"Better Off Alone" is a song by Alice Deejay, the trance music project of Dutch producer Jürgen Rijkers (DJ Jurgen) in collaboration with Sebastiaan Moljin and Eelke Kahlberg (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 the Alice Deejay debut album Who Needs Guitars Anyway?. The song is known for playing a key role in the development of the commercial trance sound, and has since been considered a electronic/trance music classic.
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".
"Better Off Alone" is written in the key of G sharp minor with a fast tempo of 137 beats per minute. The song follows a chord progression of E–D♯m–G♯m–F♯, and the vocals span from B3 to G♯4.
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 [sic] 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".
The single was initially released as an instrumental single by DJ Jurgen in 1998 on Violent Music B.V.'s label Violent Records. Upon 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 25 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.
"Better Off Alone" is notable for having two versions of its music video. The original music video was released in 1999, 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. In parallel, a woman is sitting on a couch in a living room singing the lyrics to the song. The man gets tired of walking through the desert, only to settle down and get covered in sand. 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.
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. 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."
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-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 David 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?".Digital Netherlands single, multi-format (Violent Music) VIO2011
CD maxi-single (Violent Music)
- "Better Off Alone" (Laidback Luke Hit Radio Remix) – (2:46)
- "Better Off Alone" (Laidback Luke Dance Radio Remix) – (3:15)
- "Better Off Alone" (Laidback Luke Full Length Remix) – (5:03)
- "Better Off Alone" (1999 Original Radio Edit Remastered) – (3:35)
- "Better Off Alone" (1999 Original Mix Remastered) – (6:51)
Digital Australian single, multi-format (Central Station Australia) DN 0182
- "Better Off Alone" (Laidback Luke Remix) - Hitradio – (2:48)
- "Better Off Alone" (Laidback Luke Remix) - Dance Radio – (3:16)
- "Better Off Alone" (Laidback Luke Remix) - Full Length – (5:04)
- "Better Off Alone" (1999 Original Hit Radio) – (3:38)
- "Better Off Alone" (Laidback Luke Hitradio Remix) – (2:48)
- "Better Off Alone" (Laidback Luke Dance Radio Remix) – (3:16)
- "Better Off Alone" (Laidback Luke Full Length Remix) – (5:04)
- "Better Off Alone" (Remastered 1999 Original Hit Radio Mix) – (3:35)
- "Better Off Alone" (Remastered 1999 Original Mix) – (6:51)