones of Post Malone?
If not, you may want to check out Sleep, an aptly named album by contemporary-classical composer Max Richter, who is best known for scoring the television series Black Mirror and The Leftovers. Unlike the purveyors of most other audio sleep aids, Richter consulted with famed neuroscientist and PBS host David Eagleman to match his music to our sleep cycles.
Richter’s resulting magnum opus is through-composed and clocks in at just under 8½ hours. Based on my personal experience from listening to Sleep each night over the course of two weeks, the music’s hypnotic repetition — which brings to mind the more ambient work of Brian Eno, Arvo Pärt and Philip Glass — has its intended effect within the first 20 minutes. What the rest of the album sounds like, I have no idea.
Of course, none of this will provide much comfort to the weary parents of newborn babies who, despite their comparatively stress-free lives, insist on crying at least two hours a day.
Sure, you could play them Mozart for Babies, Bach for Babies, My First Orchestra Album, or countless other recordings that Big Science would have you believe makes them smarter, but who wants that anyway?
Better to opt for Rockabye Baby, a series of infant-friendly albums, each devoted to the catalog of a different pop musician.
Babies who are drawn to glittery objects, for instance, will appreciate the glam stylings of Rockabye’s Lullaby Renditions of David Bowie. From its album cover art — a sleepy teddy bear with Bowie’s iconic lightning bolt painted across its face — to its Muzak-meets-music box versions of “Space Oddity,” “Heroes,” “Changes,” “China Girl,” “The Man Who Sold the World” and more, this album has it all.
In fact, the collection has proven so successful that it’s spawned two copycat albums. One of them, Baby Stardust: Lullaby Songs of David Bowie, photoshops the same lightning bolt onto a photo of an actual baby, while the other, The Cat & Owl: Lullaby Renditions of David Bowie, inexplicably paints it on the face of a cartoon horse. Apart from that, the three albums all sound pretty much alike.
Once again, I am not making any of this up.
At this point, you’ll find similar albums that draw upon the music of The Beatles, Bob Marley, Queen, the Rolling Stones, Guns N’ Roses, the Beach Boys, Journey, Nirvana, Tool and, of course, Coldplay.
And yes, people are actually buying them. On Amazon, many have earned hundreds of ratings that average 4.5 stars. As verified purchaser George Pantages put it, “This Rockabye CD made me more of a [Metallica] fan, since we could play this in our son’s nursery. Sharing the musical experience was very cool. When he gets older, he will move into the OG version with our delight.”