Adjust the tempo of a rap lyric. Adjust the tempo of a pop/rock song. Create a generic hip hop back beat out of some manipulated drum samples. Layer them in Ableton Live. Repeat a hundred more times and it’s a mashup album. Many have done it, but Girl Talk (Gregg Gillis) was the first (if you forget about 2 Many DJs…and John Oswald…and a handful of other people who have been bastardizing pop music to less fanfare for years). Today he released his fifth album, All Day, for free on his label’s website. Announced via Twitter this morning, the album “broke the Internet” with its absurdly high download traffic–it’s been trending heavily on Google and is showing no signs of slowing down. Now hundreds of thousands of mashup hungry listeners, a large fraction of whom are college students yearning for a holdover until The White Panda or E-603 makes their next on-campus appearance, are undoubtedly devouring the album. But does it deliver? Find out after the jump.
Here’s the deal with mash up. It’s losing its novelty. Girl Talk, finally taking a hint from fans frustrated with the fleeting nature of his pairings, has opted to sustain his mashups for more than a 10-30 seconds. But it seems like too little too late. Gillis is undoubtedly at the top of his game in many respects. The samples are from more famous names and the production values are great. At the same time, however, it seems like Girl Talk’s music has lost the glitchy, fast paced quality that let it stand out even when mashup artists began oozing out of the woodwork after his breakout success in 2006.
Even more frustrating, and this is of no fault of Gillis himself, is the familiarity of many of his samples. Mashup, with its highly concentrated doses of pop music, is a limited artform. Listening through All Day, anyone familiar with other mashup artists will soon recognize rap vocals and musical samples from other mashup albums, especially the work of lesser-known E-603. At times, some of the portions of the new album even resemble Girl Talk’s previous works–is there that much of a difference between “Dancing in the Dark” and “Young Turks”?
Some songs are old, some songs are new–but the entire vibe seems pretty stale at this point. There are a couple great surprises in All Day: Waka Flocka Flame rapping over French electro producer Mr. Oizo or Pitbull spitting on Depeche Mode’s “I Just Can’t Get Enough” are both welcome novelties. But for every interesting pairing, there are a dozen simply annoying decisions– this happens mostly with Gillis’s use of classic rock tracks (Rolling Stones’ “Paint it Black” and Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” to name a few). Rock music like this proves very hard to incorporate into a dance music setting without heavy manipulation and more thoughtful production (see Benny Benassi’s house remix of “Purple Haze”)–Girl Talk’s use of rock often feels awkward.
When it comes down to it, Girl Talk’s shows will still be incredibly fun--mashup music will always find a home in the live setting, generally teeming with drunk college students awaiting “that part with Biggie and ‘Tiny Dancer.'” And this makes sense, because producer-DJs turn a majority of their profits from performance (just ask Tiesto, who can charge over $50,000 per show). So, Girl Talk’s back and it’s not an inherently disappointing album. Personally, I hope it improves with multiple listens, as most mashup albums do–but right now, I’ll be eagerly anticipating the Lupo’s show on February 25th.