When William Fitzsimmons decided to release an album full of electronic remixes to his melancholic and outright depressing songs, many Grey’s anatomy viewers choked on their popcorn.  Illinois based singer and songwriter, William Fitzsimmons, has released three albums since his debut in 2005.  The first two albums, which were self produced and recorded in his home in Pittsburgh, became widely used in American TV dramas such as Grey’s Anatomy, Teen Wolf, One Tree Hill, and other tear jerkers.  It’s no wonder TV producers jumped at the opportunity to layer Fitzsimmons whispering voice over montages of broken relationships and unsuccessful surgeries.  His voice floats above the gentle hum of an acoustic guitar, singing lines such as, “And I won’t measure love from the tears that drip from your face” (Funeral Dress).  When William Fitzsimmons begins to sing, heartbreak, loss, and pain literally begin to drip from the speakers.
Adding grinding synthesizers, dirty bass, and the upbeat ring of electronica to a William Fitzsimmons’ song is like adding a V8 to a horse and buggy.  Some diehard fans might rather listen to Skrillex hum a lullaby then watch DJ Pink Ganter sink his teeth into the vulnerable flesh of Fitzsimmons’ whispering melodies.  However, by daring to inject a little life into Fitzsimmons’ gloomy ballads, the album stumbles upon an unlikely discovery.
The original version of “So This is Goodbye”, depicts a young man coping with the grief of seeing his ex-lover in the arms of another man.  Many of the lyrics suggest that the narrator cannot move on past the grieving stage: “And I cried myself to sleep, and you thought I was happy.  I was lonely and had nowhere to go.”  The fast flutter of the rhythm section contrasted against the sweeping guitar accentuates the narrator’s restlessness, making the listener feel tense and uneasy.  DJ Pink Ganter’s remix captures the feelings of jealousy and heartbreak by keeping the guitar’s mournful cries, but adds in the heavy thump of an electronic bass that works the listener into a contemplative trance.  The song doesn’t loose any of its tender emotion, but DJ Pink Ganter pumps it full of crunchy distortion, giving it some grit and guts.  It’s no longer a whiny singer obsessed with jealousy and loss, but a song of steady movement and slow progression towards emotional balance.
Undeniably, the album may push the boundaries of re-imagination too far, such as the album’s final track, a cover of Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl”.  Whether the cover is a joke or an actual attempt at exposing emotional undertones of the pop sensation, no one can deny that the lyrics, “the taste of her cherry chap-stick” roll of Fitzsimmons’ tongue with a palpable awkwardness.  Although a few of the songs on “Derivatives” may stretch the capacity of Fitzsimmons’ woeful voice, the success of the album lies in its daring attempt to expand musical boundaries, and to reveal subtle hints of hope within Fitzsimmons’ music.

By Duncan Lowe

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