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For new music, seek out the mashup.

June 15th, 2011 5 Comments

— By Lindsey Rae, MTM Indie Rocker

It’s shaping up to be a long, hot summer, and I’m sweltering through the work week in my charmingly sticky home office.  I don’t know about you, but when it’s this hot outside, I’m sticking with things that are light and effortless.  This goes equally for beer and clothing, and it goes at least double for music.  I’d been looking for something fun and a little frothy to suit my summertime energy, never quite satisfied with anything on the radio or the heavy drops and complicated beats of my friends’ beloved dubstep, until finally I came across what I didn’t know I was looking for: the mashup.

What’s a mashup?

Typically composed by remixing two or more distinct tracks by different artists, the mashup (often called Bastard Pop) puts a little spin on familiar tunes, giving fresh life and relevancy to even the most overplayed Top 40 hit.  Mashup DJs like to pair songs that juxtapose themes and interplay lyrically in order to say something new, tempering genuinely complex artistry with what seems to be a simplistic urge to do something genuinely amusing. The standard “A vs. B” mashup format places the vocal track of one song against the instrumentation of another.  This is, naturally, only the beginning.  DJs are ever more ambitious, sampling elements from as many original tracks as they can find, and often including original elements (such as a beat or bass line) of their own creation.

For the milquetoast version of a mashup, look no further than the FOX television show Glee, which has produced some cute pairings of songs like Rihanna’s “Umbrella” with “Singin’ in the Rain” from the Broadway musical.  The true spirit of the mashup, however, thrives on wicked dance beats and a solid sense of irony and the witty song titles.

Where can I find it?

The dilemma I’m running into is that as a new fan of this genre, I’m not overly familiar with the etiquette yet, and so I can’t be sure of whether it’s okay to link you directly to the myriad sources of excellent mashup music.  Bastard Pop, like many other art forms that have developed out of the explosion of new entertainment technology in the last decade, has seen its share of struggles with the law.  Mashup artists are part of the ongoing debate surrounding copyright and fair use – that is, the checks and balances system set up to defend first amendment rights in the face of copyright law.  DJs see what they do as transformative work – the owners of the original material, typically, do not.

At present, it seems that the two sides maintain safe distance with an unofficial understanding – the DJs do not charge for the distribution of their music, and the record labels leave them to do their thing.  There does not currently appear to be an issue with downloading and sharing the tracks themselves, but I haven’t found anything explicitly stating that a person either should or shouldn’t link out to distributors of these tracks.  I’ll err on the side of caution.

A Few To Get You Started

Excellent mashup music is easy to find with your fancy Google skills, and it’s all available to download for free.

  • DJ Earworm’s United State of Pop (Don’t Stop the Pop), which was heavily played on Top 40 stations around New Year’s;
  • Girl Talk (pictured above), a popular DJ who’s finishing up his North American tour this month;
  • Bootie parties, which take place all over the world;
  • Any of the excellent work from DJs from Mars, DJ Tripp, DJ BC and plenty of others.

If you have any you love, please leave them in the comments section below!

A word on copyright

As a music lover and a personal friend to more starving artists than I can count, I wholeheartedly believe in an artist’s right to protect his or her property.  Infringement upon intellectual property rights hurts not only the millionaire artist and the Big Bad record companies – it affects everyone involved in the creation and distribution of the work.

Out of respect for the artistic community, I will never link to illegal material, nor will I provide copies of copyrighted material without permission.

The ongoing debate regarding fair use and other intellectual property issues is a good thing.  It means that artists can feel free to do what they believe in, and it means that our voices as consumers and constituents are heard.  I won’t publicly take a side on the politics of this issue, but I will say this to my readers: go with your gut, as long as you’re not breaking the law.

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  • the hood internet (www.thehoodinternet.com) is another great mashup site. they pair a hip-hop/rap artist with an indie rock/alternative artist for a song, and then often put a bunch of them on compilations — downloadable for free.

  • tiffany

    girl talk is AMAZING! great workout music, and SO FUN to see live.
    Have you ever seen him live? it’s pretty much a huge sweaty dance party

  • Marilyn

    Wait, you are just discovering Girl Talk like he’s something new? And you are the music columnist? Shame!

  • Lindsey Rae

    Marilyn, heavens no! I got the chance to see Girl Talk when he came through Richmond several months ago, and the newest album has been on heavy rotation (especially during workouts – good call, Tiffany!) since it came out in November.

    Looking back at the post, I suppose I should have been more clear. I’ve been a HUGE Girl Talk fan for quite some time, but I never really took the time to dig deeper into the scene. Girl Talk is just one artist with his own unique voice, but there are plenty of other mashup DJs who do very, very different work. It’s worth taking a spin around the community to find out what you like.

    Sara darling – thanks for the additional link!

  • Yeah, GirlTalk is from Pittsburgh, PA. It’s not just steel, Steeler football and StanleyCup hockey = Pittsburgh has a very healthy music scene. .. a documentary project in-the-works Creative-Life-Support by an Emmy award winner from L.A. will help showcase how a multiplatinum band like Rusted Root was being born in Pittsburgh and growing into national consciousness just like the rebirth of Pittsburgh itself = and thanks to Rusted Root’s Liz Berlin for giving back with Mr. Small’s Theatre-Recordings-Skatepark where GirTalk has rocked out. ..