I hate Girl Talk.
“Hate” is a bit strong, but I certainly am an anti-fan of Girl Talk, and of mashups in general.
Listening to All Day, all I could think about was a. hey, this guy has the same taste in music as I do! and b. why did he do nothing interesting with these great songs?
All Day features songs that were generally fairly solid hits, and often quite excellent pop songs.
However, Girl Talk just coasts on the novelty of the mashup, which only works when a track is truly novel. Mashups in their modern form have been around for at least fifteen years, and, frankly, he, and other DJs, have to do a bit more than combine three great Top 40 songs from varying eras to get me excited. He’s been doing the same thing for years, and really needs to step it up and create something exciting.
I generally disapprove of mashups because they tend to not bring anything new to the table. The most popular mashups tend to involve popular songs, which, as much as some may hate to admit, are popular for a reason. So, if you’re going to take a really good pop song that has both musical and emotional value for its listeners, and turn it into something new, you really do need to turn it into something new. Instead, the mashup often just combines five great songs into one mediocre joke.
A respectable mashup will take the component parts and create a new, fresh idea that can stand on its own. A great mashup will have musical value when taken out of context of the original songs; it should be a hit to a person who’s never heard its component works. Moreover, any mashup really needs to make sure its components talk to each other, not past each other. If the original tracks don’t make sense together, or even if they have potential but are sloppily layered on top of each other, the DJ shouldn’t have bothered combining them in the first place. (For now, I’m going to call them DJs, and not bump them up to “producers” until I see something more consistent.)
Even musically lackluster mashups can work when they’re especially witty, but again, just combining good beats with ironic lyrics isn’t enough. If the song won’t succeed based on its inherent musicality, it can still entertain by juxtaposing oddities, or winking at the audience, but the musical equivalent of fart jokes is not enough to constitute semimusical wit. (Even though I really love fart jokes.)
As the mashup movement stands now, we’re really listening to the equivalent of third-graders’ gluestick collages, not high-quality mixed-media works that you should find in a gallery or museum. We need to stop cooing over Girl Talk and sticking his shit on our aural refrigerators, and instead should hold out for him to craft something worth matting, framing, and nailing to the door.
The only fairly transcendent track on All Day is “Triple Double,” which pulls Beyonce’s “Diva” hook as an intro, utilizes Phoenix’s familiar “1901”‘ guitars as a backdrop, and combines Ludacris’s “How Low” with Phoenix’s perky chorus to create something more interesting than either original, admittedly B- material, track. “Triple Double” succeeds, musically, because, well, the bar is lower, since the original songs aren’t that great, but also because Girl Talk is able to tease out the potential in each original track and really fuse them together in a way that elevates both to stature neither previously had. That said, again, only about the first two minutes of that song are that cool, and then it pretty quickly devolves into a waste of Lil’ Wayne.
(For the record, I know Girl Talk insists you listen to the album as a whole, and I usually have, but God, the novelty just wears off after the third listen, and you’re left with 30-second snippets of gold mired in eleven minutes of wasted potential.)
My favorite mashup, which still is enjoyable a decade after Laura introduced me to it, is someone’s combination of Nelly’s “Country Grammar” with The Trammps’s “Disco Inferno.” That, my friends, works fucking great.
What’s your favorite mashup? What’s your take on mashups in general? What do you think creates a good pop song?