There's been a lot of talk in the last few years about 'mash-ups', an youth-music subgenre (and possible ADD symptom) wherein the lyrics of one song are pasted over the instrumentals of a another, preferably incongruous, song. Watch
Like every other creative amoeba that evolves through the blip-trend-fad lifecycle, mash-ups have been bastardized, overdone, hacked and embarrassed more times than they've been taken seriously. The apex of the fad stage appears to be the latest album by Girl Talk, a genetics-researcher-by-day in Philadelphia who used his Mac to paste together a teenager's worth of pop detritus into something roughly resembling Musical Tourettes.
Yes, it's a big, loud fireworks show, isn't it? The problem with Girl Talk, though, is that none of the songs really work as songs. There's no structure, or buildup, or even coherence to each track. No thread runs consistently through the album, if you can even call it that. The tracks just remind you that the 90s are still bouncing around in your head. It's the musical equivalent of a Post-It Note: Did you know you still remember the lyrics to 'No Diggity'? Well, you do.
You get the thrill of recognition, but if you didn't know the samples being used, every track would just sound cacophanous and stressful, like sitting in a car with someone who flips the radio dial the minute their ascending attention loses momentum.
The best mashups, if that term hasn't dried out from jumping the shark so many times, are the ones that actually work without winking, the ones that sacrifice the talent-show obsession with incongruity for something that tries to be more than the sum of its parts.
The following track is the best of the DJ mixing genre I've heard, mainly because it takes something familiar and makes it completely new. The thrill doesn't come from recognizing all the elements, but from the fact that the four minutes you're listening to works on its own.
Though Girl Talk will probably only be remembered as in Vaudeville terms, the track above makes me think the short-attention-span genre might have a little juice left in it.