Your EDM featured Jenn Vix last year in our New Artist Spotlight series, as the synthwave and rock veteran had begun to dabble in electro with her single “Mr. Strange.” Now with a budding solo career after working with so many big names of the 80s and 90s like The Cure and The Psychedelic Furs, it was only a matter of time before she’d thumb through her rock legend Rolodex and coming out with a killer collab. Such is the case with her cover of Phil Collins’s legendary anthem to anger, “In the Air Tonight.”
When listening to the original Collins track, it’s clear to see that the drummer/songwriter/producer was light years ahead of his time, so much so that the production values of the 1981 instant classic hold up against anything producers are doing in modern labs. There’s a heavy element of synthwave in the original, thought it’s generally regarded as rock, which makes it seem polished and also more than a little ominous.
With Vix being well-known in synth and rock circles of the 80s and 90s, it’s not surprising that she might try a cover of “In the Air Tonight,” but it is a fun surprise to learn who she chose to work with on this stripped-down, pseudo-darkwave version. It’s none other than Vernon Reid, the Grammy-winning guitarist from the wildly successful 90s band Living Colour. Reid lends his amazing guitar skills to this cover as Vix shows her chops on the drums, and the track thus takes on quite a different style from the original.
With a darkwave beat played by Vix on v-drums, her version of “In the Air Tonight” opens with Reid’s intense ornamentation on the original guitar work, adding a surprising dose of blues to the mix and a pitched-up key to match Vix’s vocals. Said vocals have VIx’s telltale deep and maudlin tones which somehow transform the track, along with the bluesy guitar, into something more sad and desolate than eerie and angry. It’s an interesting choice but makes sense in the context of both musicians’ work. In some ways it almost seems as if it’s a response track to Collins’s original, with Vix playing the defensive object of Collins’s anger rather than the vengeful protagonist.
This new narrative is reflected in the video Vix and her JFIVENINE Media production company released at the same time as the track. In it, among the shots of her on drums and of Redi’s virtuosic guitar playing, There’s a stark black background always surrounding Vix, sometimes over the water with the moon in the backgrounds and sometimes looking like she’s on the run in an LA neighborhood. She appears sad and worried as she sings, again as if she is responding in defense to some unseen person beyond the fourth wall. Collins’s video had a similar black-and-dark setting, mostly with closeup shots of his angry face or wide shots in a small room taking aggressive postures or striking the walls. Vix hasn’t confirmed this call-and-response vibe was her intention in the song or video, it’s just a theory. Watch and decide for yourselves.
No matter what the vibe was supposed to be Jenn Vix’s cover of “In the Air Tonight” is a fun re-work of a classic that still gets lauded today as one of the all-time greatest tracks of the 80s and 90s. With Vix herself and 90s legend Reid on this track, one can’t help but be nostalgic for those early synth rock and post punk days, and the magic talents like Collins, Vix and Reid created then.