On Thursday night, Criss previewed the song to a small group of press during a workout class at Barry's Bootcamp in Hollywood, pumping the track three times throughout the high-intensity, 50-minute session. "What a crazy culture we live in where we now have workout drops," Criss laughed to Billboard during a post-class interview sitting on neighboring treadmills.
It's also a crazy culture we live in where a jangly Dave Matthews ballad can be right at home with an instructor counting down the last 30 seconds of lunges -- or blasting in a nightclub, for that matter. "I'm a '90s kid. I grew up loving that music," Criss says. "And I've played in tons of '90s cover bands, and I can play them all. So when EDM was becoming more popular in the States, I can remember thinking, 'Man, if I was an EDM DJ, I would love to just take Dave Matthews' seminal "Crash Into Me" and turn it from a six-minute unconventional ballad with chimes and odd bars and things that are pretty counterintuitive to what a normal [hit] song would be, and I would put it into a box of 2019 club bangers.' Which is what we did."
Of course, in addition to his cover-band past, Criss has a history of reshaping well-known songs on TV too. "That's something that I've always loved doing my whole life, which is something that, oddly enough, I ended up doing as a hired gun on Glee," the Emmy-winning actor says of his five-season run on the hit Fox show. "But even before that, playing in restaurants and bars and in bands, I've always enjoyed fusing two different styles of things that people didn't expect in order for audiences to recontextualize things that they thought they knew."
Criss enlisted Aoki -- the superproducer known for working with an incredibly eclectic lineup of collaborators (BTS, Louis Tomlinson and Linkin Park, to name a few) -- to make his dream a reality. "I'm just thrilled that Steve was as psyched about doing it as I was," Criss says. "Because before I had any access to Steve whatsoever, I was always like, 'Man, how the fuck would I pull this off?' So to be able to meet somebody of his pedigree who's exactly the kind of person who would be able to midwife this, it was great."
Now Criss can only wait to see what the man himself might think about his reinvented song. "I hope Dave Matthews appreciates it," Criss says. "I hope he understands that it's come from a significant amount of love and certainly celebration. It's a kick for me when I play it for people, and just the look on their faces three seconds in, and they go, 'No fucking way,'" he laughs. "A lot of people who love Dave Matthews wouldn't necessarily hear one of his songs in a club environment. God knows if I heard this version -- if this was a remix of the song and I was in the club and heard this -- this would keep me at the club."
Listen to Steve Aoki and Darren Criss' "Crash Into Me" below: