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Better Off Alone

"Better Off Alone" is a song by Alice Deejay, the trance project of Dutch producer DJ Jurgen in collaboration with Wessel van Diepen, Dennis van den Driesschen, Sebastiaan Moljin and Eelke Kalberg (Pronti & Kalmani). In 1998, the song was released as an instrumental by DJ Jurgen on Violent Records. Later releases of the track included vocals by Judith Pronk, who would later become a seminal part of the Alice Deejay project.

The song was later included on Alice Deejay's debut album Who Needs Guitars Anyway? (2000). The song is known for playing a key role in the development of the commercial trance sound, and has since been considered an electronic/trance music classic.

Production

The song was initially an instrumental track composed in 1997 by Jürgen "DJ Jurgen" Rijkers, Sebastiaan "Pronti" Moljin, and Eelke "Kalmani" Kahlberg at the Violent Studios 4045 complex in Hilversum, Netherlands. Violent Music and Violent Studios owners Dennis "Danski" Van Der Driesschen and Wessel "Delmundo" van Diepen had previously offered studio space for Pronti and Kalmani next to their 4045 complex. Before the production of "Better Off Alone", Pronti and Kalmani had worked on composing music for the label's other project the Vengaboys.

In post-production of the instrumental, Sebastiaan Molijn stated he invented the lyric "Do you think you're better off alone?" after his romantic partner had left him. Molijn stated that "I started humming the vocal melody while the track was playing and we decided to add vocals. It made the emotion of the song as real as it gets." Judith Pronk later served as singer for the Alice Deejay compositions of the song. Pronti and Kalmani's official biography once stated that DJ Jurgen, "wanted to stay the underground DJ that he was, so the group Alice Deejay was formed." In 1999, the "Radio Edit" was produced.

Later in 1999, Sebastiaan Moljin and Eelke Kahlberg produced several remixes of the song which included the "Vocal Clubmix", "Pronti & Kalmani Vocal Remix", and the "Pronti & Kalmani Club Dub".

Composition

"Better Off Alone" is written in the key of B major, but recorded in E Lydian as E is the tonic note. B is not played as a bass note. The scale starting on the fourth scale degree of B Major is equal to E Lydian as it shares the same key signature as B Major. The song is set in common time with a fast tempo of 137 beats per minute. The song follows a chord progression of E–Dm–Gm–F, and the vocals span from B3 to G4.

With the turn of the century, "Better Off Alone" has been described as a turning point in the development of a commercialized trance sound. This sound shared by related compositions such as "Blue (Da Ba Dee)" by Eiffel 65 that surfaced around the same time. Co-founder of Dash Berlin Jeffrey Sutorious stated, "It became such a huge chart hit around the world that many people categorised it as Euro Dance, when in fact it started out as vocal trance". Eelke Kalberg and Sebastiaan Molijn are Dash Berlin's other co-founders. Entertainment Weekly described the song as "techno-pop" while Spin described it as a "trance-fueled Eurodance".

In 2017, computer scientist Colin Morris analysed the lyrics of 15,000 Billboard Hot 100 hits for repetitiveness, based on compression algorithms. "Better Off Alone" was found to be the most repetitive of the songs analysed of the 2000s, and fifteenth overall.

Release

Single

The single was initially released as an instrumental single by DJ Jurgen in 1998 on Violent Music B.V.'s label Violent Records. Upon its release, there were only 500 vinyls pressed. After the single established credibility under DJ Jurgen's name, the vocal versions got re-released as "DJ Jurgen Presents Alice Deejay" as well as "Alice Deejay Featuring DJ Jurgen" in some countries. The vocal single later came to be of just Alice Deejay.

The track was released to dance clubs and became an international hit in clubs reaching number 2 on the Billboard club charts and a top ten club chart worldwide. The song then became a hit reaching number 2 in Canada, number 27 in the U.S. and number 2 in the UK. It went on to sell over 600,000 copies in the UK and become one of the country's best-selling singles of 1999, despite the radio edit not being on the commercial CD release. The song was in the top 100 best-selling singles in Australia for 2000 as compiled by the Australian Recording Industry Association.

