On Mashups

I tried to come up with a better title. I really, really tried. Anyways.

Here’s the thing, my favorite song, in the world, is an hour long mashup. I don’t honestly know if that means I’m snooty or if it means I have horrible taste in music. We’ll discuss the latter later. Here’s a taste of that song:

The opening mix of rap, hard rock, and the heavy beat in the background, it all works perfectly together. It’s like throughout the rest of the song as well. When it drops to the rap with the heavy guitar, that continues to work well. It’s not something that happens in the original music, but it adds a dimensionality to it that only improves it.

And that’s what good mashups do. They improve upon their original music to create something on a higher plane. There’s not many good mashup artists. There’s Girl Talk, who produced the above song. There’s DJ Earworm. There’s Mashup Germany. There’s also Isosine, who, after (or perhaps even before) Girl Talk, is my favorite. His music is below:

These works are things the original creators would never have thought about. Electronic music so heavily used by MGMT didn’t exist in the age of Nirvana. It’s like when your favorite author includes deeper meanings than they were perhaps aware, or meant to exist. Mashups, in the music world, are those deeper meanings. The fan theories, the head canons.

Yet mashups are skirted to the outside of music, and only those on the fringe make themselves available for the mashup. You will never hear a mashup on a top 20 chart, no matter how good it is and how lacking pop music has become. (Seriously, in my top 20 albums of the year there are multiple albums I wish weren’t there but it was that bad).

Perhaps it’s the lack of popularity that makes mashups so good. Artists can take their time without having to worry about meeting demands. Pop artists have to produce albums every two to four years to remain relevant. Run The Jewels (although neither album lacking) released both Run the Jewels and Run the Jewels 2 in 2014. That’s two well-made, thoughtful albums released within the span of 12 months. Insanity.

Mashup artists don’t feel the same pressure. They can afford to wait until the year’s end, listening to all of the music available to them to produce a fine work. Which is why it is disappointing when one of the usually premiere talents makes a bad wrap up mash. But they can also do work like the above “Smells Like Kid Spirit” in the meantime, getting more creative and outside the box.

Mashups can also be bad. There are two favorite songs of mashup artists: “Come On And Slam” from the Quad City DJs off the Space Jam soundtrack, and All Star by Smashmouth. Neither I would call great songs, yet they are found often within many mashups (though usually from the ones trolling – attempting to make funny mashups, usually working, or from those just starting out).

The one above actually works decently well. Still, those aren’t the two songs you would find used by any of the previously mentioned artists.

I just had to get that off my chest. Over the next months (and potentially years, we’ll see), I will talk at length about “original” music, but I wanted to talk now about mashups. Because that’s what got me most into the music I now listen to, and this time of year, when new year end mashups are released, this is my favorite time of the year. It’s like my own personal Christmas.

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