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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin Kassel

"Call On Me" — but not the one you're probably thinking of — is a call for perseverance

Between its beat and its lyrics, Ryan Riback's retouching of Starley's dance-pop number is one of my favorite productions from the late 10s.

To say 2022 has been going swimmingly for me so far would be... false.

Various situations surrounding health, work, and the prospect of returning to school have all led to an increase in anxiety I have at times struggled to contain. I generally begin to get more anxious around the middle of winter break in the first place as my anxiety begins to climb in a somewhat typical cycle following the calm point of finishing the semester and returning home, but the additional stressors which have presented themselves in the past few days have certainly ramped things up further.

Thankfully, I've remembered during this more anxious period that music is one of my best and favorite coping mechanisms, and I've used it pretty well along with exercise in order to mitigate a sizable portion of my anxious behaviors. One of the songs I've had on playlists which particularly speaks to be is Australian singer Starley's song "Call On Me," specifically its remix by South African-Australian producer Ryan Riback. The song serves as a reminder that I have people in my corner who are willing to hear me out and help me, and that I can even be that person for myself. All the while, its irresistibly danceable beat keeps me moving and helps me turn my anxious energy into more positive physical expression — even with my nonexistent dancing skills, it just feels so good to let it out and just move to Ryan Riback's beat. Thank goodness nobody's watching me as I'm (massive air quotes incoming) "dancing."

I found "Call On Me" by accident after searching on YouTube for Eric Prydz' more famous house track of the same name, and I'm very happy I ended up mis-clicking that day about three and a half years ago, because I found an infectiously uplifting track that has never received enough love in North America. There are so many qualities of this remix that make me enjoy it, but in comparison to other songs I don't as much, Starley and Ryan Riback's work stands out with how it treats the high-pitched vocal chops in the break. In both the original version and the remix, the break is driven by various snippets of Starley's singing played at least an octave higher than normal on a synth, an approach quite typical of 2010s electronic music. I quite often don't like this effect, but there's something about the way Starley's voice is treated that really draws me to the production. I think it's because her vocal chops sound less like the original voice than in many other songs that it makes them easier for me to hear as a synth rather than a pitched-up voice. It definitely also helps that, in the remix, the break (as well as the build-up into it) is also propelled by a big synth piano, whose syncopations only further the bounce given to the track by its backbeat.

Starley's lyrics, highlighting emotional support, help craft the remix's uplifting mood by building up the listener as they move toward the chorus and break. She sings from the perspective of assisting a friend in need, but she has also detailed that she wrote the song as self-talk, encouraging herself to persevere. I can definitely hear this perspective in my favorite couplet within the track: "Some people would say to accept defeat / Well, if this is fate, then we'll find a way to cheat." I grapple with the concept of fate somewhat regularly as I contemplate my future and my faith, but in my more hopeful moments I believe I do have (or can regain) control over my destiny. "Cheating" fate in this way seems more like proving people wrong than it does going against a higher power's will, and I like and see that former concept as a lot more applicable than the latter.

In darker hours — both figuratively and literally, considering when I'm writing this piece — "Call On Me" is a personal favorite for both its message and its sound. It reminds me that I have people on whom I can rely when the going gets tough, but that I can also be that person for myself.


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