Music videos

"Better Off Alone" is notable for having two versions of its music video. The original music video was directed by Olaf van Gerwen through the studio Blood Simple – who at the time directed videos for Sebastian Molijn and Eelke Kalberg's other music project the Vengaboys. In the first version of the video, a man travels in a Jeep through the desert. His car stalls and is forced to walk on foot. He discards his items along the way such as a watch, a map and some vodka. In parallel, a woman is sitting on a couch in a living room singing the lyrics to the song while the man sees her in the desert. The man gets lost in the desert while intercut scenes of him and his girlfriend in love are shown. He takes off his broken dog tag while screaming. Because the dog tag is already broken and the girl has the second part probably means he is already dead and she is missing him. The second version was directed by "Cousin Mike" from the 1711 Production Group. The second video was shot in Miami for Republic and Universal. The second version is interspersed with desert scenes from the original, but with added scenes where Judith Pronk, Mila Levesque and Angelique Versnel are dancing in a room with oriental decor. Sometimes just Pronk alone, wearing a blue dress with a veil.

Response

Critical reception

The song was initially received with passiveness by some critics. Entertainment Weekly gave the song a B rating, describing the song as having "catchy, throwaway results" with "barely there lyrics".

In retrospect the song garnered acclaim. Vibe magazine considering the song "a timeless track" in their 30 Dance Tracks from The '90s That Changed the Game. Complex magazine stated the song, "perfectly embodies the 1990s Eurodance/euro trance sound that took over clubs, and today we're hearing the big room house scene build upon what was started here" in their 10 Essential Eurodance Classics. Complex also stated that Sebastiaan Moljin and Eelke Kahlberg's production of trance music project Dash Berlin, is directly reflective of the song's influence on the modern day electronic music scene. In 2017, BuzzFeed listed the song at number 24 in their list of The 101 Greatest Dance Songs Of the '90s. Dash Berlin honorarily included the song in their top 5 greatest trance classics. Critic George McCarthy has described the song as being 'full of life: displaying an extensive range of raw emotional vulnerabilities that are unmatched by any other modern dance track, is a banger'.

Meagan Garvey of MTV referenced the song as an example of "Eurodance Nostalgia" and that the cult status of the song is "mostly retroactive". Garvey stated that songs such as "Better Off Alone", "left you with an aching sensation, as if something had been left unsaid. The undercurrent of melancholy seemed more akin to mid-'90s tracks like La Bouche's "Where Do You Go" or Haddaway's "What Is Love," dance tracks built around unanswerable questions."

Cover versions and samples

In 2007, New Jersey rock group Paulson released a rock cover of the song on their Calling on You EP.

In 2008, the main melody of the song was sampled by producer Johnny Juliano in "Say Yeah" by Wiz Khalifa, which added the Roland TR-808 as well as drum machine claps to the existing melody. Hip hop and trap producer AraabMuzik stated that sampling the song was initially what led him to sampling "trance and really upbeat dance music". The song was sampled by him in "South Beach" by 40 Cal featuring Duke Da God.

In 2011, Dutch DJ and producer Laidback Luke introduced an electro house remix of the song in the compilation Cream Ibiza: Super You & Me, marketed as a 2011 "Summer anthem".

French producer David Guetta was authorized to use the main melody (or "hook") of the song. The main melody of the song was sampled in Guetta's 2013 song "Play Hard" featuring Ne-Yo and Akon. The recording was later included in the reboot album Nothing but the Beat 2.0. Some sources have described this "heavy" sampling as an example of the "gray area in the world of music plagiarism". Despite the authorized use of the melody, some sources have stated that this poses the question of "How much sampling is too much sampling?".

Lindsay Lohan's 2019 track "Xanax", which is set to be released in her upcoming third studio album, is built around a slowed-down sample of the song.

Track listing

DJ Jurgen singles

;Netherlands 12" vinyl (Violent Records) VIO 1116 : ;Netherlands CD single (Violent Records) VIO 1117 # Better Off Alone (Hitradio Mix) (3:36) # Better Off Alone (Clubmix) (6:50) ;Netherlands 12" vinyl (Violent Records) VIO 1118 :

;Netherlands CD maxi-single (Violent Records) VIO 1118 # Better Off Alone (Radio Edit) (3:38) # Better Off Alone (Vocal Clubmix) (6:53) # Better Off Alone (Signum RMX) (7:49) # Better Off Alone (Pronti & Kalmani Vocal RMX) (7:07) # Better Off Alone (Pronti & Kalmani Club Dub) (6:52) # Better Off Alone (Mark Van Dale with Enrico RMX) (9:28)

Alice Deejay singles

;UK Promo CD single (Positiva) CDTIVDJ-113 # Better Off Alone (Radio Edit) (3:38) # Better Off Alone (UK Short Cut) (2:54) ;UK 12-inch vinyl (Positiva) 12TIV-113 : ;UK 12-inch promo vinyl (Positiva) 12TIVDJ113 : ;UK cassette single (Positiva) TCTIV-113 : ;Scandinavia CD single (Jive) 0580292 # Better Off Alone (Radio Edit) (3:36) # Better Off Alone (Vocal Clubmix) (6:36) ;Scandinavia CD Maxi-single (Jive) 0523562 # Better Off Alone (Radio Edit) (3:36) # Better Off Alone (Vocal Clubmix) (6:36) # Better Off Alone (Signum Rmx) (7:46) # Better Off Alone (Pronti + Kalmani Vocal Rmx) (7:04) # Better Off Alone (Pronti + Kalmani Club Dub) (6:46) # Better Off Alone (Mark Van Dale With Enrico Rmx) (9:27) ;Australia & New Zealand CD single (X-Over) XOVER017 # Better Off Alone (Radio Edit) (3:36) # Better Off Alone (Vocal Club Mix) (6:53) # Better Off Alone (Signum RMX) (7:46) # Better Off Alone (Pronti & Kalmani Vocal Remix) (7:04) # Better Off Alone (Pronti & Kalmani Club Dub) (6:46) # Better Off Alone (Mark Van Dale With Enrico Remix) (9:27) ;France CD single (Hot Tracks) SHT 3468-1 # Better Off Alone (Radio Edit) (3:36) # Better Off Alone (Pronti & Kalmani Vocal Remix) (7:06) ;Italy CD Maxi-single (Time Records) TIME 151 # Better Off Alone (Radio Edit) (3:36) # Better Off Alone (Vocal Club Mix) (6:36) # Better Off Alone (Pronti & Kalmani Vocal Remix) (7:04) # Better Off Alone (Mark Van Dale with Enrico Remix) (9:27)

;Italy 12-inch vinyl (Time Records) TIME 151 : ;Spain 12-inch vinyl (Vale Music) VLMX 0295 : ;Spain CD Maxi-single (Vale Music) VCDX 295 # Better Off Alone (Radio Edit) (3:35) # Better Off Alone (Vocal Club Mix) (6:51) # Better Off Alone (Pronti & Kalmani Vocal Remix) (7:04) # Better Off Alone (Pronti & Kalmani Club Dub) (6:50) # Better Off Alone (Signum Remix) (7:46) # Better Off Alone (Mark Van Dale with Enrico Remix) (9:27) ;Netherlands CD Maxi-single (Violent Music BV) 0523562 # Better Off Alone (Radio Edit) (3:36) # Better Off Alone (Vocal Club Mix) (6:36) # Better Off Alone (Signum Remix) (7:46) # Better Off Alone (Pronti & Kalmani Vocal Remix) (7:04) # Better Off Alone (Pronti & Kalmani Club Dub) (6:46) # Better Off Alone (Mark Van Dale with Enrico Remix) (9:27) ;Canada CD Maxi-single (ISBA) ISB-SI-7021 # Better Off Alone (Radio Edit) (3:38) # Better Off Alone (Vocal Clubmix) (6:53) # Better Off Alone (Signum RMX) (7:49) # Better Off Alone (Pronti & Kalmani Vocal RMX) (7:07) # Better Off Alone (Pronti & Kalmani Club Dub) (6:52) # Better Off Alone (Mark Van Dale with Enrico RMX) (9:28) ;Germany 12-inch promo (Remixes) (Orbit Records) B927118-01
  • A1: Better Off Alone (DJ Jam X & De Leon's DuMonde Remix) (6:42)
  • B1: Better Off Alone (Signum Remix) (6:21) ;iTunes single # "Better Off Alone" – (3:36) # "Better Off Alone" – (6:53) # "Better Off Alone" – (7:46) # "Better Off Alone" – (6:44) # "Better Off Alone" – (7:04) # "Better Off Alone" – (6:46) # "Better Off Alone" – (9:27) # "Better Off Alone" – (6:36)

    Laidback Luke remixes

    ;Digital Netherlands single, multi-format # "Better Off Alone" – (2:46) # "Better Off Alone" – (3:15) # "Better Off Alone" – (5:03) # "Better Off Alone" – (3:35) # "Better Off Alone" – (6:51) ;CD maxi-single # "Better Off Alone" – (2:48) # "Better Off Alone" – (3:16) # "Better Off Alone" – (5:04) # "Better Off Alone" – (3:38) ;Digital Australian single, multi-format # "Better Off Alone" – (2:48) # "Better Off Alone" – (3:16) # "Better Off Alone" – (5:04) # "Better Off Alone" – (3:35) # "Better Off Alone" – (6:51)

    Charts and certifications

    Weekly charts

    Year-end charts

    Certifications