Mashup: a song or composition created by blending two or more pre-recorded songs, usually by overlaying the vocal track of one song seamlessly over the instrumental track of another. (Wikipedia)
I think it’s safe to say that everyone has gotten bored of listening to a song after several dozen plays at some point in their life– the “fresh” track was rendered stale and a period was set aside when that track was repulsive to play. Eventually, the track regained some of its allure and made its way back onto your Ipod. Now what if your favorite songs were fundamentally fucked with so they retained some of their appeal but were completely different from the original? Maybe your interest would be retained, or increased.
The idea behind Girl Talk, one of the leading artists specializing in these mashups of top songs of all genres, is exactly that– to inject excitement into songs which we hear in their original form so often they become lame to many. He literally recycles popular culture, which typically has a short life-span, and breathes life into it.
Yes, it’s true that he is arguably destroying some of our favorite songs. But could it be that he is paying homage to the greatness of the originals by preserving them in his own mixes? This form of pastiche is laborious constructed through seamless transitions and high production.
Another point of contention with Girl Talk’s music is legal in nature. He is literally taking artists’ work– many of them represented by powerful labels– and using it for his commercial purposes. He has been under the threat of lawsuits by labels before, but his ingenious defense is that he takes samples of the songs (like Itunes takes 30 seconds for a preview). Here’s an excerpt from a 2008 New York Times article, which clarified things for me:
Mr. Gillis says his samples fall under fair use, which provides an exemption to copyright law under certain circumstances. Fair use allows book reviewers to quote from novels or online music reviewers to use short clips of songs. Because his samples are short, and his music sounds so little like the songs he takes from that it is unlikely to affect their sales, Mr. Gillis contends he should be covered under fair use.
The guy is smart, he was working as a biomedical engineer before he was making enough dough from his music gig to quit. The precision of an engineer is apparent in the tracks he produces.
The thing is, his tracks shift so quickly between vibes that there’s a sore lack of cohesion between each segment of his masterfully mixed mash-ups. These songs were never meant to be mixed in most cases. Genres clash, there are often moments of chaos or odd transitions. But I guess the thread going through all his music is that it can be danced to. The essence of his music is taking all types of music and converting them to pop; as a result there’s an infectious dance-ability which accompanies most of his tracks. I’m guessing I’ll be shaking my little booty to his set…
His discography is pretty extensive, but here are a few of my favorites: